It was a great day for Austrian Towerrunning. This 2nd edition of the Pyramidenkogel Turmlauf in Keutschach on Friday, September 13 was the first stand-alone race of the Towerrunning Tour in Austria and there were home champions too !
The venue is a special one. At a height of 100 meters, the Pyramidenkogel is the tallest wooden observation tower in the world. The race finish on the highest visitor platform 71m above ground. The hilltop, on which the tower is erected, itself lies 850m above sea level and 400m above Wörthersee, the most famous of many lakes surrounded by high mountains in this well known holiday region of Carinthia. The view from top is lovely and spectacular, especially on a sunny late summer day like we had on race day.
Technically it is not stairs only, there is a 170m uphill prerun ending with a tricky 150° bend before entering the stairwell at right angle. Simply said but difficult to execute: Athletes have to find the right balance to be fast before the stairs and still be able to kick on the stairs … The 71m of altitude are spread in 12 sections, the first 8 metal sections each have 4×10 stairs with modest angles at the pedestals winding up the structure. The final sections are more irregular on wooden stairs with flat meters on the visitor platforms. Bonus for athletes. At the tower’s opening hours the stairwell is accessible and there are big progress signs for each section. Even on race day, despite normal touristic operation, the towerrunners had lots of time to inspect the venue.
The Pyramidenkogel Turmlauf attracted many elite athletes, some of them making a double weekend with the RB400 in Planica on Saturday or the German Towerrunning Championships at Rottweil’s Testturm on Sunday. And there were two Mexicans doing the triple … Other elites were seen with families making holiday around the race.
First on track at 16 hours was the events elite athlete caretaker Rudi Reitberger followed by more than 100 open division athletes in 30 second intervals. Before the elites start at 17:30 in 1 min intervals we saw another spectacular performance by well known para athlete Haki Doku in his wheelchair, climbing down the tower. Besides the stairs the final downhill was a real challenge for him ! And we welcomed back to racing, on short note a few months after an operation, Total Motion Towerrunner (TMT) David Harris from London.
All odds before the female competition pointed to a duel between ranking leader Suzy Walsham (AUS) and defending champ Vroni Windisch (AUT) and a very open race for third. That’s exactly what happened. Six females broke the 3 minute mark, on 6th Czech Lenka Burianova (still better known under her maiden name Svabikova) with 2:58,32. On 5th place and in the price money with 2:52,93 to her great surprise and joy was local Barbara Bischof. In the challenge for the podium Slovak Kamila Chovanicova in 2:47,81 narrowly lost out to Great Britain’s TMT Sarah Frost who finished in 2:45,04.
Yet another dimension of narrowness decided the expected duel for the crown. The two of them are reported to be no real lovers of the stairless prerun, nevertheless they raced in a class of their own. The lucky winner was the defending champion. Timing told us 2:36,42 for Vroni and 2:36,68 for Suzy. 0,26 seconds – the chipped foot in front at the finish line may have been decisive …
Not so expected but not really surprising the male race proved to be a narrow duel too. Interestingly the two involved Austrians have very different approaches to this “2 minutes plus” race ! To be explained later 🙂
In the male elite division we had a mix of international top athletes with wins at many major sprint stair races all over the world and a few local talents challenging them with their experience at the venue. And in fact two locals made it into the Top10 !
The dedicated mountain runner Stefan Wernig placed 8th with a time of 2:15,24. Troy Alston was slightly faster in 2:15,01. Troy is from Florida and made headlines in the States when in his first Towerrunning season 2011 he won eleven stair races. For some nice reasons recently he is seen in Austria a lot and even tried skiing last winter ! The Czech Pavel Holec took 6th with 2:14,80, a stair racer for more than a decade and a member of the famous Hole Dore team since then. 2:12,70 was the time of the 5th, Stefan Stefina from Slovakia. Stefan was 5th too 2 weeks ago at UFO. Same rank as at UFO also applies to the 4th ! Mateusz Marunowski from Poland, two time champion at the Münster KO-mode race, ran 2:11,67 and missed the podium by less than a second.
The surprise of the day was the young promising 400m Hurdles talent Markus Karlin, a member of the organizing club KLC. 2:11,08 is much longer than his usual race times, but he managed to hold on ! Interestingly Troy Alston has a background in the 400 Hurdles too as well as the big absent Tomas Celko. The defending champion had to pass due to knee problems making it an only Austrian affair.
Christof Großegger comes from the sprint side. In his own words: “Up to 90 seconds race time there is no tactics, only full speed”. His opponent, Jakob Mayer is a mountain runner used to longer distances and recently very very successful at RB400 events. Christof raced first and clocked 2:04,80 – 0,03 seconds faster than last year. As he had lost to Tomas by a mere 0,02 seconds that time meant a new course record by 0,01 second ! But it should last only a minute … Then Jakob crossed the line in 2:04,38 making him the winner and new course record holder.
The victory ceremony on the place before the tower framed by the flags of the athletes originating countries ended a very exciting race day in a unique environment and the Towerrunning family says a big “Thank You” to the organizing T&F club KLC and the Gemeinde Keutschach for supporting the race in many ways. We all hope for another (higher factored ?) Towerrunning Tour race at the Pyramidenkogel next year !