czwartek, 27 czerwca 2013

Polish National Championships 2013: names to remember

Today I have something special - I'd like to bring you an insight into Polish National Championships - a very special and well-organized cycling event I've recently attended.

I've spent 5 days in Sobótka, Lower Silesia, participating in Polish National Championships. No, I didn't race, I did what I like most - I watched people race their bikes, talked to them, wrote about them and had good time with freaks who, like me, live in the rhythm of cycling calendar and share my passion for two wheels.


I've been doing live ticker from elite men road race and this was the event that everyone was mostly interested in. I don't want to write about Bodnar wining the time trial and Kwiatkowski wining road race - you know them, you watch them in World Tour teams. Today I'd like to write about riders - boys and girls - who race in junior and U-23 category. I think the National Championships event is a good cause to talk about their achivements and, above all, show that there are extremly talented kids in Poland who, with adequate care and conditions, can race and win at international level.

I chose five riders - one girl and four boys. Four of them stood on the podium of this year's nationals. You could ask - why them? It's simple - I talked to them, I know them better than others and I think that you should pay attention to their results and remember their names.

But first...

The route

The time trial: both junior and U-23 riders competed on the same lap (profile below). Junior time trial was 20 km long - one lap. U-23 time trial - 40 km - two laps. What is interesting, elite men time trial also had two laps and 40 km - just like U-23. Strange, eh?

40 km is a lot for U-23 race, especially in 36 degrees temperature, headwind and two demanding laps. Elite men raced on the same day as their younger collegues, so it allows me to compare the times. But let's not jump to conclusions too early.

Road race:

22 kilometers - same for all categories (except for junior women), tough round with climb of Tąpadło and slightly uphill finish.

I'm not going to write the race reports in English, I already did in Polish. Here are the riders I'd like to introduce.

Łukasz "Wiśnia" Wiśniowski (Etixx-Ihned) - 1st place - U-23 road race and time trial

If you haven't had the chance to meet 21-year-old, tall and shy Etixx-Ihned rider, let me introduce him shortly. He took two bronze medals - both in time trial and road race - during Nationals last year. He rides for Etixx-Ihned - U-23 team of Omega Pharma-Quick-Step and has recently won a stage of Thüringen Rundfahrt, dropping Lasse Norman Hansen (next year Garmin-Sharp), Rick Zabel (next year BMC) and outsprinting German U-23 champion Silvio Herklotz. 

Ah, and he trains with Michał Kwiatkowski who ends their training sessions in pretty bad condition... ;)
(Please, don't make me translate the words from the picture, it's simply not possible. For those who know the translation of "Kwiatkowski" could be something like: "fading like a flower", in other words - meeting the man with the hammer).

Łukasz's road to wining two U-23 titles was defenitely not a piece of cake. Polish word "wiśnia" actually means "sour cherry" in English, so it wasn't a piece of cherry cake too. Anyway, he trained hard for the whole season, too hard at some point. At press conference he admitted that training with "Kwiato" was a little too much for him and that he felt overtrained at the begining of the season. 

In the time trial, Łukasz was the last rider to set off from the ramp. Considered to be a favourite in pre-race speculations, he did really well in the first part of the course. 30-seconds lead on Kasperkiewicz seemed to be a safe advantage. It finally turned out to be so, however the second lap was a little slower and the difference between them dropped to only 14 seconds.
- I think it's a good moment to thank Michał Kwiatkowski for all the help and advice - Łukasz smiled at press conference. - It was a very challenging race, especially for us, U-23 riders. I managed to fight my way out of it, that's my first gold medal in the championships and I'm very happy with it.

Wiśniowski was also one of the favourites for the road race. But once the 18-men breakaway formed, he wasn't there. After 5 laps (out of 8), the gap stopped at 3:30 and podium place seemed to be an unreal wish for Etixx-Ihned rider. Wiśniowski didn't panic, organized a counterattack and tried to bridge to the head of the race. Joining forces with Paweł Franczak (Wibatech Brzeg) and two other riders turned out to be a decisive move. Despite the presence of four TC Chrobry Lasocki Głogów riders in the breakaway, talented climber Patryk Stosz included, the chasing group started gaining time on the peleton and getting closer to the leading riders.

I've been following the whole race in a car with Hugo Brenders - WV De Jonge Renner manager. This way I saw almost all key points of the race and now I can write down a few words about it. Wiśniowski's group did the impossible - they closed the gap and put themselves in a comfortable position, as the breakaway started to fall apart. Lasocki's riders tried to change the situation, launching several attacks and putting Konrad Tomasiak at the front. Wiśniowski started chasing on the last lap and was immediately joined by Wojciech Migdał (WLKS Krakus BBC Czaja). The duo bridged to Tomasiak and established a gap on the rest of riders, getting themselves into podium positions. 5 km before the line Wiśniowski decided to finish the job and easily rode away from the rivals. Nobody found the strength to respond and "Wiśnia" broke away, time trialling to the finish and taking second gold medal.

Migdał crossed the line 30 seconds later, outsprinting Tomasiak. Franczak lead the first group, 2 minutes behind. 

Kasia Niewiadoma (TKK Pacific Toruń)  - 1 st place U-23 women road race and time trial

Kasia achieved exactly the same result as Łukasz but her story is a little bit different. There is no U-23 women race - ladies race together and the U-23 classification is determined by places in open category.

Kasia took 4th place in the elite women road race - she was part of a 7-riders group that broke away from the peleton and sprinted to the line on the final lap. Eugenia Bujak (GK Żyrardów) claimed gold medal, beating Paulina Brzeźna-Bentkowska (TKK Pacific Toruń) in the dash for the line. Defending champion - Katarzyna Pawłowska (GSD Kalisto) managed to secure bronze medal, outsprinting Niewiadoma but failing to retain the jersey.

U-23 classification: (place in open category in brackets)
(4) 1. Kasia Niewiadoma (TKK Pacific Toruń)
(8) 2. Katarzyna Wilkos (TKK Pacific Toruń)
(9) 3. Karolina Garczyńska (LKS Atom Boxmet Dzierżoniów)

The time trial
was very much the same - Niewiadoma rode 20 km only 24 seconds slower than Pawłowska and took 4th place, in U-23 classification placing ahead of Garczyńska and Monika Brzeźna (also TKK Pacific Toruń).

- I'm very happy with U-23 title, 4th place in elite race also gives me satisfaction - Niewiadoma said after the race. - The time trial was really demanding, not to mention hard weather conditions. I'm glad I survied that - she smiled joyfully.

Niewiadoma is currently preparing for European Championships where she hopes to perform well again.

Przemysław Kasperkiewicz (WV De Jonge Renner) - 2nd place U-23 time trial, 9th U-23 road race

Przemek came to Sobótka aiming at the time trial. Racing for the first year in U-23 category, he wanted to perform as strong as possible but didn't think of taking one of the top places. - I wasn't thinking about the podium, if a week ago somebody told me that, I wouldn't believe it - he smiled after the race.

Kasperkiewicz has already proven that he's capable of riding consitently, racing in the Netherlands and taking 6th place in Carpathian Couriers Race this year. It sounds like a joke but it's not - he's 19, first year in U-23 category and have never raced a time trial longer than 20 km. Before the start he looked really motivated and I got the feeling that it's going to be his day. He kept calm, preparing for the start away from noisy centre of Sobótka.

The route consisted of two 20-km laps. Kasperkiewicz set off almost at midday, facing not only the longest route in his carrer but the heat and headwind. He did really well, saving power in the first part but then coming to the line with the best result, 2 minutes faster than the others. - I have never ridden such a long time trial - Przemek told me before decoration ceremony. - It's my first year in U-23 category, before that, as a junior, I raced mainly on distances closer to 20 km. I think I did well, I'm satisfied with the result. I rode the first lap a little slower, perhaps too carefully. The second one was faster, the feelings seemed better and I found my rhythm. In the final, I gave it all I had left.

By the way - do you remember Marc Madiot "encouraging" Thibaut Pinot to go for the stage during last year's Tour de France? That's nothing. You should have been in Sobótka - if you have a beautiful girlfriend cheering you up from the car, your body automatically switches to "shut up legs" mode.
(c) Młoda Photography
Kasperkiewicz seemed to be doing better and better as the line approached, while Wiśniowski started losing his advantage on the second lap. The clock stopped at 14 seconds - I lost 30 seconds to Łukasz on the first lap but the second one showed that I planned it better and had more power for the final - 19-year-old rider concluded.

Szymon Rekita (Ciclistica Setese) - 3rd place U-23 time trial

Szymon has also entered the world of U-23 riders this year. He had proviously shown that time trialling is one of his most favourited parts of road cycling. He hasn't raced on such a long distance before but, in contrary to almost every rider I talked to, he didn't find the route that hard.
 - The race was tough, everyone suffered, so did I. The route was not that demanding, the real challenge was the heat - I hate racing in such conditions. When it gets that hot, my legs are not working properly, so I'm really happy with my 3rd place.

Grzegorz Haba (WV De Jonge Renner)

Grzesiek took part only in U-23 road race, failing to play a significant role there. In fact, he was supposed to be the leader, as his teammate Kasperkiewicz had ridden the time trial two days earlier. Before the race everything seemed to be fine. When we talked on Friday, he was feeling very good, the legs were responding very well and the results of the tests and medical checks conducted some time before the Championships confirmed that he's got both great physical effeciency and capability of racing at the highest level. 
Grzesiek scored some good results this season, however, I think he was hoping for much more. He came 8th in Rabobank Kersenronde, 6th in Regio Kampioenschap Zuid and finished 7th on stage 1 of Tour of Berlin. In the road race something just went wrong but I think he'll recover from it and look for other opportunities in the second part of the season, as soon as he fixes a couple of things. I believe he will, he is capable of wining races.

Michał Paluta - 1st place junior time trial

Paluta started his carrer in cyclo-cross racing but is now focusing on racing on the road. He won the junior time trial and I have to admit that he was my favourite. I paid attention to his results after Troeo Karlsberg in Germany where he finished 4th, taking 4th place in the time trial.

I'm very happy with my result. The time trial was very demanding. Truth to tell, it wasn't feeling well, I wouldn't call it my day - Paluta told me after the race. When I crossed the line, I found it very suprising to see that my time is the best. It's my first medal in road racing, it's gold, I'm very happy with that.

His results sparked the rumours that finding a (foreign) team is just a matter of time. We'll see how it plays out.

There are of course other riders who deserved to be mentioned:

Tobiasz Pawlak - 2nd place junior time trial
Mikołaj Gutek - 3rd palce junior time trial, 6th place junior road race where he did countless number of attacks
Gracjan Szeląg - 4th in junior time trial, 5th in junior road race
Kamil Turek - 1st place junior road race
Katarzyna Wilkos - 2nd place women U-23 road race
Karolina Garczyńska - 2nd place women U-23 time trial and 3rd place women U-23 road race
Monika Brzeźna - 3rd place women U-23 time trial

And now...

As I said, we can compare the results from the time trial - U-23 and elite men. 

1) Wiśniowski's time was only 3:01 worse than Bodnar's. If 21-year-old raced in elite time trial, he'd take 5th place;
2) Kasperkiewicz was 14 seconds slower than Wiśniowski - in elite men standings he'd be 6th;
3)  Both Łukasz and Przemek have never ridden 40 km time trial.

Remember their names. You'll probably hear about them in the near future. 

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