Wednesday, 12 March 2008

#052 - 1955 - Peace Race - Stage 5 - 9

Stage 5 - Karlovy Vary to Dresden 175km,

We performed well on this stage winning the team award being only 9secs behind Bulgaria. Stan still held the “jersey” from Verhelst of Belge and 3min 09sec with Yan Vesely Czech 3rd at 3min31sec with Schur close up 4th & 3min42secs. Some miles before the finish at Dresden the weather changed very cold and raining , this added to the misery of miles of damage carried out by allied air forces in Feb 1942 and made us feel very depressed, coupled with the fact that Ray Booty and fallen heavily in the lager city of Zwickau, and in Dresden with muddied spectacles, he came off no less than 5 times in the tram lines.

The only building that did not seem to be damaged was our hotel. Bill Shilibeer our masseur issued us with vitamin pills every day , Bill Baty was not a believer in these and I remember him in Dresden - when I entered his and John Pound room to hear of any bike complaints, he had lined these pills on the outside window sill and was flicking them in to the street below saying after every flick, “This is doing me the world of good”, later on after dinner I entered their room again and he was lowering a quarter pound bar of Cadburys milk chocolate on to the street below, just as some kids appeared to pick it up he pulled the cord, he did however give the kids this chocolate in the end. We all realised that chocolate, oranges and bananas were in short supply at this particular time in Dresden.

Stage 6 - Dresden to Karl –Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz) 103km

An early attack was instigated by Schur and the Belgians, this was neutralised by Stan and Owen - the team being sadly depleted with the loss of Ray Booty and Ron Jowers. John Pound and Bill Baty were gallant in their efforts but both were well off the back. Stan still had the yellow jersey having 2min 44sec on the Belgian Verhelst, 3rd being Jan Veseley of the Czech Republic with 3min 06secs and Schur was 4th at 3min 17secs,

Stage 7 - Karl-Marx-Stadt to Leipzig 206km

saw our depleted team attacked by a combine of teams i.e. D.D.R with Schur, the Belgians with Verhelst and also the Russians made their belated attack with Werscinin, Stan lost the yellow jersey which he had held for four days. The rest day was held in Leipzig, all I remember of that was the training run in the afternoon. A visit to a camera manufacturer was held in the morning where we were well entertained by the office staff, we also received presents of gold wrist watches and Ziess opera glasses (we were to subsequently have trouble with the English customs as will be told later).

Stage 8 - Leipzig to the capital Berlin. 200km

The crowds to see this stage were just unbelievable, on the corners going through Potsdam. Russian soldiers were sitting on the kerb, our German driver almost running over their toes and he laughed his head off at this antic. Owen Blower and Stan Brittain were in the leading group of eight going down Stalin Alee which had me standing on the back seat of our open car feeling proud as a peacock. The Germans had three riders in the break so they worked our lads over Funda (DDR) winning the event. Schur, although he was not in the leading group became race leader having 4min 18secs on second place Stan Brittain, Owen also moved up on general classification. Our German driver Fritz got in to terrible trouble with the race top brass, he had driven right round the stadium at the back of the main group, but for us in the car it was terrific. the cheers for us sending ripples up our backs, 100,000 was the crowd which included the government with the Premier Gottwaldoff. The accommodation in Berlin was in a school very basic, we always seemed to have bad accommodation after 200km stages .

Stage 9 – Berlin - Cottbus 126km

a shorter stage took us towards Poland, the Czech team had attacked with the Poles and Russians which gave Jan Veseley 2nd place behind the winner Tave Schur at 1min 51secs - Stan was still 3rd at 4min 18secs. Owen was riding well as were John and Bill.

After a meal in Cottbus we walked across to Poland, border guards and custom officers were bristling with guns, barbed wire seemed everywhere. The border split a large town the border being a bridge over the Oder, so much for the Potsdam agreement, one could see Atlee, Roosevelt and Stalin looking at a map and coming up with this mad idea of the Oder Niesse rivers marking the border between Germany and Poland. How the split population must have suffered. The name of the same town in Poland was called Gorlitz. I cannot remember much about Gorlitz apart from the fact I now had only four bikes to service.

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