Wörthersee Gravel Race

May 20, 2024

Last month was my second gravel race. Like Houffa Gravel last year it also was a race of the UCI gravel world series. This time at the Wörthersee in Austria. I went there because a friend of mine who lives in Austria asked me if I would acompany her. Looking at the track it again did not exactly fitting for my strengths. One lap was 50 k long and had one 150 m climb in the first quarter. The rest was more or less flat. I didn’t know before the race how technical it would be. Three rounds had to be raced.

The track

In the first lap I found out that the track is basically a roadbike track. At least from a mountainbikers perspective. It was mostly asphalt or pretty smooth gravel. Only the long climb was a bit bumpy and partly wet. Turns out I’m not only bad at pushing up short climb after short climb, I’m also bad at keeping backwheels. 🙃 I somehow intuitively stop two meters before I’m actuall there because I think I’m already there. I suppose it is because in mountainbike races it most of the time makes sense to keep a bit of distance because there’s not much wind and the track bumpy.

First Lap

The first lap was more or less chaos. We started in a huge group consisting of age groups 35 to 44. I tried to follow a group but either the group was much too fast for me or way too slow. I could stay with others only for minutes. On two occasions I was asked by another rider if we could ride together. But I lost both immediately. The first one because a huge group of older riders joined us and we suddenly were part of a group consisting of about 50 people. The second one I lost because I already was not able to rush up the second longest climb.

Second lap

This was the most fun lap because after the long climb I found a group of four I joined that worked for all of us. We were changing the front about every minute and we were catching and overtaking other riders. This was actually fun. Interestingly I was the only man in this group. I had the feeling that the women did ride with less ego then the men. They more tried to keep groups intact and use them to their advantage. Men always tried to be in the ront or faster than the ones around them. After a while one other woman and I lost the other three women. We rode together until the last climb of the lap. But here she completely killed me and I never saw her again.

Third lap

Alone alone… I was on the third lap. By now the race was very split up. Only very small groups if any where riding together. I was alone most of the time for sure. Also I didn’t have much energy anymore. So lap three was just about getting to the finish line. This went ok, but it was not pleasant at all.

What did I learn

My fueling strategy is still not dialed in. I had 2.5 liters of Maurten Hydrogel with me, no water at all. That was a mistake. I had in mind from last year that I wouldn’t need any additional water. But somehow that was not the case. There were three aid stations on the lap. At each I took a small water cup. But that also was not enough. In the second lap I stopped quickly to fill one of my 0.7 liter bottles with water. But it was empty again way too soon. So I think I should start with one 0.7 liter bottle of water and fill it up at the aid stations if it’s empty. On races this long I will not be able to bring everything I need with me from the start.

Also I learned that flat gravel courses are not for me. That’s more a confirmation than a learning. I just don’t have the power to sprint out of every corner. Additionally I don’t have enough road race experience to move around smoothly in peletons. The first weakness I could probably fix with a bit of dedicated training. But the second would only be fixable with quite a lot of road racing and I absolutely don’t feel like doing that.

So what’s next in my gravel racing journey? I need races with elevation - a lot of it. So my next try will be at the Alpine Gravel Challenge in Champéry, Switzerland in early September. It is only 100 km long but has 4000 m of altitude. It consists of four long climbs. Should suit me more. Let’s see.