Wednesday, 12 March 2008

#060 - 1957 - Peace Race - Stage 1 - 5

Stage 1 - Prague- Brno 224km - On the first day our team set off in fine style, Jimmy Rae just getting beat on the line finishing in 3rd place, Stan, Owen and Dick McNeil were chasing in the leading group only 25secs back, this was quite a long stage, England were 2nd Team to the Poles at 49secs with the Belgian at 1min 11secs, a good start for us and no mechanical problems. Accommodation and food in Brno backed by the methodical Czech organisation, was as usual first rate.

Stage 2 - Brno to Tabor 177km. - We worked well as a Team, Stan winning the sprint on the cinder track at Tabor and the Team won the daily prize, Stan was holding 2nd place overhaul, he being 27sec behind Christoff (Bulgaria) with Van Tongerloo (Belgian) 3rd 1mim08secs, England were 2nd in overall 48secs behind Poland with the Belgians 3rd at 2min 18secs. Food and accommodation were again top class - they always were in Czkoslovakia.

A little background information about feeding arrangements:

Everyone is given a menu for the duration of the race. The Team Manager is given the list of Menu’s with three choices for each meal, which were Breakfast, (light) lunch before a stage, and the evening meal plus any special food during race, and drinks of course. Ideally, the Team Manager would choose the meals with the help of all the team, it is after all very important. Also each rider and official was given a book of tickets for breakfast, lunch and dinner and drinks, the Restaurants were then able to get paid on production of the tickets. The system worked well so long as the rider brought his ticket, because the waiters would not serve you even if only one of your party had left his book in his room. By the time I became Team Manager I had experience of the chaos that this could cause if not well managed, and I decided to take full charge of all my team’s books – we had no further problems with riders not having their tickets!

Stage 3 - Tabor to Prague 160km.- We rode quite well in this stage Stan again picking up early primes, all the team finished in a big group some 5min 36secs down on the stage winner Christoff (Bulgaria). On the stage we were 3rd in the team and on general class we were in the lead from France by 3min 06secs, 3rd Belgium at 9min 08secs.

Stage 4 - Prague to Karl Ovey Vary 174km - Owen Blower punctured on this stage but after slick change of wheels he was soon back in the group, Proost (Belgium) won the stage putting him 2nd on general class behind race leader Christoph (Bulgaria). We were still holding General Class leading team into Karlovy Vary and it was so satisfying to see England in the blue ‘team leaders’ jerseys, the first time since 1952. At last the preparation at the training camp in Wales was beginning to pay off. Another good day for us and we were in high spirits being very satisfied by our efforts during the first four days We were back at the Continental 1st class Hotel which also added to the high morale. The weather changed for the worse, temperatures falling bringing rain.

On the rest day I had risen early to work on the bikes for a few hours, we had all been invited to visit a Crystal Manufacturer. The staff entertaining us, we were all presented with some exquisite cut glass. After we came back from the Crystal Glass works, we went down to the warehouse where the prizes were kept. Stan’s stage win prize at Tabor was a motor cycle. The chaps in charge of the prizes unpacked this and put in petrol – and I was up the road on it no time, Stan was able to sell this machine on his return home to Liverpool.

The team had a small workout in the evening then in to dinner with a super orchestra playing Glenn Miller and this music relaxed us all. We were soon in to our routine.

Stage 5 - Karlovey Vary to Karl Marx Stadt (Chemnitz) 140km - This stage took us over the mountains and we had a disastrous day, punctures abounded, the Germans, Russians and Poles attacked us taking with them the race leader Christoff (Bulgaria). Although our Team got together they lost 10mins+. The team classification was lead now by France leading Poland by 5min 56secs with Belgium at 8min 42secs, we had taken a right pounding and there was some glum faces that night. John Dennis pulled them round at the race meeting after dinner, getting good plans set for the next day we hoped for some better fortune but none was to come. The weather changed to snow and ice which did not help.

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