Tyrolean hobby cyclists are committing for the UCI World Cycling Championships.
text: Eva Schwienbacher
The Gran Fondo team consists of the most diverse riders from all over Tirol, all united by one common denominator: their passion for cycling sport. For this reason, they are taking part in national and international amateur races and sharing their enthusiasm with others, as ambassadors for the UCI Road World Championships 2018 in Tirol.
Like most people with an office job, Bianca Somavilla spends most of her time sitting down. After work, however, the 28-year-old, who works in the marketing department of a traditional Tirolean company, seeks a change of scene amidst the natural landscapes of Tirol in the saddle of her racing bike. The Stubai girl trains for several hours pretty much daily, and competes regularly in amateur races at the weekend. She covers around 10,000 kilometres and 150,000 metres in elevation difference every year and is competing in over ten races this season. “Good time management is required to reconcile working life with such a time-intensive hobby. You also have to be quite resolute”, explains Bianca Somavilla. “But if you are passionate about something, you can achieve lots”.
Gran Fondo cyclist Bianca Somavilla
Bianca Somavilla is one of around thirty cycling enthusiasts on the Gran Fondo Team, created by Tirol Werbung in lieu of the upcoming UCI Road World Championships in Tirol. The team will be taking part in a number of different races - the so-called “Gran Fondos”, or “cyclosportives” - in both this and next season. Josef Margreiter, Managing Director of Tirol Werbung and board member of the Road World Championships 2018, explains w: “The best promoters for our country are the Tiroleans themselves. With this in mind, we have created a team of local hobby racing cyclists, who will compete in important cyclosportive events as ambassadors for our Road World Championships in Tirol”. By participating in the Gran Fondos, we reach exactly the group of cycling enthusiasts who we would like to win as visitors to the World Championships, and convert into fans of the cycling region of Tirol.
Bianca Somavilla knows at first hand that enthusiasm for road cycling can be infections. She rode mountain bikes as a child, before moving on to single tracks. Five years ago she was asked by a friend, a passionate racing cyclist, whether she fancied competing in the Mondsee 5 Lakes Cycling Marathon. It was there that she gained her first experiences of riding a road bike: 2,000 metres in elevation difference and 200 kilometres were the challenge. “The race awoke a passion in me”, says Somavilla. You see: “To pursue a goal common together with other cyclists, conquer the metres in elevation and then finally cross the finish line is a very special feeling”.
Somavilla decided to join the Gran Fondo team, in order to share this feeling with even more people. “I want to show people that Tirol is a cycling country and stimulate interest in the sport, not least amongst other women.
Prudential RideLondon – Surrey 100
© Gran Fondo Team
© Gran Fondo Team
© Gran Fondo Team
© Gran Fondo Team
The cyclist joined other riders to compete for the Gran Fondo Team at diverse races. One of her special highlights was participating in the Prudential RideLondon - Surrey 100 at the end of July. A race of over 160 kilometres, in which participants followed the route of the 2012 Olympic Games. And it was along this illustrious course, that the four riders from Tirol set the mood for the Road World Championships on Tirolean soil, in front of huge audiences. “The whole weekend revolved around cycling. 25,000 cyclists took part. Our jerseys attracted great attention”, explains Somavilla. The Gran-Fondo Team riders are out and about, namely, in the official Road World Championships outfit, whose rainbow pattern is reminiscent of the World Cup jersey, with the official World Cup logo and icon, as well as that of the host city of Innsbruck, host region Tirol and the four starting points, Ötztal, Hall/Wattens, Rattenberg and Kufstein.
“Most of the people who I spoke to in London associated Innsbruck and Tirol with winter sports and were therefore thrilled to discover Tirol as a summer and cycling region too”, explains Somavilla. Klaus Steiner, who was also part of the Gran Fondo team in the British capital, also shares the young rider’s enthusiasm for London. “I have never seen anything like this before”, enthuses Steiner. The service technician from Breitenbach in the Tirolean lowlands has already raced in amateur races and achieved a number of records and successes, such as the Austrian championship title in 2012 for paired cycling time trials.
The 40-year-old raced almost like a pro for ten years. He had a coach and followed a strict nutrition plan. During this time, Klaus would get up at six a.m. to complete three to four hours of strength training before he went to work. A second training session followed in the evening on his bike, He trained for ten to 20 hours a week. “It was a tough time”, remembers Klaus.
Klaus Steiner stopped racing in 2014, in order to spend more time with his family. During his peak racing season, he pedalled an average of 18,000 kilometres and 200,000 metres in elevation difference, whereas today it is "only" 8,000 kilometres or 100,000 metres in altitude. “I cycle nowadays, rather than train”, is how Klaus explains the difference between now and then. After being asked whether he would like to represent the Road World Championships in Tyrol, he answered immediately: “It is a great honour for me to be an ambassador for the Road World Championships. I also wear the jersey when cycling in my free time. The feeling is indescribable and it means a lot to me”. Klaus Steiner is looking forward with great excitement to having the Road World Championships 2018 on his doorstep: “It will be a unique experience to be able to see all my big role models here in Tirol! I’m particularly looking forward to the individual time trails, my former special discipline, which are taking place in my home region of Rattenberg”.
© Gran Fondo Team
With this major sporting event, a dream comes true for many cycling enthusiasts. This includes Walter Weinseisen, who, at the age of 68, is the oldest rider in the Gran Fondo team. "As a cyclist, I am naturally interested top class cycling. “I am really looking forward to the home World Championships and it goes without saying that I want to be involved”, says Weinseisen.
The pensioner from Wörgl has been a keen road bike rider for around 45 years. He competed in his first race in the early 1970s. The former chemical laboratory technician uses the extra time retirement has given him to pursue his hobby. He rides an average of 14,000 kilometres and 180,000 metres in elevation difference every year. “I most like riding over alpine passes and taking long, extended tours. For me, it is all about enjoying myself”. "What makes this sport so interesting is the fact that it can be undertaken as a group just as well as alone. “I like riding with others, but I would not want to forgo riding solo”, says Walter Weinseisen. He likes to test his limits during races, although is careful not to over-exceed them.
Walter Weinseisen has amply proven that he can keep pace, and sometimes even outpace, other riders several times this year as a Gran-Fondo rider. He won the race Eschborn-Frankfurt and the Dolomite Cycling Tour in his age class and came third at Nove Colli in Cesenatico. He and Bianca Somavilla will be competing next at the Haute Route Dolomites from the 2nd to 8th September, which starts in Innsbruck and ends in Venice.
Walter Weinseisen © Gran Fondo Team
All three Gran-Fondo riders agree that Tirol offers plenty of opportunity to prepare for the races: “Tirol is defined by its diversity. Short rides on the flat are just as possible as extended mountain tours - there is something to suit every road cyclist”.
The Gran Fondo Team is as diverse as the country from which they derive: The young and young at heart, former pros and ambitious hobby athletes - are all united by their passion for cycling and the pleasure of being ambassadors for the forthcoming Road World Championships.
The Gran Fondo Team is the embassador Team for the UCI Cycling World Championships 2018.