Last year’s Österreich Rundfahrt (2.1) was won by Aqua Blue Sport’s Stefan Denifl and the Austrian returns this year to defend his title.
The 70th edition of the country’s premier bike race starts on July 7, and Denifl returns with a strong squad assembled to assist him in his home race. The 2018 Tour of Austria route is aimed firmly at the climbers in the peloton, with over 23,000m of climbing over its 1,172km length and no less than six summit finishes in eight stages. The iconic ascents of the Kitzbühler Horn and Großglockner are once again included on stages 3 and 5, respectively, with opportunities for the sprinters limited to stages 1 and 8.
As a climbing specialist, it’s a parcours that appeals to Denifl. The 30-year-old, absent for much of the early part of the season owing to injury, will go into his home race with the nine-stage Tour de Suisse in his legs and said the latter was instrumental in building his form.
“The Tour de Suisse was an important step for me towards top condition and I’m feeling good – my recovery after Suisse was quite quick which is usually an indicator of good things ahead,” Denifl said.
“In top condition, I can climb really well and so on paper the stages for the Tour of Austria suit me really well. It’s definitely a really challenging parcours, where anything can happen in GC right up to the second last day.
“I guess, with Innsbruck-Tirol hosting the hardest World Championships ever this September, why not have the hardest Tour of Austria ever too?”
One stage in particular which Denifl will be focused on is stage 2, which runs through his native Tirol, indeed finishing in his home village of Fulpmes.
“It’s amazing, the finish of stage 2 will be in front of my door,” Denifl said. “I expect great support all the way this week but even more when coming home to Fulpmes. It will be an amazing experience for me and I am really thankful to my home valley, Stubaital, for making this dream come true. I can’t wait to show the best side of myself in front of my home crowd.”