23 Jun 2024

Let’s Race…Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee

The hills are alive to the sound of triathlon in this challenging but dreamily picturesque middle distance race in the heart of the Austrian Alps.
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Innsbruck / Munich
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Vicki Grimshaw

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When it comes to dream race backdrops you won’t find surroundings much more spectacular than the Austrian Alps.

With soaring, snow-capped peaks and flower filled meadows wherever you look, you almost expect to bump into Heidi and her goats or Julie Andrews belting out ‘The hills are alive to the sound of music’.

This middle distance from the Challenge family is one of the largest triathlons in Austria and attracts top stars from around the world to the tiny picturesque village of Walchsee in the region of Kaiserwinkl, just a few miles south of the border with Germany.

And the event certainly makes the most of its beautiful location.

Walchsee is the warmest lake in Tyrol state so there are no cold-water shocks in the swim, the bike leg gets you out into countryside and you finish with a flat, fast run around the lake.

Race the spectacular Austrian Tyrol

Location - the hills are alive

With a population of just 2000 Walchsee village might be small but it’s perfectly formed. Unbelievably picturesque with typical Austrian Alpine architecture, it’s surrounded by the Kaiser Massif mountain range and sits on the shores of its namesake, Lake Walch, in the Austrian state of Tyrol,

It’s a popular holiday destination both in summer and winter when the Kaiserwinkl turns into a ski resort.

Needless to say, it has good transport links however you chose to travel.

It’s about an hour’s drive from Salzburg, Innsbruck and Munich to the north across the German border so you can either fly to one of these three cities and book a transfer taxi, or take the train to nearby Kufstein and one of the regular local buses onto Walchsee.

As the village is so compact, everything connected to the race is centrally located with the registration, the pasta party, award ceremony etc taking place in the Sport and Event Centre, with T1/T2 and the start and finish lines just a few metres away beside the lake.

Accommodation-wise there is plenty in Walchsee or the nearby villages of Kössen, Schwendt or Rettenschöss.

Along with typical Austrian family-run hotels, you can rent a mountain chalet, hut or apartment or there’s the luxe Das Walchsee Sporthotel which offers 4 star spa and exercise facilities.

If you prefer camping, there are also two decent sites beside the lake.

When it comes to eating out in the area, local restaurants serve everything from pizza to typically hearty Austrian fare.

Let’s just say, you won’t be short of opportunities to carbo-load, especially if you order the local iconic dish, Kaiserschmarrn, a thick, fluffy shredded pancake served with plum or apple compote, often as a main course!

Course - lake swim & rolling run

With a lake swim, undulating bike ride and fairly flat run this race is suitable for most athletes, and for first-timers would be an ideal European or middle distance race. More experienced age-groupers could easily notch up a fast time.

Swim - 1.9KM

With a rolling start spreading out the swimmers, the single lap swim takes place in the 25m deep Lake Walchsee where the crystal clear water is described as drinking water quality so you needn’t be too worried about getting the odd mouthful. And with the water at a balmy 22°C/ 72°F, wetsuits won’t be necessary. The course is triangular (ish) around two easily-spottable buoys then you exit a few hundred metres further along the lakeshore into T1.

BIke - 90KM

The two loops of the 45km course through Austria’s Tyrol region are undulating with approximately 1200m of climbing, featuring a mix of long drags and a couple of steep thigh-burners. You'll also encounter two dead turns and a mix of descents – one of them technical. Some parts of the leg are on single track roads so it can get a bit busy even with no traffic but what most love about this course is the utterly breath-taking views you’ll enjoy from the saddle.

Run - 21.1KM

The 21.1 km leg is an undulating four lap course around the lake with runners passing farmhouses as they hit the tarmac paths and gravel trails between fields and meadows, all set against the backdrop of Kaiser Massif. The finish line is situated in the heart of Walchsee, next to the transition area with beautiful views over the lake to the Kaiser Massif and with an enthusiastic crowd celebrating the athletes crossing the finish line.

Spectators - village based & family friendly

Friend and family can easily watch you in action without moving too far which makes it especially ideal for those travelling with young children.

The centre of Walchsee is the ideal spectating spot with T1/T2 and the finish line right in the heart of the town by the lake and with the welcoming locals out in force to wave and cheer the athletes, your friends and family can expect a great atmosphere.

Supporters can easily watch the swim start from the banks of the lake then walk just a few hundred metres along towards T1 to see the athletes exit the water.

Staying in Walchsee for the bike leg will also provide plenty of opportunities to spot you as the figure of eight route takes you through the village four times and on the run, you’ll come by three times as you complete the four laps.

Another plus side to spectators basing themselves in the village is the close proximity to the cafes and restaurants as well as the race village which will keep everyone happy and fuelled up for some noisy cheering.

And if the temperatures get a bit too hot, the lake is always close-by for a cooling dip!

Race-cation - mountain & lake adventure

The natural beauty of the Kaiserwinkl region has visitors flocking all year round, so if you’re already there, why not turn your trip into a race-cation?

The area really is a paradise for any lover of outdoor adventure whether you’re a watersports enthusiast or a mountain afficianado, or both.

Here you can do anything from hiking and mountain biking on the local Alpine trails, climbing on via ferrata routes, river rafting, to swimming in the lake or the woodland outdoor swimming pools and whirlpools at nearby village of Kössen.

For those travelling with kids, or if you’re just a big kid at heart, then you’ll love a ride on the Alpine Super Slide, two 1000m long giant slides with lots of  twists and turns.

Take the chairlift up the mountain then race your family or friends back down.

At the top of the ski lift there’s a new outdoor adventure park with diggers and cranes while at the bottom, you’ll find the Zahmer Kaiser Play Park for those who like a shot of adrenaline with their exercise with activities including sky diving, bungee trampoline and Eurogame Cars.

If you prefer something a little more low-key after all that racing, you’ll find plenty of spas and hotels specialising in wellness where you can do yoga, get a relaxing massage or just chill in a hot tub.

It’s worth noting that every overnight guest is provided with a free Kaiserwinkl Card by their accommodation, which gives them free parking or bus travel in the local area as well as discounts on activities and entry fees.

Race the spectacular Austrian Tyrol

A stunning alpine backdrop, a demanding and honest course, thousands of enthusiastic spectators along the route with top pros from all around the world taking part. Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee is definitely one for the bucket list!

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