– It comes as it comes –

Der Ötztaler Radmarathon

„It’s just such an incredible round. You’re really exhausted, but the miracle is that it’s still fun.“

The legendary Ötztal Cycling Marathon. It is a cycling monument with its four Alpine passes, 227 kilometres and 5,500 metres of altitude. Also for our friend Helmut Trettwer. A race that is different from others, or as Helli says: “The Ötztaler grounds you”.

A tribute to cycling, to suffering and passion

We look back: In 2020, the Ötztal Cycling Marathon should celebrate its 40th anniversary. But Corona put a spanner in the works of even the most prestigious amateur race. No one should tackle the 238 km and 5,500 metres of altitude.

Why not just ride the Ötztal Cycling Marathon for yourself? Relaxed on a beautiful day and with a minimum of three coffee stops? That was Helmut Trettwer’s original idea.

He should have guessed that his relaxed plan would soon take on other dimensions in discussions with his team: “Suddenly we thought it might be exciting to ride the loop as fast as possible and see if we could stay under 7 hours in normal road traffic.” After all, Mathias Nothegger from Vorarlberg had a 17-year-old course record with a time of 6:47 h in 2019. With – one can assume – meticulous preparation, perfectly coordinated training and racing. None of this should be the case with Helli – but still…

Maloja Pushbikers Ötztaler by Urs-Golling
Maloja Pushbikers Ötztaler by Urs-Golling
Maloja Pushbikers Ötztaler by Urs-Golling

2020. The open road record attempt

On 16 August 2020, Helmut stands at the pitch-black ‘start’ in Sölden at 5.30 a.m. with four young team colleagues and accompanying vehicle (including filmer, photographer and espresso machine) and is full of optimism.

The start was a dream. No one on the road, the pushbikers ride up the Kühtai in the sunrise. It is the first of the four passes and, with an 18% ramp, the steepest. “The light was so magnificent, it was just beautiful.” The mood: excellent. The team pulls, the roads are clear – but that was soon to change.

In Innsbruck it happens as you know it from the city: the cyclists are faster than the cars. The first film break. Then it’s up to the Brenner Pass. The road is wide, you have no chance to hide. The Maloja Pushbikers brace themselves against a fierce headwind, riding at the limit. The 7-hour mark wobbles for the first time.  At the Jaufenpass, the young riders pull the plug. Helli rides on alone. Hundreds of motorbikes, campers, cars. The traffic costs him important minutes.

The strength fades, the spirit wavers – and the Timmelsjoch builds up in front of Helli. Six kilometres before the top of the pass, what makes a record attempt without a road closure so difficult happens once again: a red light in front of a construction site. 1.5 kilometres before the Timmelsjoch Pass summit, a little light shines at the end of the tunnel. For Helli a typical racing bike moment: “You torture yourself, you curse and at the same time you enjoy every step, every view out into the mountains, into the valley.

After 7 hours and 8 minutes he rolls into Sölden. With the conditions, the wind, the road traffic, it’s an incredible time. Even though it didn’t work out to stay under 7 hours, his mission is accomplished. “I think you can go faster if you don’t stress yourself so much, because you are freer from the head. And because you go through the world and ride with your eyes open.”

Maloja Pushbikers Ötztaler by Urs-Golling
Maloja Pushbikers Ötztaler by Urs-Golling
Maloja Pushbikers Ötztaler by Urs-Golling

Feel the passion. The second Ötztaler 2022

“The incentive was to just go for a ride, not to think so much and, above all, not to be so dogged. You don’t need that in our sport,” says Helli. “If the ambition blocks you, the fun and the passion are gone, then that’s missing the point.”

In 2020 the Corona course was conditionally deserted, in 2022 Helmut is back in Sölden and finds it crazy how the Ötztaler captivates everyone from participants to carers and spectators. The passion with which everyone starts, “from the first to the last. A good starting position for him. The night before he had cleaned his bike, picked up his race number around 6 p.m. and after a Mexican dinner spent the night in the car park. “The Ötztaler had always been a bit in the back of my mind and I was unsure if I should even start this year. Then I thought: just ride and have fun!”

And that’s exactly what Helli is doing on this 28 August 2022.

Maloja Pushbikers Ötztaler by Urs-Golling
Maloja Pushbikers Ötztaler by Urs-Golling
Maloja Pushbikers Ötztaler by Urs-Golling
08:30: After a little more than two hours of riding time, the first attacks take place near Axams. The first groups are spread out, the pace before the Tyrolean capital is very high. Helmut Trettwer is leading by a few seconds.

09:00: A moment of shock for the leader Helmut Trettwer in Innsbruck: On the wet road he almost slips and touches a road barrier. A quick grab on the knee, but the 38-year-old continues. He extended his lead over the large chasing group with all the favourites to more than three minutes. Among others there are former winner Stefano Cecchini (ITA), the strong Germans Stefan Oettl, Martin Maertens and Alexander Schnerrow as well as the Tyrolean marathon crack Daniel Rubisoier.

9:30: The following race situation after a riding time of three hours on the ascent to the Brenner Pass: While Helmut Trettwer (GER) is extending his lead, the Italian Andrea Bais has set off in pursuit. Behind him, the large chasing pack is still calm.

10:25: The leading riders have passed the 37.5 kilometre long Brenner Pass with a maximum gradient of 12 percent. Helmut Trettwer is still in the lead with an advantage of 8:20 minutes over a small chasing group around the Austrian Philip Handl, Markus Hertlein (GER) and Handl’s compatriot Martin Ludwiczek.

11:30: While many participants are still struggling over the Brenner Pass, the leader Helmut Trettwer has passed the Jaufen Pass. But his lead is shrinking. The small chasing group of Hans-Jörg Leopold, Robert Petzold, MTB World Champion Alban Lakata and Daniel Federspiel made up seven minutes on this climb and is now only 4:30 minutes behind.

12:10: The Timmelsjoch is calling and Trettwer’s long solo escape is over. According to the race director, he had injured himself in the accident in Innsbruck and he complained of knee pain. Meanwhile, the Canadian Jack Burke broke away from the now seven-man leading group, only the Italian Manuel Senni could follow him.

(Live Ticker Eurosport)

For over 3.5 hours, Helli rides kilometre after kilometre in front – alone. In front of a magnificent backdrop. With start number 4685 and a gear ratio of 53/39.

Wer ihn kennt, der weiss um seinen Grundsatz: lieber vorne sterben als hinten nix werden. “Das war schon immer mein Style, Rennen aggressiv zu fahren. Iwie hat es sich am Kühtai richtig angefühlt und am Timmelsjoch als falsch rausgestellt”, sagt er nachher. “Aber so wie ich gefahren bin, so hab ich Spaß am Sport und am Sonntag hatte ich viel Spaß und daher bin ich mit mir und meinem Rennen im Reinen.”

Als der spätere Sieger Jack Burke Helmut am Timmelsjoch in der Führung ablöst, klopft er ihm auf die Schulter und auch im Studio der Live Übertragung hört man in diesem Moment Applaus für Hellis große Leistung. Als 22. erreicht er nach 7:30 Stunden und 227 km das Ziel, vor Johnny Hoogerland, dem Gewinner aus 2021.

What about the Ötztaler 2023? “Yesterday never again, today maybe never again…. It comes as it comes!”

„The Ötztaler grounds you. You can really feel it. And you can decide for yourself how you perceive and enjoy it.“

Cookie Consent Banner by Real Cookie Banner