Wednesday, 12 March 2008

#053 - 1955 - Peace Rest - Rest Day 2 and Stage 10 - 13

The next day was a ‘Rest Day’, Luton Town was playing DDR and in the afternoon we were invited to the match and meet the team, I went alone as no one else was interested. (That same year Luton was in the Cup Final losing against Nottingham Forest at Wembley). The next day some mail had arrived from England for the Luton team but they had already left for England, the mail was handed to me for delivery. I posted this mail to Luton when I got home, receiving a thank you letter from the Chairman.

In the morning the team were invited to a brewery making vodka, the office staff again making a fuss of us, and they gave us each a bottle of slivowitz and other presents.

Stage 10 – Zgorzellex – Breslau (Wroclaw) 174km

We were taken by coaches to the start at Zgorelex. We were appalled at the lower living standard in Poland, but they had to live frugally as their government had refused “Marshall Aid” and they were having to rely on the Russians to bolster their economy.. An attack was instigated by the French, Czechs and Germans, Veseley Schur and Van Louveren being the first three, Stan and Owen losing 2mins on this breakaway group. Race leader now being Schur from Vesely at 1min 21sec, with Stan still 3rd at 6min 01sec. Considering our depleted team Stan and Owen were riding very well.

The Russians had occupied Breslau at the latter end of the war and even 10 years later there were no stoppers in the sinks or baths, Breslau was very badly damaged as Hitler had made it a fortress, it was bypassed by the Russians taking weeks before it surrendered.

Whilst having dinner at Breslau an opera singer came to see me saying he had relations in Long Eaton, unbelievably this relation was none other than Tadeux who worked for me as a motorcycle mechanic; originally from Lvow (which is now in Russia), he with a number of other Poles had escaped through Romania to Iran and then flown to Scotland where they were enlisted in the RAF. He came to work for me in 1948, the opera singer was overjoyed, he gave me further news of my mechanics family which was passed on to Tadeux on my return to England. The opera singer had bought tickets for that evenings performance and it was a great shame that we could not go as the Opera house in Breslau is quite famous, but we could not be spared - the race being to important.

Stage 11 - Breslau to Stalinograd (Katowice) 200km

this went through all the coalmining and heavy industrial belt, the riders were black with soot and so were we in the open car. A small group of riders down on general classification, broke away with Van dan Daile (Belgium) from Geogief (Bulgaria) with Nyman (Finland) 3rd. Schhur lead the race with Yan Vesely 2nd at 1min 31secs with

Stan still 3rd at 6min 11secs. The riders finished on a banked cinder track. The people of Katowice were building a new stadium and I was to go back there in 1967 to find it finished, a park laid with overhead railway and lovely laid out gardens. The stadium was as good as Wembley (Manchester United had played there earlier that year in the European Cup).

During the stage Kapitanow of Russia had been away on his own for miles but when we caught up with him he was off his bike and he packed because he was frozen and black as night with the coal dust and Cupola dust. (Kapitanow was to win gold in Rome in 1960)

Stage 12 - Stalinograd – Lodz 205km

The Germans again combined with the French and Poles to attack Stan and Vesely Schur won the stage from Klich (Czech) with the Pole Krolak 3rd. Jan Vesely still retained 2nd place but lost 5mins. Stan lost his 3rd place to Amell (Sweden) by 1 second. Owen was 20th on general. We stayed in good accommodation in Lodz, the rooms where we stayed had balconies and our rooms faced the front, there were thousands of people outside all chanting for the English riders especially Stan. It was if we were royalty and absolutely unbelievable.

Stage 13 Lodz – Warsaw 130km.

The last stage - the Belgians combined with the Czechs to form a small break, this finished about 3mins on the main group which contained the leaders, Stan managed to finish a few seconds in front of the Swede Amell, and this gave Stan his super 3rd place overhaul, Owen also gained a place finishing a creditable 19th place.

The finish was held at the big football stadium near the river, there must have been well over a hundred thousand people there. Our stay was in the largest Hotel in Warsaw i.e. Hotel Warszawa. I was able to go for a ride with the team to sightsee in Warsaw, Stan asked a Polish chap to take a photo of us outside of the Russian built magnificent Palace of Culture with Stan’s “Brownie” box camera and did this fellow laugh! we also found an International Press Office where we were able to obtain press photographs of our participation in the Peace Race.

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