Three-peat champ Fred Funk’s PRO tips for racing ‘iconic’ Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee

Having won Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee three times in a row himself, PRO triathlete Frederic Funk shares his top tips for age-groupers on how to make the most of this tough - but 'iconic' - middle distance race.

Writer & Long Course Triathlete
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Fred Funk is no stranger to the podium at Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee – a tough, but stunning, middle distance race in Austria’s Tirol region. Having grown up just 15km away over the border, Kaiserwinkl is pretty much a hometown race for Funk. And for the last 3 years, he’s been on a winning streak – taking the top step on the podium on a course that plays to his strengths.

Fresh off the back of his 2nd place finish at Challenge The Championship, we caught up with Fred to get his top tips for age groupers set to toe the start line at Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee this June.

Is it better to race on a road bike or a TT bike on such a hilly course?

The bike course at Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee features 1200m/4000ft of climbing. So for plenty of age-groupers, there’s a bit of a debate to be had about whether the aero savings of a TT bike might be outweighed by the easier handling of a road bike. So what does uber-biker Funk have to say on the matter?

“Make sure you are racing on the bike you feel the most comfortable with for climbing and cornering. A TT bike might be faster, but only if you practice climbing, descending and cornering. Otherwise a road bike might be the smarter and safer choice for this kind of course.”

Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee 2023 - Photo Credit José Luis Hourcade / Challenge Walchsee 2023
[Photo Credit José Luis Hourcade / Challenge Walchsee 2023]

If you’re a confident descender and you’ve been able to spend plenty of time practicing your bike handling skills on your TT bike in training, then make the most of the aero gains. But if you’re likely to end up spending most of your time sat up, pulling the brakes. The extra confidence a road bike might give you on the downhills could end up being quicker overall.

Don’t grind over every single climb

“Walchsee has mostly shorter climbs, but there are a lot of them,” says Fred. “You will definitely feel it by the end of the bike section.”

“Don’t grind over every single climb, or you are going to pay for it. And use the descents to recover.”

Being able to recover between the efforts on the uphill is key, and thankfully it’s something you can practice and improve on prior to race day. “Practice this kind of undulating terrain in training,” Funk recommends. “Or you can simply do some intervals where you are going over race pace for shorter periods, then return straight back to race pace – or a little easier than race pace.”

By simulating the short, sharp efforts you’ll need to put out to ascend the climbs on race day in training. You can train your body to recover faster between efforts – leaving you with enough in the tank for the run.

Pacing well is key to success at Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee

Once you head out of T2, with the finish line now firmly in sight it can be easy to think the hardest part of the day is done. But the hills at Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee aren’t just reserved for the bike course.

“It’s a hilly course, with 4 laps around the lake. So first of all, make sure you have enough energy left after the bike.”

Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee 2023 - Photo Credit José Luis Hourcade / Challenge Walchsee 2023
[Photo Credit José Luis Hourcade / Challenge Walchsee 2023]

Managing your effort on the swim and the bike will put you in a good place to run strong after T2. But it’s also important to keep the pace under control to avoid blowing up too early into the run. “It’s better to start a little bit too easy, than too fast,” Fred advises.

Look up, and have fun

Fred’s final word of wisdom for age groupers racing at Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee is simple: “Enjoy the scenery! This is one of the most iconic race courses in the world, and super beautiful. So don’t forget to have fun.”

That last point is essential for us age-groupers. We train hard, and we set ourselves ambitious goals. But ultimately we choose to do this sport for the fun, the adventure and the love of it. So when things get tough on race day – don’t forget to take a look around, appreciate the incredible scenery and soak up the atmosphere. This is what it’s all about!

Read our Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee race guide to find out more about taking on this tough but rewarding middle distance race in Austria.

Jenny Lucas-Hill
Written by
Jenny Lucas-Hill
Jenny Lucas-Hill is a writer, content creator and communications professional. A long-distance triathlon enthusiast, she has three full Iron-distance finishes to date & also loves watching the sport.
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