June 25, 2008 – Seven members of the Mazurcoaching.com Team are in Poland for the seven-stage 16th annual Baltyk Karkonose Stage Race. Here are their race reports from Stages 1, 2 and 3.
Stage 1 “What are we doing here?”
June 3: TrzebiatÃ³w – Choszczno, 217.4 km
The 16h annual Baltyk Karkonose began with a bang in the form of a 220km stage through northern Poland. There was a general feeling of anxiety amongst the team as none of the boys had ever raced anything greater than 170km. Fortunately, through some pre-race (late night/night-club) espionage by the teams director sportif the boys would learn that the Polish continental teams had agreed to keep the pace relatively low for the first 100km allowing the riders to get properly warmed up for the racing which would occur in the later half of the day. As is the case with races in other European countries, the weather would serve as the deciding factor in how the days adventure would unfold. Because of relatively calm winds the general consensus was that no attacks could succeed and so of course a bunch-sprint would be in order. In the final 10km the teams began organizing their lead out trains bringing the group speed in excess of 50km/hr leading into the final turn. Despite fearing for his life, Bhogal made an attempt to gain favorable position however was held up by the lead-out men who were drifting through the center of the racing peloton. He was able to finish 31st. Mazurcoaching.coms best finish came from Polish Olympian and honorary Canadian rider Dawid Krupa who finished 12th. Due to an unexpected delay at a railroad crossing outside of town, the rest of the teams riders strolled in shortly after.
Stage 2 – “It’s only 168 km!!!”
Choszczno – Walcz, 168.4 km
Despite a calm start to the day, the fierce crosswinds of Poland would take their toll during the final moments of stage 2. In the final 18km circuit the Polish teams CCC, DHL and Mroz would came to the front in the hope of stringing out the field into an uphill crosswind. The tired riders within the peleton were exposed as the chain of cyclists began tearing apart. Those that were caught behind gapping riders quickly lost touch with the lead group of 23 which slowly rode away. Dawid Cruppa and Alex Bhogal were amongst the Mazurcoaching riders that were left behind in the first chase group with with the remaining Canadians further behind in splits of their own. The main chasers worked hard to limit their losses against the escapees and in the end lost just over 1 minute. Bhogal (hoping there was still some 20th place money up for grabs – in vain) attacked in the final 500m and opened a gap but unfortunately towed along a Russian and Polish rider who would come around him in the final 20m of the downhill sprint finish. He would finish 3rd in the chase sprint and 25th overall on the day as the highest placing Mazurcoaching.com rider. Brendan Mathias came in almost 2 minutes down followed by Brandon Throop who lead in his group.
Stage 3 “175 still better than 220”
June 5: Walcz – Wolsztyn, 174.4 km
After yet another filling breakfast of chicken breast, pasta and “rice pudding” the boys were ready to roll again. The dreaded crosswinds would again rear their ugly heads and with one attack by team DHL the field was split yet again as tired riders were unable to hold pace in the “line of death” (aka the gutter). Through years of experience, Krupa understood what was about to transpire as he fought to move forward with the lead group. Throop hopped onto his wheel as the two barely survived the split. Within only a few km the rest of the team found themselves minutes behind with almost 100km to go. The straglers, along with other unfortunately positioned riders, quickly came together to give chase hoping that the field ahead would eventually relax. After 15km of chasing hard at 50km/hr the chasers were able to catch the peloton as they eased their tempo. The boys learned another important lesson on positioning as they struggled to uncross their eyes at the back of the group. Once again the stage ended in a bunch sprint as the lead out trains did their jobs keeping the pace high into the final kms. Throop, Krupa and Bhogal were agressive in keeping their positions within the last 5km with Krupa finishing well in 7th. Bhogal would be cut off in a near crash through the last turn leaving him with a 18th place finish as Brandon came in close behind with a respectable 23rd place finish.
Stages 4-7 to follow.