Thursday, May 29, 2014

Course de la Paix U23 Preview

The Peace Race was once one of the hallmark races in the world of cycling and the World Championships for riders from the Eastern Bloc. The race was absolutely massive and since it was state sponsored, the routes were gigantic and the race was relatively well-funded, at least by Soviet standards. When I saw massive, the 1963 edition was over 2500 kilometers and twice the race was 16 stages long. With the fall of communism, the race puttered around for a decade or so before its last edition in 2006. The juniors edition has been continuous but it was not until last year that a U23 edition finally got off the ground. Toms Skujins (now Hincapie Development) was able to take the overall win thanks to getting in a breakaway on the final stage with Luka Pibernik, Jan Hirt and Daniel Paulus that outfoxed the favorites behind.

Course de la Paix/Zavod Miru/Peace Race

-Jesenik, Czech Republic and the surrounding area

-3 stages with 2 uphill finishes

-375 kilometers

-2013 winner: Toms Skujins

While there were plans this year for a revival of the professional Peace Race, which were ultimately scrapped, the U23 race is back for its 2nd year in a row and looks somewhat similar to last year's event. Gone is last year's opening prologue and replaced with a sojourn in Poland. With the absence of a prologue, the race will rely on two uphill finishes including a proper mountain finish.

The race will start and finish in the city of Jesenik, located in Easten Czech Republic located less than 20 kilometers from the Polish border. The race was centered all around the city last year but it has moved out of the Sudetenland. Interesting fact...the city was renamed after World War II from the original Fryvaldov (Freiwaldau in German) to Jesenik because of the anti-German sentiment after the war. Jesenik was chosen because of the surrounding Jeseniky Mountains.

The first stage will leave Jesenik on Friday May 30th and head due south to the town of Rymarov, which also had a German town name before WWII (Römerstadt) before nearly all of the German population (nearly 98% spoke German according to Wikipedia) was deported in 1947 and town was renamed Rymarov to sound more Czech. The route, which is short at just 122 kilometers, is has 3 KOM spots but they are in the first half of the race and with two local circuits around Rymalov, it looks like this one should come down to a sprint. The sprint itself is slightly downhill but with 400 meters to go there is a sharp left hand turn which will mean good positioning, like always but especially now, will be key.

The race will transfer north and begin in the Polish city of Glucholazy. Glucholazy was historically apart of the Upper Silesia region, which were historically under the Bohemian crown starting from 1327. The region was annexed by Prussia in 1742 and when Germany was configured in 1871, the region joined the Confederation. Glucholazy is another one of these name change towns and was originally known as Bad Ziegenhals (the Bad prefix was added on in the 19th century when the town became a spa destination because of its mineral springs). In 1945, any remaining Germans were expelled and the town was returned to Poland and was promptly renamed Glucholazy. Even though it lies in Polish territory, there is historic ties with the close lying Czech areas including Jesenik, which has a sister city status with the town.

The summit of the Praded climb overlooking the countryside
The 2nd stage will start from Glucholazy and journey southeast towards the Czech border city of Krnov before turning southwest and heading to Bruntal, which is where the race begins to head uphill towards the finish at Praded, which is the highest mountain in the Jeseniky Range. The stage is quite short at just 92.9 kilometers but the final climb will prove decisive but I don't know if the grade is steep enough to sort out everyone as the last 3km average just 5.5% or so.

The final stage returns to Jesenik for a long lap around the countryside before a pretty brutal finish. The race starts by heading north through the town of Zulova and onwards towards Javornik before doubling back and racing along the Polish border for a while. The race heads south again towards Bruntal and taking in a few KOM points on the way there. From Bruntal, it is back north to Jesenik. I'm glossing over the route not because it isn't difficult because the hills will definitely sort out the group because the biggest obstacle will be the final hill to the Hotel Priessnitz. Heading through Jesenik proper, the race goes through town and then takes a right hand turn at the bottom of the final 2 kilometer long hill. The first kilometer averaged a danty 7.3% grade and it is more or less a straight road so guys will be able to find a good rhythm. The final kilometer is where the teeth come out. It averages 9.2% and in the final 100 meters or so there are a few turns before the finish in the hotel parking lot. That kilometer will have some guys seeing blood. How I hope there will be some sort of highlights.

Here is the race website with the full course maps and directions. Updates will come when there is a full startlist.

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