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Five reasons to race Challenge St. Pölten – kickstart your race season with this scenic middle distance triathlon

With UNESCO World Heritage listed scenery, a unique and challenging race course and years of triathlon history behind it - Challenge St Pölten is a firm favourite with age-groupers and PROs alike. Find out why you should kick your race season off at this stunning middle distance triathlon.

Writer & Long Course Triathlete
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Inspired by the PRO racing that’s kicked off the season and looking to get on a start line ASAP? While it’s still early in the year, there’s nothing like diving into a race to test your fitness and get you feeling motivated for the rest of tri season. And with just over 3 weeks to go, a last minute trip to Austria for Challenge St Pölten could be just the ticket to get your race engines revving.

We take a look at what makes this middle distance triathlon – one of the oldest in Europe – such a spectacular addition to the race calendar.

Unique swim course

There’s plenty that makes Challenge St Pölten a special race. But one of the stand-outs is the swim course. Swimming in one crystal-clear lake with the scenery of Lower Austria as a backdrop would be a pretty epic way to start a race. But at St Pölten, you get to swim in two.

challenge st polten swimming
Swimming in two crystal-clear lakes is a pretty great way to start a race. [Photo: Challenge Family]

Starting in the Viehofner See for the first loop, athletes then run 200m over the bridge to complete the 1.9km swim in the Ratzdorfer See. It makes for a unique triathlon swim experience, and adds an interesting dynamic to the racing. Get a bit of swim-run practice in and you could easily gain a few places on that 200m “Austrian exit”!

Exciting bike course that has it all

Fast, flat sections, punchy climbs, exciting descents – and amazing views. The bike course at St Pölten has it all. Ramp up the speed as you head out of T1, with a bike course that starts with a fast, flat section on closed motorway roads. Make the most of it, because soon you’ll be winding your way through vineyards and the UNESCO World Heritage listed area of Wachau, with three tough climbs to test your legs.  

Fair racing with a 20m draft zone for age groupers as well as the PROs

Racing is more fun when you know everyone out on the course is putting in a solid, honest effort. Challenge Family have started to implement 20-meter drafting rules on the bike course at several of their races, St Pölten included. And that applies to the age-groupers as well as the PROs. The route is a one lap course, and with that extended drafting zone you can be confident that you’ll have the opportunity to really test yourself and see where your cycling legs are at.

One of the oldest middle distance triathlons in Europe

Triathlon has a rich history in St Pölten, which calls itself “the fittest city of Austria”. Only growing in popularity over the years, now you’ll find thousands of athletes and volunteers out on the course as the city comes out in force to support the swim-bike-run action come race day.

sebastien kienle at challenge st polten
Triathlon legend Sebastien Kienle is one of many PROs who’ve toed the Challenge St Pölten start line in recent years. [Photo: Challenge Family]

In recent years, many of the world’s top PROs have chosen to race in St Pölten, including Sebastien Kienle, Anne Haug and Magnus Ditlev. With so much heritage behind the race, you can expect an incredible race weekend experience – from athlete care to the festival atmosphere.

Race-cation – the perfect base to explore Austria

Turn your race into a getaway and spend a few extra days making the most of St Pölten and the surrounding natural beauty of Lower Austria. The city itself has a charming old town contrasted with an exciting modern district with striking contemporary architecture.

Venture beyond, and you’ll find yourself amid the winding countryside and rolling vineyards of the Wachau Valley – with the nearby wine region of Traisental well worth a visit if you enjoy a glass of the good stuff. And of course, you’ve got beautiful Vienna just a short journey away.


Tempted? Take a look at our Challenge St Pölten race guide to find out more about the course and where to stay, or check out these PRO tips from 2023 champion Tom Hug for some last minute training advice.

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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