Challenge St. Pölten age group stories: “The triathlon spirit was always in my veins”

Beyond the PRO field, triathlon is all about the community of age-groupers who make the sport so special. We catch up with age-grouper Florian Eigner who races – and volunteers – each year at Challenge St. Pölten to find out what inspires and motivates him. And what it is about this middle distance race in Austria’s Wachau region that keeps him coming back for more each year.

Writer & Long Course Triathlete
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Behind every triathlon start line, you’ll find an eclectic group of amateur athletes all united by one thing: their desire to test their limits, and their passion for swim-bike-run. As we countdown to this year’s edition of Challenge St. Pölten, we’ve been catching up with some of the age-groupers who’ve become regular faces on the race course.

Today, hear from local Florian Eigner on how he went from an inspired onlooker to a three-time finisher and a race volunteer. Plus, he shares a few top tips to help you on your way if you’re racing in the stunning Wachau Valley this May.

“Sooner or later I would be part of that triathlon party right in front of my doorstep…”

Florian Eigner started triathlon in 2017, with short course racing. But it was seeing the longer distance racing right on his doorstep in St. Pölten years before, that first set him on a pathway to getting into the sport.

“I grew up 1km away from the St. Pölten finish line, so the triathlon spirit was always in my veins. It was amazing to see all the top athletes fly by on their bikes right outside my home. I started my first triathlon in 2017 and did a lot Sprint and Olympic distances. For me it was a logical conclusion that sooner or later I would be part of that triathlon-party right in front of my doorstep.”

After the pandemic put a halt on Florian’s plans to race Challenge St. Pölten in 2020, he finally got to step up to the start line and finish his first middle distance race at the event in 2021. But that wasn’t going to be the end of the story: “After my finish I emailed the organizer to say that I want to help as a volunteer. I was amazed by the event as an athlete, and living so close by, it’s easy for me to help if I’m needed.”

Challenge St Polten age group triathlete Florian Eigner
Florian at the 2022 event.

Since then, Florian has been a ‘double agent’ each year at St. Pölten, volunteering and racing all in one weekend.

“The fact that nearly every athlete is friendly, and also just as nervous as I am about the race makes it easy to love the job.”

“I am the team leader for everything that has to do with the athlete backpacks. I really enjoy spending so much time at the event site in the build up to the race. There’s a great atmosphere and energy in the air. And I also love getting to talk to all the other athletes – whether it’s answering questions or simply having some small talk.”

So, why keep racing at Challenge St. Pölten?

We love that Florian has become so embedded in the community around the race in his home town. But, with so many races on the triathlon circuit, we were interested to find out what it is about St. Pölten that keeps him returning to the start line every year.

“It’s a really unique race course. I love the two lake swim, because as a weaker swimmer it gives you the chance to take a break and catch your breath in the middle. That makes it a really beginner-friendly triathlon.”

“The bike course over the highway is amazing. You can really push the pace and you get to feel a bit like you’re one of the PROs.”

Challenge St Polten bike course scenery
Rolling hills and scenery at Challenge Pölten [Photo: Challenge Family]

“The Gansbacher hill is perfect for everyone who loves climbing. But it’s not too steep for any newbies. And the run course shows you the most scenic places in St. Pölten.

“But what also makes this race really special is that you feel the support from the fans out on the course, who’ve known the race for so many years. It makes you feel like a warrior!”

“The key behind the event being so successful is the experience of the organizers, and the fact that they also love the sport. They want to make the event better and better, every year.”

Insider tips for race day

If you’re heading to Challenge St. Pölten this May, or thinking about getting a last minute entry and wondering what you might be letting yourself in for. We asked Florian to share his top tip for fellow age-groupers after completing the race three times already.

“Make sure to be prepared and know the bike course. There’s nothing worse than not having anything left in the tank and then discovering there’s still another uphill section.”

“Don’t burn too much energy on the fast section on the highway at the start of the bike. The day is long, and right after that part of the course you’ll start the first climb. That will hurt a lot if you already have sore legs!”

“It can get really hot in St. Pölten on a sunny day. So think about cooling on the run and use the water/sponges at the aid stations to cool yourself down.”

“Finally, just make sure you enjoy every meter of this scenic event through the Wachau!”

Aiming for a new personal best

Make sure you look out for Florian when you collect your backpack – or on the start line – if you’re racing Challenge St. Pölten this year. Given that he’s got training to tick off and plenty to prepare for his volunteering duties ahead of the race, we didn’t want to keep him talking to us for too long. But first, we had to find out what his ambitions are for this year’s event.

“I’m really looking forward to enjoying the atmosphere at Lake Viehofner. Hopefully I can use that party energy to break the 5 hour barrier and cross the finish line with a new personal best!”

Inspired? Read our Challenge St. Pölten race guide to find out more about the course and how to enter!

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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