The Sun of Austerlitz (race report)

The sun of Austerlitz was tearing apart the fog when I drove past the famous battlefield. I was on my way to Úherské Hradiště and it was a beautiful morning. The sun was coming up behind the hills towards the east, as I passed the famous tree on the Santon hill. From Wikipedia:

The battle took place about six miles (ten kilometers) southeast of the town of Brno, between that town and Austerlitz (Czech: Slavkov u Brna) in what is now the Czech Republic. The northern part of the battlefield was dominated by the 700-foot (210-meter) Santon Hill and the 880-foot (270-meter) Zuran (Žuráň) Hill, both overlooking the vital Olomouc/Brno road, which was on an east/west axis. To the west of these two hills was the village of Bellowitz (Bedřichovice), and between them the Bosenitz (Roketnice) stream went south to link up with the Goldbach (Říčka) stream, the latter flowing by the villages of Kobelnitz (Kobylnice), Sokolnitz (Sokolnice), and Telnitz (Telnice).

A dense fog helped to cloud the advance of St. Hilaire’s French division, but as they went up the slope the legendary ‘Sun of Austerlitz’ ripped the mist apart and encouraged them forward.[41] Russian soldiers and commanders on top of the heights were stunned to see so many French troops coming towards them.[43] Allied commanders moved some of the delayed detachments of the fourth column into this bitter struggle. Over an hour of fighting destroyed much of this unit. The other men from the second column, mostly inexperienced Austrians, also participated in the struggle and swung the numbers against one of the best fighting forces in the French army, eventually forcing them to withdraw down the slopes. However, gripped by desperation, St. Hilaire’s men struck hard once more and bayoneted the Allies out of the heights. To the north, General Vandamme’s division attacked an area called Staré Vinohrady (“Old Vineyards”) and, through talented skirmishing and deadly volleys, broke several Allied battalions.[44]

In fact, I discovered on my Instagram feed that a drone user discovered the same magic moment. Here is a picture he took of the Prace hill.

Prace hill Austerlitz

An hour later I arrived at rowing club Moravia Uherske Hradiste. I would spend the morning there, waiting for the early races to finish, load singles on my trailer and shuttle them back to the start for the afternoon races. The weather was gorgeous when I arrived and I took a few pictures of the mirror flat river Morava.

morning in UH

morning in UH

morning in UH

Sitting on the bank, watching the races, noting down times about 200m before the finish line. In this head race, the start time is exactly on the clock, in one minute intervals. So by starting the stopwatch as the first boat of a field passed, then noting the differences, I could see the results as they happened. It was quite interesting, especially in the Juniors 1x and the Girls Juniors 1x, where there were s few unexpected fast boats in the back of the field and a few favorites performed badly. This is going to lead to discussions, because funds for youth are distributed to the best twelve rowers, using the outcome of this race and a 6k erg test in November.

The sun disappeared and the weather got humid. Then it started to rain. The mirror flat water got ripples and the final stretch had a nasty headwind – good Werthera for powerful rowers.

By noon I saw the last boat of my batch finish, loaded it and drove to the start. I arrived there at 1pm, with my race start time being 1:50pm sharp. That is when they start the stopwatch to measure my 6k. Arrive late and you will find your clock already running.

I grabbed my start number 225, rigged my boat in heavy rain, then changed to racing gear in the club minivan, and carried the boat to the dock to launch 20 minutes before my race time. No time for a warming up run. I warmed up with a few speed burst while the sun came out again.

My main opponents were Mr Machacek, the president of the Czech Rowing Federation, fresh back from Sarasota, with start number 227 (starting two minutes after me) and Mr Cernak with 228, who regularly beats me on the 1k distance. But Cernak is a sprinter pur sang. Mr Skodik with nr 226 had scratched, unfortunately, so there would be a gap of two minutes between me and Mr Machacek.

I started as the second boat in the Masters 1x field and had good hopes of passing number 224 fast.

The river was flowing and the referees ordered me to counter Row constantly so I would not drift past the starting line. Mr Machacek shouted: “Give him a warning! He is so fast he doesn’t need a shorter course.” I didn’t get a warning.

The start was good and I rowed a few hard strokes, then tried to settle for 250-260W on the SpeedCoach, as well as making the first turn. Turns were slightly harder than in other years, because I didn’t wear my rear view mirror. I had decided to not wear it because of the rain.

I tried to estimate the difference between Mr Machacek and myself when he rounded that first turn. It looked like about 500 meters.

So, now I was doing business. Focus on form. Don’t go crazy in the first three kilometers. In terms of Watts, I was pulling a bit harder than my target of 255W. But I was also closing in on the guy ahead of me. Perhaps I could pass him before half way?

Well, that didn’t happen. It took the entire 1000m between 3km and 2km to go to close in and pass him. I rounded the big turn at the beer brewery, using the power lines to time the moment to start the turn. I remembered this from last year. Turn when you are under the second power lines. After the turn I took the ideal line to the next turn, pushing the other guy into the bank, which he obviously didn’t like. Too close to the bank and the flow of the river is reduced and you slow down markedly. So now I was rowing in his puddles and there was a risk of blade collision.

However, gripped by desperation, St. Hilaire’s men struck hard once more and bayoneted the Allies out of the heights.

I turned my head and shouted “Damnit, move over”, pushed the power up a bit and rowed through him. Head racing is fun. You get to talk with your opponents. He didn’t talk back, though.

In hindsight, this was all very good. I kept the pressure high in that difficult middle part. Now it was only 2k to the finish line. Would I dare to keep the power above 270W?

I guess not. I had passed the guy and it also seemed that the gap with Mr Machacek was widening. At that point in the race, I thought it highly likely that I would win, and I focused on being above 245W and rowing with good form.

In the last kilometer I started counting strokes, and I also passed a boat from the tail of the Open Women 1x field. The lady thanked me afterward for chasing her. It had helped her struggle through the final 2km.

With 20 strokes to go I emptied the tank, and then I collapsed behind the finish line. I noticed that it was 14 past the hour on the SpeedCoach and waited for Mr Machacek to finish. Seemed to take ages, but it was worth it. There were definitely more than 2 minutes between us, and more than three minutes between me and Mr Cernak.

Race Chart

Details. I think the pace fluctuations are mainly due to differences in the river flow and the wind, which was a headwind in the initial km and the final 3km.

Workout Summary - media/20171007-192834-Sanders SpeedCoach 20171007 0149pmo.csv
Workout Details


This map nicely shows the power lines which I used to time the turn.

I did a 2k cooling down, during which it started to rain again. In my wet racing gear I prepared the boat for transport, then I changed to dry clothes, headed to the club house, got my medal, had a bowl of soup and a hot tea, and that was the end of a great race.

result list

medal and cup

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