Be it a Pro or Amateur Cyclist: The “Ötzi” is a true challenge for everyone

Ötztaler Cycle Marathon & PRO Ötztaler 5.500

The road cycling community and all fans of the Ötztaler Cycle Marathon have only one question in mind: how much faster are the cycling professionals compared to the hobby racers on the legendary loop tour of 4 Alpine passes?

I had a chat with “Ötzi veteran” and head of Bikeschule Ötztal, Urban Gstrein. An interesting discussion about estimated race times, watts, preparation units and the immense attraction of the Ötztaler Cycle Marathon.

Radfahrer an Tankstelle - Ötztaler Radmarathon Pro Ötztaler 5.500
One burning question for the road cycling community: how much is the difference in race time? © Lukas Ennemoser / Ötztal Tourismus

It’s a question of race time difference

How big will the difference be between the pros and the amateurs? Of course, I also asked Urban about this interesting topic. He has calculated the approximate race time of the pros, based on this year’s Giro d’Italia: the fastest cycling pro could conquer the loop tour in about 6 hours and 28 minutes – if the speed is the same as in the Giro stages.

Last year’s amateur winner, Bernd Hornetz, needed 6 hours and 57 minutes. Although a difference of 30 minutes doesn’t seem very much, the challenge at this one-day cycle race is really incomparable. Urban explains that the best cyclists of the marathon are already semi-professionals with some 30,000 training kilometers per year.

The overall racing time of the cycling pros will also strongly depend on the weather conditions as well as on the tactics of all pro team members.

Watts, watts and more … watts

The biggest differences between pros and amateurs are expected after Sterzing – the midpoint of the race. But there are still two challenging passes to conquer: Jaufenpass and Timmelsjoch! The pros’ pedaling power on uphill stretches can reach more than 400 watts while amateurs pedal at approximately 300 watts.

“A difference of 100 watt is enormous in the mountains, it’s almost the power of half an e-bike,” Urban states. Additionally, the pros can hold their speed very well for a longer time.

Radfahrer auf Passstraße - Ötztaler Radmarathon Pro Ötztaler 5.500
The final climb: Timmelsjoch is in sight!
© Lukas Ennemoser / Ötztal Tourismus

Especially in the mountains you must consider both watts and weight. Cycling pros weigh light, most of them between 60 and 65 kilogram. Less weight also means more watt power and faster uphill cycling!

What is the perfect watt power?

It always depends on the weight. Here is a rough guide valid for mountain stages: amateurs in a good shape reach 250 watts (and can finish the Ötztaler Cycle Marathon in less than 9 hours), excellent amateurs producing over 300 watts are already in the first part of the ranking and real pros exceed 400 – 450 or even 500 watts. Of course, such top performances can’t be reached during the entire race. What’s more, cycling pros need less regeneration time.

Radfahrerin fokussiert - Ötztaler Radmarathon Pro Ötztaler 5.500
Tough, tougher, Ötztaler…
© Lukas Ennemoser / Ötztal Tourismus

Is there a perfect preparation for the “Ötzi”?

“It’s important that you are used to the mountains if you take part in the Ötztaler Cycle Marathon,” explains Urban who also offers special training weeks at Bikeschule Ötztal. “Although some cyclists have already conquered more than 20,000 kilometers in one season, they had no training units in the mountains – only on level terrain.” Long pass roads and steep ascents are a huge challenge for everyone.

The ultimate 5-day training program includes about 3000 altitude meters every day, comprising several stages of the Ötztaler Cycle Marathon and also useful technical advice. It also happens that race bicycles have a completely wrong gear transmission for uphill stretches.

Additionally, the saddle and the sitting position on the bicycle vary depending on the ascent or descent level. Half of the “Ötzi” marathon leads downhill – and you can win or lose heaps of time! The training week also gives an insight into cycling techniques, turns and switchbacks, right posture and braking.

Expert advice for “Ötzi novices”

Urban Gstrein Abfahrt - Ötztaler Radmarathon Pro Ötztaler 5.500
Urban leaning into a turn – excellent cycling techniques at the end of each turn …
© Lukas Ennemoser

Are there any common mistakes if you take part in the marathon for the first time? Urban is convinced about the right race timing: “Don’t start too fast on the first two passes in Kühtai and Brenner, otherwise you are already exhausted at the midpoint of the race.”

And don’t spend too much time at the 5 refreshment stations: eat a bite quickly, change clothes if necessary and off you go! There is enough time to exchange views after the marathon.

5500 legendary altitude meters – Unrivaled “Ötzi” Marathon

Once again Urban will take part in this year’s Ötztaler Cycle Marathon – already for the 15th time! He conquered his first race when he was 17 years old and race bicycles weighed 14 kilogram. The start was in Mutters, located above Innsbruck.

His goal is always the same: the Ötztaler Cycle Marathon in less than 8 hours! The atmosphere at the “Ötzi” ranks among the undisputed highlights for both cyclists and spectators. It is also one of the few amateur cycle races where the roads are entirely closed to public traffic.

Urban Gstrein am Rennrad - Ötztaler Radmarathon Pro Ötztaler 5.500
Urban Gstrein: Looks forward excitedly to his 15th “Ötzi” marathon
© Lukas Ennemoser

The atmosphere along the race track is truly unique, too! Cheering crowds, passionate fans, top-notch athletes and musical side programs for the spectators: the “Ötzi” really has a very special flair, also thanks to the highly professional organization team.

I asked Urban if he had a favorite or a feared stage. “I almost hate Brenner pass and I like the last stretch between St. Leonhard up to Timmelsjoch very much.”

Zielankunft Tour de Suisse Simon Spilak - Ötztaler Radmarathon Pro Ötztaler 5.500
Simon Spilak passing the finish line at Tiefenbach Glacier
© Benedikt Steiner / Ötztal Tourismus

You better don’t lose sight of these “power legs” at the PRO Ötztaler 5.500

For the very first time on 25 August 2017, two days prior to the amateurs, also the cycling pros will cover this ultimate 238 kilometer long loop course in a single day. Who will be the overall winner? According to Urban, England’s Simon Yates – best young and upcoming pro of this year’s Tour de France – ranks among the top favorites. (Update 24 Aug.: Yates will not start, he is competing at the “Vuelta”)

Also Slovenia’s Simon Spilak of Team Katusha could be among the winners as he came first in the overall ranking of the Tour de Suisse and won the queen’s stage leading up to Tiefenbach Glacier. He is definitely a very strong climber!

From a Tirolean point of view: Alban Lakata from Lienz – 2017 Mountain Bike Marathon World Cup Champion – takes part in a pro road cycling race for the first time. Talking about watt power, the race cycling community can check current performances online on the “Strava” activity platform. Urban has examined Lakata’s data and is convinced that he will be in the leading group for a long time. It’s a debatable point if the mountain bike pro can hold the speed up to Timmelsjoch and on the last race stage. Urban is as well very curious about the last part of the race!

No matter if you are an amateur or a professional, 5500 meters of altitude gain always promise a thrilling race event. We wish good luck and accident-free sport events to all participants in the Ötztaler Cycle Marathon and PRO Ötztaler 5.500.

All important details on the Ötztaler Cycle Marathon are available HERE | Further information about the PRO Ötztaler 5.500 can be found HERE

(Cover image: © Lukas Ennemoser / Ötztal Tourismus)

What do you think: How much is the race time difference between cycling pros and amateurs?

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Author Benni

When it comes to activity and motion, Benni pricks up his ears! He is a passionate snowboarder, mountain biker, climber & hiker and he knows no better playground for outdoor sports than the Ötztal. He is not the type to sit still - therefore Benni can be often found on the valley's most exciting bike trails and pristine powder snow slopes.

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