Close but no cigar in Polland • by Richard Barville
Poznan in Poland is about halfway between Berlin and Warsaw. The terrain is mostly flat. The motorway from Warsaw to Poznan is mostly straight and flat. It’s approx 300 km and about 3hrs by car from the airport to the hotel. I arrived in Warsaw on Qatar airways from Perth, via Doha. All in all, quite a journey!
I was in Poznan to compete in the 2019 GF World Championships, hopefully, to do better than last year’s effort in Varese. By Monday afternoon after checking in at the hotel I was able to get my bike out of the travel case and put it all together. I’ve had lots of practice at bike building as we travel by air quite a lot, (4th trip this year! – Adelaide for the Tour Down Under, Melbourne for the Australian Veterans National Championships and the Bikestyle trip – Brussels to Burgandy.)
The group that I was travelling with had arranged for various training/recce rides on the course during the week prior to the event to gain knowledge and familiarity of the route and learn where the potential problems might occur. And there were several! Some sharp bends, rough surfaces and some narrow roads but it looked to be fast, the only ‘hills’ were the three occasions it crossed a motorway with a bridge! The weather was warm with a couple of thunderstorms in the late afternoons and race day was no different. The forecast was for 32C which suited me fine, though many were worried about carrying enough water.
We gathered in our start groups, several hundred strong in each case, and were set off at 7-minute intervals, with the younger age riders groups going first. My group was also large, everybody aged 60 and over was sent off together – which made it difficult to identify our actual age group and my real competitors. The race guide book had said each age group would have numbers of a different colour but sadly not so.
For the 8kms until the first turn off the course was on a wide, smooth dual carriageway and with wind assistance, we were travelling at 50 to 55 km/hr. A bit scary with riders touching wheels and crashing, even in a straight line! It took a lot of concentration and anticipation to avoid the crashes in front of me. At least I could ignore the ones happening behind! Then came the rough sections, really bad and dangerous potholes, lasting a kilometre or so each time. The net effect of all this was more crashes splitting the groups. I ended up in the 2nd group on the road. This went on for the race distance of 107 km, fighting to hold my place near the front, following the wheels, in the gutter, in the crosswinds, and eventually a mass sprint of 50 or so from my original group. Thankfully on another wide dual carriageway.
I had been keeping an eye on this Danish guy who I had identified as being in my age group and it was a struggle at times to follow him. He seemed stronger than me but I was determined to beat him. As we came into the last 500m I could see he was boxed in. I spotted a gap and went for a long sprint down the right-hand gutter. It worked. I beat him and most of the others – but I didn’t know whether it was for first place or 10th place.
As it turned out, it was for 2nd place, as the winner was in the group in front, up the road unknown to me. So, second place, on the podium, a silver medal and a bunch of flowers. Not too bad overall, I have to be happy with that. My average speed for the race was 39km/hr! As I said earlier – a fast rate