It’s common knowledge that complete pelotons of riders will spend their entire careers rolling in the shadows of more illustrious team-mates. But less spoken about is that there are plenty of events out there that suffer the same fate.
Take the Tour of Austria, for example, the 65th edition of which will begin on Sunday. Since 2005 this UCI 2.HC event has been held in July, placing it head-to-head with the biggest event of them all: the Tour de France. Talk about a tough gig.
Whilst initially dominated by local riders, especially in its amateur days pre-1996, there has been a smattering of top riders to win the Osterreich Rundfarht in more recent times. Cadel Evans has prevailed twice (2001 & 2004, when it was used as as lead-up to the Tour), whilst the talented Frederik Kessiakoff won in 2011 and Jakob Fuglsang took out last year’s edition.
Problem is these days, apart from riders at Continental Teams who were never going to France anyway and perhaps those returning from injuries, most of the WorldTour riders who race in Austria would surely much rather be in France? As you’d expect, the parcours can be rather mountainous too, taking in such epic towns as Kitzbühel (Stage 2). So it’s not always the easiest of weeks. Talk about a booby prize.
This year’s edition will feature some of the biggest names in the sport: Hushovd, Cancellara, Boonen and Basso. Given the bulk of the world’s cycling media will be many hundreds of kilometres to the west, however, it will be interesting to see if anyone really cares. Austrians excepted, of course.