you don't have to cycle from vienna to trieste!
but it’s fun anyway!
the rediscovery of an almost classic
vienna - graz
it was a fresh september morning "with glorious cloudless sky" on that 24th in 1892, when “long before the 10th hour” 16 cyclists arrived in inzersdorf "next vienna". their goal: to finish the first road race from vienna to trieste over 500 km as the winner. the race was,according to the newspaper a "colossal" success! the viennese josef sobotka from the verein ”wanderlust” won after 28 hours and 45 minutes. the race never took place again!
127 later - the morning was also fresh, and not quite cloudless - just after the 6th hour, exactly 21 male and three female cyclists started their journey from vienna to trieste.
their goal: a 550km long bike ride on the tracks of the original race track.
again a great success. they say.
if you have left the city after inzersdorf - now a part of vienna - the first atmospheric highlight awaited the riders with laxenburger allee in the morning sun. although the route selection will follow the original track in 2019, it will give preference to smaller, low-traffic roads in detail. attractiveness before originality! and so the long-distance cyclists behind guntramsdorf drove for a few kilometers along the picturesque vienna neustädter canal. that lifeline on which the goods were shipped to vienna in the past. long before the southern railway and even more so before the südautobahn were built
after crossing the latter at the height of bad vöslau the roads become wider, the tempo higher and in bad fischau after 55km it was time for the first stop. the café and bakery survived the rush of the slightly under-sugared cyclists, but in a good mood. nevertheless, they will not forget this morning so soon.
in 1892, the early phase was not quite as harmonic. the racing cyclists had to deal with “upset carriage drivers”. which mr. cizek, a so called "revierforstmeister" had given the order to "drive down" the cyclists. in fact, freiherr von esebeck was torn from his "machine".
he had to give upt the race later on.
probably the biggest difference to today beside the condition of the roads and the bikes, was the fact that the adventure was designed as a non-stop drive in 1892. by contrast, the 2019 version is a self supported three stages ride. welcome to the age of bikepacking! every driver has to take everything he needs for the next three days with her, and has to take care of food and overnight stays for himself.
after a short and uncomplicated passage through ternitz and gloggnitz, the road begins to rise slightly. and it got warmer! outside as inside. and so in schottwien at the beginning of the adlitzgraben, a collective striptease took place in the morning sun.
the upcoming semmering, formerly was a favorite place for summer freshness and other pleasures of the wiener aristocracy and upper-class citizens. also thanks to the semmering railway, meanwhile world cultural heritage - which the former emperor franz josef I. in 1854 first travelled on together with the architect carl ritter von ghega.
in these days the 400 meters of ascent are something like the early highlight of the trip to the upper adriatic. no higher point after this one on the route!
the percentage of climbing does not climb so fast as the breathing frequency in the field and what was a relaxed group ride on the first 90km, became now a first showdown up to the pass. by the way - fun fact - the former pneumatic-lowcycles without luggage were not much heavier than the actual bikes including load today.
in 1992 sobotka was the first to reach the top of the pitch at 1 o'clock 55. followed by fischer and bachmann.
at just a few degrees celsius over zero, a supermarket was the prefered warm-up and feed station. here, too, the peaked appearance of the cyclists, who strengthened and warmed themselves behind the panoramic window in the sun, made employees and
customers look big.
today, as in the past, the riders went down semmering in "the fastest way". first to mürzzuschlag, birthplace of austria's only female laureate in literature, then meandering through the mürzvalley, still a bit downhill. Kindberg, the self-proclaimed pearl of the mürz valley, was reached quickly this way. but extensive energy supply in the form of coffee, cake, etc. - also the first beer was spotted - let the time savings achieved by drafting quickly become waste again.
in 1892, the food thing was solved faster and in a very elegant way. some drivers had pre-ordered their food for graz and other cities simply by telegram.
in 2019 the main field rolled - after the first puncture near bruck/mur - south, interrupted only by a short culinary group stop in frohnleiten
after about 220km in graz the ride was over - for the first place! the last of the total 1,600 meters of ascent on this day went to the account of the final climb up to the uhrturm, the landmark of graz.
in dream weather, graz lied to their tired legs and feet. after all, we are in the city of johann puch, the famous styrian cycling pioneer, athlete and bicycle manufacturer who has been producing bicycles in graz since 1889. unfortunately only until 1987!
the town hall is already waiting for the long-distance cyclists with a short entertaining reception and a generous buffet. apart from that in 2019 it remained relatively
quiet in the city
in 1892 there was more excitement.
“The Centrale in Graz, opened in the Café Thonethof, was constantly surrounded by hundreds of people who wanted to know every new phase of the race. The incoming telegrams were instantly affixed to the large mirror... in the main artery of the city, Herrengasse ... "
standings: sobotka before fischer and wokurka.
for the cyclists in 1892 - after a hearty food, massages and cold rubbings in the hotel “engel”
- a long drive through the night began.
for the randonneurs of the present a not so long one in the beds of graz.
graz - ljubljana
shortly before seven o'clock, on another fresh and sunny morning, now over 40 cyclists gathers in front of the hotel weitzer, which was still called angel in 1892. what we especially liked: in particular, the share of female riders has risen to a quarter in total.
passing the former puch-company the field drove then in autumnal meditative mood (anyone said tired?) over the wildonerberg to ehrenhausen and reached - after about 60km - spielfeld and thus slovenia.
shortly before maribor a special challenge awaited the riders. the task: to overcome a motorway junction by bicycle in accordance with the law. the "finesses" of the cycle path planning left anyone puzzled. only so much - to guide a cycle path through the innermost circle of the motorway junction at the lowest point not only has advantages.
and promptly led to the second flat of the ride.
the anger, however, is quickly gone and in the sunny city center of maribor after 75k already driven a deserved critical mass breakfast took place. and time! in the usual hustle and bustle of "where is my ..." and "I would like to ..." a 12 person mixed rider group managed a breakaway. isolated protests remained almost unheard.
what was not expected at this time, this group remained ahead until the end of the day’s stage in ljubljana. it turned out to be the more harmonious and happier one - free from technicals, flats and other disturbances - on this day.
the route specific highlight of the second stage next to the ornithological reserve near rače was without doubt the romantic hill and ramp orgy between pragersko and celje. which again and again crossed the “südbahn”-railway. especially after the already completed 120 km of the day, a real challenge for the not necessarily fresh legs.
just behind celje, after a short gravel passage along the savinja the surprise of the day awaited the riders, a one-lane suspension bridge! with partly violent shoveling, partly walking, partly driving and a big smile on their faces all riders managed to cross the river and continued their ride through small romantic villages towards the foot of the trojane.
or how the general sports newspaper wrote in 1892:
”now comes the strong mountain against trojana”
today known as "donut pass”. actually the speciality up there is something lika a XXL donut filled with jam or creme or chocolat etc. but without a hole in the middle. there are divided opinions concerning the culinary value. but what you can not ignore:
they are famous and notorious.
The mountain itself has caused a lot of anticipatory respect. on the one hand it rises after almost 200 kilometers, on the other hand it sounds quite powerful. but then turned out to be quite innocent from close. the almost 300 meters of elevation are distributed over 10 km with no really steep sections. so the real climbers were almost a little disappointed. but most of the riders were pleased on that day that the pass was shorter and more
harmless than feared.
"Sobotka, still far ahead, looks quite ”exhausted" reaching the height at 5 o'clock 38 minutes in the morning."
the way down towards domzale in bright sunshine was fun along the way. but not for everyone. actally it caused mild to moderate group-dynamic irritations in the second main group. some people who were set in the wind and temporarily outpaced could and did not want to make friends with this fact.
but at latest after the second afterride beer in the vibrant center of ljubljana everything was full of harmony again. and so, the second and longest stage was at a very good end.
for many, the approx. 230km (and 1,700 meters of altitude) were the longest ride ever ridden on one day. and for a large part of the riding ladies (starting in graz) it was their
first 200k ever! congratulations!
in 1892 for the leading sobotka it was 7:42 in the morning at this point. "in nice but cold weather" on the second day of the race. fischer and wokurka passed "laibach"
half an hour later.
2019 shower and dinner is waiting. in the meantime, not only was a restaurant brought to its limits of patience and capacity, also the lost splinter group joined us late at night.
they preferred to travel from graz over the mountains to ljubljana in two days.
on - what they called it - a more sophisticated route. we let them in their belief.
ljubljana - trieste
the third stage started (once again) in bright sunshine.
on the way to vrhnika and up to logatec the peloton still went a bit tired. it was the collective consumption of almost all remaining energy or similar legal doping stuff, which brought back fresh energy. and up they rode into the forest of rakek.
because of the picturesque beauty of this section collective ecstasy spread through the peloton. but just when eyerything was going way to well and almost began to drift in the direction of kitschy postcard idyll, suddenly everthing stopped!
rien ne va plus!
some claimed, they had seen it coming (apparently there may have been a sign shortly before), but most of us were just surprised. the attempt to walk through the bridge construction site pushing the bikes was stopped by the roadworkers. gently but strictly. thankfully, there were also friendly hints in the direction of a nearby detour. and so, after some walking and then rolling over a little gravel track and a smooth grassfield, the most original part of the whole route was quickly found ans gentley passed.
who wouldn't have loved this?
shortly after the main field was back on a paved road towards planina, crunchy and beautiful slopes up to postojna were waiting. but not for long. in 1892 exactly here a "tremendous" shift in the classement happened. sobotka's 30-minute lead had turned into a three-minute delay on wokurka and fischer. we couldn’t find out the exact reasons anymore.
In 2019, the rhythmic serpentines witnessed a final showdown of the testosterone department. early the mountain sprint was put on, too early for some. the past 500km have exhausted the riders in individually different ways.
after another coffe, including the obligatory raid on a bakery and a supermarket in postojna, a partly quick descent towards italy began. compared to 1892 when the competitors went down to trieste via opicina, the riders in 2019 were suggested not to take the shortest route but one of the most beautiful. with a small last ascent to monrupino.
the temperature meanwhile has risen to an enjoyable late summer level and so did the anticipation of the near destination. a part of the riders disappeared for a while in the pilgrimage church of monte grisa (also known as an example for brutalism in concrete) mainly for architectural interest.
the small and well-sounding place prosecco was the last meeting point. a large group picture with a view at trieste was yet to be made. the glas of prosecco itself was abandoned, as the group of travelers had already been warmly welcomed by a guide from trieste who offerd them escort down to the city, passing the old lighthouse and then directly
towards piazza dell’unita.
there, the bikers were greeted in the friendliest way by other colleagues from the gentlemen cycling club trieste aka as associazione sportiva dilettantistica gentlemen.
along with their beautiful club banderol.
even the renowned city newspaper il piccolo did a report on this.
mostly because of the many female cyclists we had in the group! :))
by the way, this newspaper was founded in 1881 and could have already covered the race in 1892. quod erat demonstrandum!
"trieste! trieste the finish! it is not easy to equip the end of a race more inconspicuously ... the first and largest race in austria ... nothing but a red flag ... trieste did not develop the slightest sporting interest..."
"two clouds of dust swirl densely one behind the other... and sobotka around 2 o'clock 45 seconds flies through the goal."
only 35 3/5 seconds later otto wokurka reached triest as second.
"the two are immediately taken to the hotel, where they now rest."
scarcely 25 minutes came the third josef fischer. "he is well and goes straight to the sea!"
three more cyclists stayed under 29 hours for the "500km long journey". "rich in obstacles, mountains, bad roads" and "almost without rest.”
nobody went swimming in 2019, but the molo audace was the official end of the journey. the rest is satisfaction and ... um ... a little celebration.
in the end we were happy because of the beautiful and demanding ride in splendid weather and because of the fact that all riders arrived healthy and reasonably lively in trieste. with the exception of a small fall-over nothing happened! thanks to the the careful and considerate driving style of all riders!
and yes, partying had to be an integrated part to the whole trip as well.
"pedal hard, party hard!" the youth would say.
about the exact number of drunk beers, gin tonics etc. silence was agreed!
and also a final judgement for the ride as a whole was agreed.
we heard something like: EPYC!
and then came horst!
shortly after the last bar was closed and the most enduring cyclists and dancers were lying in their beds (at least for a few hours) one last epyc rider arrived!
horst had his own tactics and above all his very own bike with which he mastered the 565 km. he reached trieste with his "three-gang cannon" including a short sleep break in graz and a subsequent almost non-stop ride including a night ride (together with srečko) at 8 o'clock in the morning. after just over 25 hours of riding!
with his interpretation he was probably closest to the spirit of the original race.
whether there will be a new edition soon, or whether it will take another couple of years ... who knows! anyway, the invitation of the trieste-based "gentlemen cycling club" to celebrate its 2020 birthday is open!
a big THANK YOU also to michl mellnauer, wolfgang höfler and gerold lehmann, who have already ridden the "original" original track including a stamp card in 2012, and thus have given us for our 2019 version a lasting inspiration. they have also contributed a lot of historical material via wolfgang wehap and the radlobby.