Busy times for the Austrian athletes
You would think that spring and summer are rather slow times when it comes to Nordic Combined athletes. Not for the Austrian team right now!
First on schedule was the Austrian Ski Federation’s country conference at Lech am Arlberg last week, where the bronze team of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Mario Stecher, Christoph Bieler, Bernhard Gruber and Lukas Klapfer were decorated with the „Großes Goldenes Sportehrenzeichen“ and the dates for this year’s national championships were set (9.10. at Innsbruck or Seefeld: large hill and 12.10. at Tschagguns: normal hill).
After that, it was off to sports-related pursuits: the Iron Man at Klagenfurt. Austria’s Nordic Combined athletes started with a team who split up the disciplines (Bernhard Gruber: 3,86 km of swimming, Mario Stecher & Christoph Bieler: 90 km of cycling each and Lukas Klapfer and Philipp Orter: running a half-marathon each). The squad finished with a total time of 8 hours, 17 minutes and 50 seconds and won the internal fight with the team of a triathlon magazine by about two minutes.
Team anchor and local hero Philipp Orter: „It was an enormous experience to cross the finish line as the anchor at an Iron Man. I felt very good during the race and after I cycled last year I am only missing swimming now to have tried all three disciplines. And all that right on my doorstep, that’s even greater!“
But Stecher, Bieler & Co. will not have a lot of time for rest and recovery as the Bike Marathon at Grießkirchen is next on schedule and set to take place on the upcoming weekend. Teams of two athletes each will try to finish a 21.5 km circuit as often as possible in six hours. The Austrian Ski Federation will send three teams: Christoph Bieler & Mario Stecher, Bernhard Gruber & Harald Lemmerer and Mario Seidl with jumping coach Falko Krismayr.
Taking part in the Bike Marathon has gained an almost traditional position in the season preparation of the Austrian team: „We have been to Grießkirchen a couple of times and were even able to win the six hour race once“, Mario Stecher explains. „It is always great to be there, meet acquaintances and have fun. Of course, it’s only about stepping on it on the track. Maybe we’ll be able to be on the podium again this year.“