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    How do you master the Ötztal Cycling Marathon?

    Sophia Willmes
    Sophia Willmes
    Mar 4, 2024 7 min
    How do you master the Ötztal Cycling Marathon?

    Vincent from buycycle reveals it in an interview

    A sorry in advance to all passionate gravel and mountain bikers on our blog... From a Tour de France review to tips for the first bike race, today it's about road cycling once more. To be more precise, it's about the world-famous Ötztal Cycling Marathon, which our team's own business developer, biking nerd and showcase athlete Vincent mastered last week. In this blog post you can find out what the famous "Ötzi" is, how Vincent prepared for it and how he competed.

    Ötztal Cycle Marathon Fact Check
    What is it? World-renowned and extremely difficult amateur cycling marathon
    Where? Route over 4 Alpine passes, a total of 220 km in length and 5500 meters in altitude
    Who? 4,000 amateur cyclists selected by lottery, who must be in excellent physical and mental condition
    When? At the beginning of July
    How long? Average race times of between seven and 14 hours

    Vincent x Ötzi: Interview

    Sophia: Vincent! I knew you were an experienced cyclist. But was the Ötzi your first real race?
    No, it wasn't my first race. I'd already ridden other cycling marathons in Austria and other small races in Germany before that. But this felt like my longest and toughest race so far.

    Where did the desire to do this particular cycling marathon come from?
    It came a bit from my circle of friends and acquaintances, because a lot of people took part. And of course the Ötzi has a certain reputation throughout Europe as one of the toughest cycling events, so you just know it as soon as you move around a bit in this bubble.

    "One of the toughest cycling events..." How did you prepare for it? Both physically and mentally? 
    I started training well in advance, about five months before, also because your body simply has to be adapted to the duration of this competition alone. I've been cycling for a few years. Even if it wasn't always races, at least I have a good basic condition and endurance on the sport bike.

    What was your time in the end?
    I did 7:56.

    That's pretty good, isn't it? The winner was just about an hour faster.
    Yes and no. An hour is quite a lot in such races and the first few to cross the finish line are definitely racing at a professional level. I was 122nd out of 4,000, so it was still a good result that I'm very happy with.

    122nd out of 4,000 is really strong. Congratulations at this point! How does that work mentally? After all, you're at your physical limits for hours straight, how do you cope?
    It's pretty tough, as you say. What makes the whole thing a bit better is riding in the middle of the route at the Brenner, where you're not on your own for once. Here you can then benefit a bit from slipstream, chat with people. After all, I rode with two buddies in the same group. That distracts you and then you're fine.

    So it's a mix between endurance and the knowledge that you can take a short rest in between?
    Yes, absolutely. And in such a rest phase, you definitely have to eat a lot, loosen up the muscles a bit, maybe do a cradle kick or even throw in a few stretches before the last two climbs after the Brenner. Because from there on it's all about: How many watts do you ride?

    You just mentioned the 4,000 other participants... What's it like to start in such a huge group?
    I was definitely really nervous and I already knew from other races with mass starts that it's relatively hectic, especially in the early stages. Everyone wants to get to the front, everyone is fighting for their position and in amateur races it's even more dangerous and the risk of crashing is higher. I was a bit scared, especially when you know that you'll be riding at 50 km/h in a group of several hundred people on the first few descents... But it turned out differently than I had feared and I was lucky to be able to start relatively far ahead with my colleagues because we were so early at the start. So we were able to speed down there easily...

    Speaking of fear...The Ötzi is not lacking in danger spots - How do you deal with such risk situations and what role does fear play in this?
    The constant risk is definitely a huge issue that concerns everyone and you then also see very different ways of dealing with it. Actually, it boils down to two strategies: There are those who become very cautious on the descents and don't want to risk anything under any circumstances. They would rather be overtaken by everyone else than take a risk. On the other hand, there are those who are more self-confident and much faster on such routes.

    Were you team cautious or team "I'm a technically skilled rider, know what I'm doing here and go all out"?
    Probably more the second one hahahah. But luckily I always rode in small groups with few people around me, so I got a better impression of how the others were mastering the descent and never had the feeling that we were endangering each other. So we were all able to descend relatively quickly without taking any great risks. Of course, you're still extremely fast, but the road is also closed off, so you can descend technically clean and at high speed.

    Where did you suffer the most?
    Funnily enough, it was exactly on the climb that I always thought would be the easiest, the Jaufenpass, the third of four climbs. I had ridden it before and it went really well, but in the race it was completely different. It was really hot and I could really only keep up my predicted pace for 30% of the course. After that it was also really tough and I was already thinking about whether I want to ride the whole thing at all and if I don't have to lower my expectations completely.

    Fortunately, it was okay again on the last climb, because we had volunteer helpers with water hoses spray us and that cooled us down, there was a light wind and that was such a relief. But then I git cramps, so I just had to ride over the pain. But at the same time, this new problem distracted me from the blatant heat and the general overexertion.... and I did a little calculation and realized that if I tried a little harder, I could stay under the eight hours. Then a switch flipped and I was back to full focus in my head, running even more power than before. Proud moment that I did not crack there.

    Rightly so! But you said you have calculated some stuff, had your desired performance... Do you also plan such a race by sectioning the route and knowing that in section xyz you want to be this fast and drive this much power? So to speak an individual race forecast, which you stick to?
    There are many pace calculators online, also for the Ötzi. There you enter your previous performance data and they calculate how fast you could be in which sections. I did that too, looked at it and kept it in mind during the race. But honestly, most of the time I raced according to my subjective feelings: How do I feel right now, how long is the climb, how hard can I go...? and then I rode according to that. That has also worked well, even if I have probably made the first climb much too fast.

    Let's skip the suffering talk, where was the euphoria the greatest?
    Of course at the finish, I came around the corner, saw the clock and saw that I was still under eight hours. The other moment was the first climb at the summit. There were so many spectators who came out onto the road and cheered on their family or friends, they had cowbells with them and there was a real Tour de France atmosphere!

    Do you have an Ötzi conclusion?
    I am super happy with my performance and looking back I would say that it was one of the coolest things I have ever done.

    Do you have any tips for anyone who wants to take the plunge after you? Any advice for your cycling community?
    Don't try anything you've never done before. Don't experiment. I've also made the mistake of thinking about what else you could do to prepare before the race, then searching the internet and of course finding what you're looking for. Then, for example, people start stretching because they think tomorrow will be so hard, but they've never done it before training. That usually backfires.

    During the training phase, you can and should try out everything, including nutrition. But do not reinvent the wheel the day before the race.

    Last question for the bikenerds: What kind of bike did you do this bike marathon on?
    On a Specialized Tarmac SL7.

    Great. Thank you for your time and good luck in your next races!

    Naturally, we are super proud of Vincent and his great performance in this tough race. It's even more natural that we wanted to show off a bit what great cyclists work at our bike company. To our road cyclists on the blog: Hopefully, after this interview, the racing fever will grip you anew and you'll already be putting on your click shoes and getting on your bike . You can find Vincent's model along with thousands of other used high-end sports bikes on buycycle.com, so it's always worth a browse. And to the gravel and mountain bikers here. Hang in there. Next one will be something for you. Until then we wish you all: Happy browsing, happy cycling!