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Hartbergerland World Cycling Week. A message from Harry Rourke

Hi to the Waratahs,

I’ve just competed in the Hartbergerland World Cycling Week held in various towns and locations in and around Hartberg in eastern Austria.  It’s a week of racing and training rides, with a tour of 6 stages held over 5 days.  I was surprised to see quite a number of Aussies participating, but one reason could be that some, like myself, are moving on to the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Poland at the end of August.

You have to be over 40 years to enter in the Masters categories in this event, so I was in the Masters VI group, that also included two other riders from Australia, John Horsburgh from Peleton Sports and Colin Kneale from Sutherland Shire Cycling Club.  These are riders I regularly compete against in my age group (Masters 9) at home.  Considering the races all had very steep hill climbs, with the exception of the time trial (which we know is not my strong point anyway), I was pleased with my results.  The Europeans just have so much more practice and racing experience on steep climbs than we get in our parts of Australia.  Most of the road races were a combined field of Masters V-VIII.  I came 5th overall in my age group in the tour and John came 4th  overall.

Stage 1  A Prologue over 1.5km through Hartberg, finishing in the town square. The start was downhill during which I reached speeds of over 65km/hr, followed by the last 600m being an uphill climb over cobbles. I finished 2nd, missing the yellow jersey by a few seconds.

Stage 2  A road race over 38km with 550m of climbing.  I got dropped on the steep climb and chased back to come 5th.

Stage 3  Also a road race over 55km with 750m of climbing. This time I managed stay with the top climbers until close to the top. I joined a small group of 6 and we chased to the end.  I managed to win the bunch sprint to get 5th place.

Stage 4  The Hill Climb over 4km. It is just a full on sprint trying to hold position. Placing 5th was the best I could do.

Stage 5  The TT over 17km on a flat course. Not my specialty but I finished 8th and held on 5th place overall.

Stage 6  The last stage and the one feared by all. It’s only 23km long but the last 6km is a 500m climb with sections of 12%. I got dropped on an early climb and managed to rejoin at the base of the last climb with 6km to go. I had 5th place overall in hand, so I got into my cadence and rode to the summit, resulting in 6th place on the day.

Considering the top four place getters are some of the best climbers in my age group, I was very happy with my result of 5th overall, gaining two trophies for my efforts.  The weather has been glorious, the scenery stunning and we have had the most fantastic time here.  The people are all so friendly and helpful, and the organising committee have done an exceptional job in organising both the racing and the social events associated with the cycling week.  After each race there was a prize presentation in the town associated with the race, as an acknowledgement of the towns’ support.  It was usually held in the main square, or another picturesque location in town and often had a traditional music band playing.  Prizes for placegetters, as well as trophies or medals, included locally produced goods.

I am feeling really well after my experience, my climbing ability has improved and I’ve lost 5 kilos in weight!  I’m looking forward to flying the Waratah and Australian colours in Poland.

Cheers, Harry