3 May 2006
Tour of Gracia, Czech Republic
Lost in Poland.
It’s nice to know that Holland does get a summer, the way most people talk here you would think they have never seen the sun. Doing a little work outside in the sun is fantastic for the soul, and can be good for your tan. But unlike the NZ sun, this one does not burn you, in fact outside all day and you hardly notice any change in colour. With one day back at the team base, I have to unpack, clean bikes, truck, clothes and then pack it all back up again for a five day stage race. 1500km drive to Switzerland and back home, then a 1289km drive to the Czech Republic, for the lovely ‘Gracia O Orlova’. We have five girls racing this tour, sort of the -A team, defiantly not the B team. A second race for our third Director, and a stand in assistant for the week, which should be fun for me. All this in a third world, European country, where the Vodka is cheap and plentiful, and by the look of some street corners, so are the girls. Our team racing is Amber, Tanja, Linda, Vera and Sandra, this time we leave the two stars at home, and take five other stars instead. It’s a race you either love or hate, with shit roads, shit traffic, thieves around every corner, and a corrupt police force, who will let you off anything for a bit of cash.
Some of the up market apartments in Poland.
I had a small drive to the border of Germany for the first day, a bit of a sleep. I left early the next morning to drop a bike off to one of the girls who lives in the area, Luise Keller (Killer), as yet she has not been on the new carbon bikes, as she has been off with a bit of an knee injury. She is in for a bit of a treat I think, finally getting off last seasons bike, and on to some light, fast, comfort. The girls were flying into Poland, not far from the Czech border, so we had to travel the length of the country to get there. I have not been to Poland yet, so was looking forward to seeing a bit of the countryside. Not a minute into the border crossing did they pull me out for a full search, of course a small truck full of cycling gear is a danger to their country, but they were looking for drugs as usual. Every guard or cops dream is to find a cycle teams drugs, but they always forget this is a girls team, they don’t get paid enough to afford any good drugs. Believe me when I say I would be the first one searching for them if there was any in the truck, and buggered if I am going to give them to a bunch of guards dressed in camo, carrying guns. But almost an hour later, the ‘go slow guards’ had finished checking out every nook and cranny they could find. Picking up almost everything they could, saying in their best broken English “for me”, looking for the bribe of course. Yeah sure have that carbon bike, full of dura-ace and spanky carbon wheels. They got a few drink bottles instead, and let me on my merry way. Think because I gave them nothing, they sent me down a road that was not looking like the highway I came off. But I was happy to be on the road again, happy not to be sitting in some room, happy not to be paying cash to leave, and happy to have all my bikes with me. Who said NZ customs was bad, these guys beat them hands down.
By the time I could find a sign to see where I was it was too late, a few km off the track, about 75km the wrong way from what I can figure. Bet the customs guys are killing themselves with laughter now. But I did get a smile on my face when another truck, who was also getting searched, stopped and asked me for directions, he also paid or gave nothing to the guards, and got sent the same way. By the time I found the highway, if you can call it that, I was pretty sick of Poland already. Who would have thought this place could be so bad, the only thing I really know about Poland is how good the Vodka is, ahh Vodka.
Some of the fantastic eastern block buildings.
The place looks really run down, poor and full of very sorry looking people. Some of the small towns I came though when I was lost were downright scary. Felt like I was in one of those movies, you know the ones where they are in the middle of nowhere, and the road is blocked, and you look around to reverse out, and they have blocked your exit as well. God damn it, hope I don’t have to stop for any traffic lights, they might clean my truck out while I am stopped.
On the way to the first stage.
Under the backdrop of another Nuclear disaster.
Back on the sort of highway, things were slow, heading towards Warsaw, the road just got worse, this was going to take for ever. Three hours later and less than 120km, I hit the capital of Poland, looked more like Manurewa (sorry Karlos). But hey, the highway was finished, and I managed to make a bit of speed. By the time I picked up the girls at the airport, I was about 100km from our destination, that means about three hours driving here. We got to the hotel in Orlova, and what a great diamond in the rough, nice rooms nice beds, what more can a weary traveller want. Time to sort a few bikes out for tomorrows stage. 128km of really big potholes, smog and a few score of riders, ready for action.
Getting dropped fom the bunch, and the view from car No:14
All lined up and ready to race.
at 7:37 AM