Wednesday, 12 March 2008

#061 - 1957 - Peace Race - Stage 6 - 13

Stage 6 - Karl MarStadt to Leipzig 161km - Another bad day for our team losing minutes to all our highly placed competitors and also losing our high position in the Team general classification, on a higher note the team were riding well together and having no trouble. Christoff was still race leader from Proost, Team general class was held by France 3min 44secs from Poland, Belgium 3rd at 8min 41secs.

Stage 7 Leipzig-Berlin 207km - I cannot remember much about this stage apart from Van Tongerlloo (Belgium) winning the stage. You will notice that the Belgians were well up winning prizes, their Director Technique was Lucian Acou the famous six day rider, (we were to be great friends in later years, his daughter in the future was to marry Eddy Merck). Christoff was still race leader from Proost (Belgium), with Kapitanow (USSR) 3rd. Accommodation in Berlin was at best basic staying in a school, bike facilities were very good.

Stage 8 - Berlin – Gorlitz 225km. - We were still struggling to make further progress but could not make much impression, although we were still finishing well together. Butzen (Denmark) won the event with their team winning the daily team prize. Overall, the first three places remained the same, Poland winning the team classification.

A further rest day was held at Gorlitz, we were entertained at a factory making Schnapps. We had a great time there, all racing worries forgotten.

Stage 9 - Gorlitz-Wroclawi (Breslau) 188km. - After the disappointments of the previous 4 days in Germany, we entered Poland and for once our team plan worked , a good break developed this time without Christoff. Stan won the stage from Costantin Dimitrescu (remembered by his black socks) 3rd was Kapitanow (USSR). England were again the daily team leaders, Kapitanow (USSR) who had been in the break with Stan ,Owen and Bill became race leader 1min 15sec from 2nd place Christoff, with Proost now 3rd at 1min 52secs. Poland were still overall Team Leaders.

Everything seems to be so much better when the team are going well. To-night was no exception, I had helped another rider in trouble (the details escapes my memory now) for which I was presented with a decorative basket which contained 20 bottles of Riesling. My foreign mechanic mates and I soon polished this off!

Stage 10 - Wroclaw-Katowice 201 km - Another 125km stage through the industrial heartland of Poland, similar to 1955 everyone was black with coal dust. We combined with Swedish and Danish teams to try and shake off Christoff but did not succeed - at least we tried. Stan moved up to 2nd place at 6min 32secs with Frenchman Boudon 3rd at 8min 46secs.

The stadium where the race finished was the same cinder heap of 2 years previous, but what a transformation, it had seats for 80,000 people and all broadcasting, newspaper and TV technical equipment. A park had been laid and also overhead cable cars linking to Katowice City. A complete transformation from 1955. Our accommodation was at Nowy Huta a new town not far from the historic walled city of Cracow. Alan Jackson had to retire to-day suffering from acute saddle boils.

Stage 11 - Katowice-Lodz 215km - The Swedes, Danes and the DDR Teams attacked us and the Bulgarians to try to win the race on this penultimate day. As this was a comparatively flat stage there was a large bunch finish, the last few miles to the stadium was over the dreaded sea-bed boulder road, general class remained the same with Christoff being 6min 32secs up on Stan with Prusti (Poland) jumping up to 3rd at 9min 59secs. We were in the same hotel as 1955 and Stan had all the adulation when he appeared on the balcony, we were happy to bask in his glory.

Stage 12 - Lodz-Warsaw 140km - Nothing much to report about this final stage, normally as last stages go - nobody wanted to know. Tscherepowich (URRS) won the stage in the magnificent stadium near the river, from Wieckowski Poland 2nd and Kapitanow 3rd. (Kapitanow was to win the gold road race medal in the Rome Olympics 1960) Christoff was winner overall with Stan 2nd at 6min27secs and Kapitanhow (USSR) 3rd at 11min37secs. Our team were a creditable 6th 46min39secs behind DDR. Owen Blower was 19th overall, Dick McNeil (winner of Quaker Oats Tour Britain), Karl Goff and Jimmy Rae all finished with credit. On our return to London we were actually met by a crowd of well wishers, which was a lovely welcome home. All I could say was - “Very good luck and all the best for the future”

On return to England I sent “Thank You” letters to the British Hub Company for hubs, Cyclo Gear Company Ltd for Mk12 gears, (I was amazed how this gear had stood up to the conditions). I also wrote to Gerry Burgess for the supply of new brakes and spares. The shop was prospering, the staff had really been working hard. I took them all out for dinner on my return.

That tour was my only trip in 1957 owing to business being so good (should not grumble at that) Johnny Dennis who had been our very able Manager, tried to keep this team together but on his appointment to editor of a new cycle magazine he was unable to continue.

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