Challenge St. Pölten age-group tips for race day from an expert local

We speak to age-grouper and swimming coach Anita Schoderbeck, who's been racing St. Pölten since 2015, to get her race day tips for fellow age groupers. Plus, insights on what it is about this middle distance triathlon in Austria that has captured the hearts of so many age-group triathletes.

Writer & Long Course Triathlete
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Known as one of the oldest middle distance triathlons in Europe, Challenge St. Pölten is a race steeped in triathlon history. And over the years, it’s seen some of the world’s top professionals take to the start line seeking victory as they swim, bike and run in the stunning Wachau region of Lower Austria.

But beyond the PRO headlines, it’s the age-group fields and the triathlon community that have the power to make a race special – year after year. As things ramp up ready for this year’s edition of Challenge St. Pölten, we’ve been talking to some of the age-group triathletes who’ve consistently toed the start line of this challenging – but spectacular – middle distance triathlon. To find out more about how they got into triathlon, and what it is about racing in St. Pölten that’s captured their imagination.

Today, meet Anita Schoderbeck, who’s raced in St. Pölten in some shape or form every year since 2015. Local to the area, Anita is also the swim coach for plenty of local triathletes, and shares some advice for anyone looking to take on this half distance race.

“I was thrilled by triathlon…”

Anita first got into triathlon 10 years ago, and now it’s become a big part of her life – both as a participant and a coach. “I started doing triathlons in September 2014. My first race was an Olympic distance in Podersdorf. I did quite well, and that was it. I was thrilled by triathlon.”

A few months later, Anita would step up to the middle distance event. “May 2015 was my first start in St. Pölten. Right up until the pandemic, I raced every single year. And since racing has returned, I’ve participated in relay teams – either as a swimmer or a biker. This year I plan to race the full event on my own in all three disciplines again.”

Community feel and a phenomenal atmosphere – what makes Challenge St. Pölten special

If you read our interview with fellow local, Florian Eigner, you’ll know that Anita isn’t alone in returning to the Challenge St. Pölten start line year after year. For her, it’s the community atmosphere that makes this race one that can’t be missed.

“The atmosphere in St. Pölten is phenomenal. I love it so much, whether I’m racing or I’m there as a supporter, or as a coach. The race is like home for me. I know so many people – fellow athletes, people out supporting, the crew and the Schwarz family who organize the event. Everyone does such a good job and work so hard to make sure every competitor has the best experience.”

Challenge St Polten Anita Schoderbeck
The community feeling around the race at St. Pölten is what makes it special, says Anita.

“To swim in two different lakes is really unique to this triathlon. Running over the bridge, there’s always so many people cheering. Getting to ride on the S33 highway is really cool, and so fast. You can only ride there on race day.”

“And then the run course through the city is incredible. I was born here, I work here and I know so many people who are all out on the course cheering for me. But what makes the atmosphere so unique in St. Pölten is that the crowds out on the race course are there to cheer for everyone – whether they know them or not.”

Race day tips from someone who knows the course inside out

As well as racing at Challenge St. Pölten for several years, Anita is also a swim coach for many local triathletes. With the unique swim course and the challenging bike, we asked for her insights to help any age-groupers racing at St. Pölten for the first time.

“As a swim coach, I’d advise every athlete to check the swim course well – especially the entry and exits from the two lakes.”

“It’s also important to make sure you don’t overestimate your ability and ensure you start in the correct wave. Otherwise, it creates a big problem. Because for the faster swimmers it’s not funny to have to try and pass so many slower swimmers. And for those slower swimmers, it’s also not nice to get passed by so many other athletes!”

Challenge St. Pölten age group triathlete Anita Schoderbeck out on the bike course
Anita out on the bike course at Challenge St. Pölten

“The S33 highway is my favourite part of the bike course, but make sure you don’t overdo it there. The first and third hill on the bike course are short, and fairly easy to ride. But be aware that the downhill on the first climb is tricky, so you need to take it slowly.”

“The second hill on the course is the longest, but it’s only the final part before the aid station where it really gets steep.”

“Along the Danube in the Wachau area, the landscape is incredible. In the race you’ll have less time to enjoy the environment. So make sure you come back afterwards to appreciate it properly!”

Ready to race Challenge St. Pölten and looking for more tips? Check out these insights from last year’s PRO champion, Tom Hug.

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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