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In the Wheel of ... Sarah Oswalt - Winner of the Race Around Austria 1500

We take one of the most beautiful countries on the European continent, Austria, with its breathtaking alpine landscapes and a slightly crazy concept in cycling: ultra-distance. We mix it all together and it gives us one of the toughest races on the calendar, the Race Around Austria. And to experience this from the inside, we took the wheel of Sarah Oswalt, a young woman from Strasbourg who is passionate about cycling challenges and is looking for a great feat (and incidentally victorious in the event, but we're not going to spoil everything for you)! For her, it was a great adventure of 1,500 kilometres and almost 17,000 metres of elevation gain. So what a good idea to mix these ingredients.

After a forced withdrawal last year caused by neck pain (a recurring injury in ultra racing), the 2023 edition of the Race Around Austria 1500 sounded like revenge for Sarah! And for this second attempt, the perfect opportunity to test our swimsuitsour adventurous bib shorts adapted to long distances and our swimsuits for optimal regulation of the upper body despite the scorching heat of this month of August.

"The easy thing is that having already done it last year, I was able to list all the points that were wrong. I reviewed my diet, my sleep, my position on the bike. For a year, I discussed it a lot with my coach, and I adapted my physical preparation for this event. I've been listening to my body and how I'm feeling a lot throughout the year. I also had to surround myself with good people during the event, with people who know the world of ultra racing and who know that you can go through all the emotions. »

At the age of 23, she embarked on a 70-hour cycling adventure in the saddle, punctuated by nights of an hour's sleep and a daily nap. We now go with her on the inside to find out how she converted this try and crossed the finish line.

"Wednesday 3:00 p.m., I set off on the launch pad, the only woman I left first 3 minutes before the men. I still don't realize that I'm going for 1500km, that I won't sleep at home tonight or the following days for that matter. I knew it was going to be hard and intense both physically and mentally, but I didn't think about it. As always, there were ups and downs throughout the ordeal. Moments when I had legs of fire with difficulties that followed one another well, until tears of pain. I'm someone who loves to ride at night. Last year I didn't sleep the first night, and I paid for it afterwards. This time I didn't make the same mistake.

The slumps were well managed. It was at the time of the second night that I had a first moment of fear. With each pedal stroke I had severe pain in my hamstring due to fatigue and the series of kilometres. I switched to my second bike with a more comfortable positioning, and the pain passed. After a short rest, my body had a hard time getting back on track, between vomiting and tears, it was also pain in the trapezius that appeared. Just like last year. After a while in my bubble, everything falls back into place properly and the sensations return. »

It was time for the last third of the race, which was marked by knee pain, and the impossibility of dancing on the Austrian roads. An (almost magical) remedy for neck and knee pain: straps. Despite constant support from his staff throughout the event, the ultra remains a perpetual challenge with oneself: "If I had to sum up my run, a constant struggle with pain". In this type of race, effort management is the golden rule. Between eating, listening to your body and sleeping hours, nothing should be left to chance:

"For the last 200 kilometres, I ignored the pain, I knew I was in pain, but the goal was to finish at all costs by validating the time barrier. This also resulted in the onset of certain hallucinations due to fatigue and exertion. On the last big descent of the race, the signs turned into a man and the trees into giant garbage bags on the side of the road. I had to take one last nap before crossing the finish line safely and completing this event. And to succeed in this challenge! »

A year more than validated on a sporting level with the victory on the Race Around Austria alone, but also that on the Race Across France in duo. But that's not all! Professionally, it is another bouquet that she has won by passing the competition to become a school teacher, a position she will occupy at the beginning of the school year. Now it's time for new challenges, because despite this great feat that has only just ended "I just want to go back" !

Thanks to Sarah Oswalt for the time and Jennifer Nguyen for the photo credits.

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