FanPost

on the ground, Tour of Poland Stages V and VI

If you like scenery, start with stage V or just read on (actual race stuff is after the jump). If you like "scenery," the stage VI pre-race goofiness and brief race videos should make you smile. (These are picasa albums with what should be self-explanatory captions, if the embedding here does not work for you).

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Lots more below the jump!

Pre race: Poland, what's it like?

We've seen a lot of sheeting rain and heard a lot about bad roads. So, what's it like? Rain...self-explanatory. Roads? More complex. Areas in and around Krakow had been recently, thoroughly but sometimes very badly repaved. Living in Pittsburgh, I do not have the highest standards for asphalt quality. But Krakow? Um, well. If you are a local, there is some very good bike infrastructure (underpasses, tunnels, designated road crossings with lights, and a lovely trail along both sides of the Vistula). If you're a stupid foreigner riding on whatever road you find on the map, and hoping to spot the right location to ride your bike, it's a challenge. Coming into the downtown area from the southeast, the waves in the main road are not individual swells, but Malibu-quality sets, including breakers. The asphalt ripples have ribbons and pools and swirls. One section of shared bike way / sidewalk was ~ 1 x 1 foot concrete pavers was set with gaps 2 inches wide and three inches deep in between, and set with an random stagger. That's just mean. However, Zakopane and Poronin, especially where the tour comes though? Ooooooh, good stuff. No wonder the locals like having the race come through.

Drivers are overall very kind. Even large construction trucks will hang back for as long as necessary. Cars give you 3-4 feet, fast-moving trucks more like 5 feet, and nobody honks. The only close call was when a car coming the other way swerved extra wide (in the sheeting rain) to avoid a cyclist on the other side of the road. Navigation? Outside of Krakow, you have to look for the name of the road on houses, as part of people's address, because there are no street signs. People? Old folks are very suspicious. Anyone younger than 55 or so is generally helpful--hand gestures and "kilometry". Coming back from Zakopane, we were force-fed free, illegal beer on the train by a couple of couples who wanted to make sure we'd had a good vacation. But I get ahead of myself.

We went to Zakopane by bus. Due to three traffic accidents, it did not take 2 hours less than the train, but at least we knew we were on the right track, between the big CCC cycling team truck, the road markers, and the rain:

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Zakopane is beautiful,

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and Poronin, bucolic.

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Poland: land of skinny haystacks and fat cows

All generations of the innkeeping family at guesthouse Paryzanka were welcoming to a couple of soaked cyclists, from Grandma and Grandpa through to grandbaby. The optional dinner was inexpensive, good, and immense, the room large and comfortable, the decor whimsical. Grandma warned us in voluble, Polish-tinged French, about Stage 6 of the race, and made us promise not to try to go either up or down the 21% section. Her daughter's friend had tried it, the breaks had not held, the computer said was going over 70 kpm when she crashed, the bike had been found in the forest, she had no memory of the crash, it was too dangerous, and oh those poor boys climbing it, over and over again on their bikes, mon dieu, mon dieu, was it possible?

But I get ahead of myself.

Stage 5

the day dawned beautiful (not that we saw the dawn). We headed gently up around noon, noting the good pavement, necessary to our "see as much as we can" plan.

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and enjoying lunch complete with pseudo-lambic (cherry scented, red-dye-#40 syrup in Pilsner Urquell, no idea why I did that not once but twice), followed by a nap for me, and a circuit of the course for Pieter. Some of the course inflatables also took a nap.

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We enjoyed the scenery (including figuring out that the KOM was artfully placed by a sponsoring restaurant, not at the actual top of the climb, giving us a nice spot to spectate on the climb AFTER the KOM). click for non U-tube panorama video (can't be imported, bother). and here. We were just down from the feedzone.

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The estimated arrival time kept moving later, and the weather was looking wetter.

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Actual racing after the jump. [NOTE: I moved a bunch of stuff below the jump after I put this on the front page and saw how much there was before the jump--hope it doesn't mess with the flow too much--majope]

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Ok, everyone warmed up? I'll try to upload the main viddy as youtubery, but the others are links to picasa viddy.

first rider ~5:17 PM (assumed Ignatiev) link

second rider ~5:19 PM (assumed Delage). The Lampre fan club down the road who walked up with a barbeque, folding table, full size cow bells and a vuvuzela. There are a lot of die-hard fans in Poland for a wide variety of teams. Nice to see! link

3rd group and peloton ~5:25 PM link and attempted embedding.

Next, a dash to the real top, then down, down, down to the hotel (did I mention the good asphalt? 3-10% grade for a nice long while, almost no need to touch the brakes) arriving in good time for them to come through on their second circuit, at full speed!

break:

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peloton:

chasers in the cars:

...and across the street into the guesthouse to watch the finish with enthusiastic commentary from the locals and other guests.

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here's the what's where, for those who enjoy maps

From Tour of Poland, Stage V: Poronin-Zakopane

Stage 6

with limited camera charge, and knowing that we had to bike back to Zakopane to return the bikes before 6 PM, I took a lot of viddy down by the team busses, and kinda enjoying the total clusterf*ck that passed for race information and planning. Got oodles of rider shots and viddy. Lots of pros checking their bikes mingled with tired amateurs (the sportif ended just before) plus baby carriages, kids, cars, buses, random bemused hotel guests and locals. example.

FdeJ were having a paper ball fight on their bus (low res viddy)...Hausler zipped up his jersey while I gawked and grinned a little at me gawking)...Boom came zipping by us about a foot away after his mini warm up/bike check. I can't upload it all on youtube, can I? If anyone has problems with the PIcasa link, tell me, and I'll do the uploads.

Many riders look good just standing around.

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some were hard at work (poor Argos-Shimano, churning away next to an ancient and stinky gigantic diesel crane motor!)

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Marczynski was in great demand!

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Sample viddy: the garmen roll out; the glorious HH looks un-thrilled by the prospect of the day's ride; riders asking each other where the start is, nobody knows.

The race officials first blocked the driveway down to the start at the (sponsoring) hotel's parking lot, then ">blocked the path up from the team buses:

And then gave up and started the race with some of the riders up the hill, some down the hill the wrong way, but a fair contingent at the start (maybe 2/3 of the total). We saw the start, walked up the hill for a (nasty, red) beer and a bite, ran out to see them pass after the first circuit, then worked through the crowd to bike a side road to a very different point in the circuit, shortly after they had done the killer climb a second time.

map:

From Tour de Pologne stage VI and candid shots: BUKOVINA Terma Hotel Spa - Bukowina Tatrzańska

the start:

the great spot, break: (link in case the embed is funky)

the great spot, peloton and stragglers:

Then we biked back to the roundabout, got held up until the stragglers who were quitting had ambled in, leaving us even less time to zoom down that same stretch of good asphalt (this time with stuffed backpacks, boy did we fly) down to Poronin. We made it to Zakopane in great time, made the train by about 30 seconds (saving us from another bus ride) and were fed big cans of cheap beer by an insistent and cheerful Pole, his wife, and several friends, all of whom confirmed that he was "crazy, crazy but good guy." And so he was. His friend spoke some english, he and Pieter spoke some German, and we discussed history and international politics and how to hide the beer when the conductor comes by, while the wife and friends sang along with hit songs on their cellphones. The train was held up twice due to race closures (seems they had not counted on a field being quite that spread out, just because they put in like 2 dozen killer bumps in the course, yeah, bravo on that planning) but we could see riders in the distance, and the whole car (well OK, we and our new friends) cheered.

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