In a year’s time the TDP last several days
A week has now passed since the end of the 72nd Tour de Pologne, and I’ve already been studying the map, planning the route for the next race – says Czesław Lang, revealing plans for next year’s race.
Are you preparing any surprises?
I think so. We want the Tour de Pologne to last more than a week.
But that’s impossible; after all, the UCI (International Cycling Union) reduces everything it can. Even the Vuelta is now expected to last two and not three weeks.
That’s true. The tendency these days is to shorten races, make them more dynamic, except of course the Tour de France. That has to be the main, the biggest event of the year.
So where did you get the idea for extending the Tour de Pologne?
The plan is simple. Three or four Tour de Pologne stages for women, a one day break and then seven Tour de Pologne stages for men. I deliberately speak of it as a single race, because we will either organize it on the same level, or not at all. It’s a precondition. The same infrastructure, the same setting and television broadcasts. We don’t want a situation where a female cyclist on the podium gets a food mixer, and a male gets a cheque. If we manage to provide all the appropriate funds, we will be launching this as early as next season. If not, we will continue to look for them.
How did this idea come about?
I’ve had this idea for a long time. Women’s cycling is becoming incredibly popular and these races are very exciting. Besides, we have more and more important names in this country. Kasia Niewiadoma was the European Olympic silver medallist in Baku and everyone foresees a great career for her. Then there’s Eugenia Bujak, Kasia Pawlowska, Paulina Brzeźna-Bentkowska and the Polish champion Gosia Jasińska. These are just the most famous names, but already a strong younger generation is coming to the fore. Once, when we still didn’t have any great names in men’s cycling, I consistently claimed that no matter what, I’d organize an event for them, which is to say the Tour de Pologne. So that the world would get to hear of Polish cyclists, to make it easier to find sponsors and so on. And suddenly this event was headed by some exceptional riders: Michał Kwiatkowski, Rafał Majka and Maciej Bodnar. The same may happen with women cyclists. I get the impression that Polish clubs will really gain from it suddenly being discovered that our country has a serious race, one that is televised. That’s the plan, and sooner or later, we will achieve that goal.
Any first thoughts about next year’s course?
If we succeed in organizing a race for women, we could start on the coast. It will be the holiday season; there will be a lot of people there. Three or four stages would bring us to Warsaw. In this year’s Tour de Pologne, the capital proved an excellent venue. I got a lot of remarks from abroad that Warsaw is almost unrecognizable, has become so much more attractive. Warsaw residents also deserve to see us again; I didn’t expect to see such large crowds lining the streets.
Many fans are asking whether you might return to Lower Silesia, or perhaps show up in the Mazurian Lake District.
I know. I think the women’s Tour de Pologne will in the future give us just such an opportunity to visit new regions. But nothing happens just like that, at the drop of a hat. Do you know how many villages we went through in the last race? 500. For each of them we needed to go and meet with the president, the mayor and the police. To discuss safety issues. Let’s say that in each case, this requires an hour of talks. It is easy to calculate how much work that involves. That’s why we value good, reliable partners, like Katowice, Krakow or Bukowina. That isn’t to say that we won’t consider other locations. We went this year to Nowy Sącz and that proved a revelation. We will definitely be going back there. What else? I’ll let you in on a little secret – I dream of a route through the Bieszczady Mountains and maybe as early as next year… There is also a plan to once again end up in Slovakia.
Did this year’s route prove to be a success?
Most certainly. I have heard many say it was the best course in the history of the Tour de Pologne. When you build something, you sometimes have to wait for the results. This last race showed clearly that cyclists are not coming just to train. They come to do battle. This is the race they aim for. There was no fooling around. The two mountain stages sorted the men from the boys, leaving just the elite. The stages on the flat also provided some beautiful moments. Marcel Kittel took leave of us with great sadness, not wanting to acknowledge that next year’s Tour de Pologne will be on the same date as the Tour de France. He repeated several times that perhaps the latter race is the most important in the world, but his favourite competition is here.
How come the change of the date?
At the end of July Poland celebrates Papal Day. Then at the beginning of August there are the Olympic games in Rio. So we are left with early July. We’ll start on the 12th. There’s no alternative, but we’ll manage. Ours is a completely different race from the Tour de France; its has a character all its own and we will certainly create a fine spectacle. Young riders hungry for success will come to take part, and who knows, we may discover another future star. This is after all what we are famous for.