This past weekend Caitlin and I took a whirlwind trip through Moravia, the eastern side of the Czech Republic. We wrapped up by dropping into Olomouc on Sunday morning just to walk around, maybe see the cathedral, and get lunch. From the train we started walking through a lovely park, and then cut over into the main town square. There…
The Czech Cycling Tour
Sure enough, for the third straight weekend we had randomly stumbled into a huge bike race of one kind or another, this time the Czech Cycling Tour. Fortunately a cafe parked right on the finish line (those are its umbrellas above) had free WiFi so this time we were able to figure out roughly what was going on: We’d arrived in Olomouc just in time to catch the conclusion of the fourth and final stage of what’s seemingly the Czech Republic’s biggest road race, part of the UCI’s European continental domestic pro circuit.
Earlier that morning the race had left Olomouc, done a long loop, and as we arrived was just about to begin smaller loops around town for a full 180km race. It was very hot this and the preceding few days, which must have taken a large toll on the field. The number of finishers did not seem to nearly approach the 148 riders that had started the tour three days previous.
So, we’re sitting there in the conveniently placed cafe and I’m cruising the web to find out more about the race. I start looking through the earlier stage results to see if we can spot any big international pro names. We don’t recognize any, but then I realize “Hey, I have seen some of these names before…”
One of the many issues coming to Prague was what bike to bring, or even to bring one at all. A six week trip is right on the upper edge of where I could skip the hassle and be reasonably happy and fit with just running. Ultimately I brought my road bike, well aware that skinny tires could be pretty challenging in the inner core of Prague, what with the beefy cobblestones, trolleys, traffic, tourists, and more cobblestones. A big part of the decision was that I’d been talking a lot of smack about a few stage races in August and September, particularly Green Mountain. I didn’t want to go into that having been off my road bike all of June and July.
What really sold it though was that I did a couple quick searches on Strava for the area and found this one long ride by a guy named František Paďour. It hit a whole bunch of good climbs, was a nice roaming route, had great mileage, and wasn’t far out of Prague. I was sold. The very first thing I did on my bike in Prague was head straight (well, as straight as I could navigate) to the main climb on that route.
That first ride I spun up the hill, came back, uploaded my data, and was a couple minutes off the leader. I figured: No problem, if I go kill it up the hill, I could challenge that KOM. … Since then I’ve been unable to make any real dent on the leaderboard (it’s the first one above). I felt a lot better about that knowing that the leader was out doing pro races.
The Neon Yellow Jersey
Then came the end of the race. It was pretty exciting, but we had no idea what was going on. They didn’t start doing English announcements until the awards ceremony, we couldn’t tell any riders apart, it was a short sprint, and so on.
Then I see rider #3 roll into the little staging tent next to the podium. I do a quick double take on the start list, confirm that it’s František, and start telling Caitlin “Hey, I think that dude I was talking about on Strava might have won something…?” Next thing we know…
“Wait, I think he might have won a lot…”
As far as we can piece together from results and horribly mangled translations of Czech cycling news sites, Whirlpool-Author won the opening team time trial, stage two, and stage four. Paďour hovered in the top ten on several stages, and aided by the TTT took the overall win by 2 seconds. The key move was making it into a ten man split from the field going into the stage four finish we saw while his rivals did not. Notably, earlier in the day we’d actually seen the rider who’d started the day as leader trailing far behind but we had not realized the significance of his jersey. Apparently he had multiple mechanicals and could not recover.
Ironically, just that previous Thursday and Friday I had spent considerable time while riding trying to figure out how these guys, whom I had assumed all along were quick but still comparable locals, could be going up that one climb in particular so much faster. Suddenly it was much more clear.
So that is the full story of how František Paďour and Whirlpool-Author became Joe Kopena’s official favorite European continental pros.
There are a bunch more pictures in the Flickr gallery.