My longest race this year has been cancelled. So I decided to combine the pleasurable with the useful and to cycle the first 1800 km of Race Around Poland in order to review the route and make possible corrections. I know some of the roads planned for the race and I used to ride them by bike. The rest - especially from Warsaw to the eastern border - are less familiar to me. Development of the route is one of the most important works within the organization of the race. I assume, that before July next year we will ride each section by bike or car on average 3 times, the last one - a month before the start of the event.
The choice of a given section of the route is made in terms of several criteria:
- asphalt quality
- safety (traffic volume, number of trucks, road width, noise)
- availability of petrol stations and shops
As you know, these criteria are often mutually exclusive. Good asphalt and the availability of petrol stations often means a lot of traffic. Low traffic means no shops open for long periods and not infrequently poor asphalt. However, these are not the rules, so it is worth looking for the most optimal routes.
To be clear, we are not looking for easy roads. This is the TOUGHEST ultra race in Poland. That is why the route often sneaks into the heaviest and most interesting climbs.
I planned the test of the route at 2-7.09. Every day I was to do about 300 km to drive according to the race limit. At the end of each day I had a night's lodging booked, so there was no way out - I had to be on time. The next nights were in:
5. Złoty Stok
6. Szklarska Poręba
On 8.09, I was to leave for Jelenia Góra and return to Warsaw by train from there.
The plan was to take off at 3-4 a.m. every day and in this way to be able to reach the hotel in the evening before the reception desk closes, that is before 11 p.m. to midnight.
But let's start with the bike:
Trek Domane SL4 2020 - carbon with Tiagra training equipment, discs and 32 tyres, plus a Tranz-x lemond and Garmin Vector 2 power measurement on two pedals.
Weight: approximately 10kg (+-100g)
The bicycle was prepared by Wojtek Jarzyna, who dissembled, washed, greased, turned and adjusted everything. It worked without any problem!
Luggage (descending by weight):
Total 5801g + 10kg bike
Recently I read an account of Krystian Jakubek from PGR gravel race. Jakub also summarized his things. For comparison he had about 8kg + 2,5kg (food and drink).
And this is how my journey looked like day after day:
I set off at 3:50, just as the downpour ended in Warsaw. Mateusz accompanied me to Gassy. Today the plan was about 350 km. On the flat. A real plan. After 7:00 I ate breakfast in a shop in Parysewo. An hour later I crossed the Wilga river heading towards Krzywda. The asphalt so far was good quality and the traffic was small. As far as I remember, the Traveler's Marathon was conducted on these roads a few years ago. After the Krzywda, I tasted raspberries straight from the bush in the Zimna Woda. At 13:00 I reached Parczew. There, a quick coffe and then on the way. Behind the Kodeniec the asphalt clearly deteriorated. A lot of patches. Maybe we can replace it with a better quality road. Behind Włodawa the route leads along the border. Beautiful views. Cultivated fields. Sunflowers and tobacco, among others. There will be many storks here in July. Unfortunately, the asphalt is still not perfect. There are many holes in the Hniszów area. The alternative would be a road through Chełm. Just before 9 p.m. I reach Hrubieszów for the night. Hotel Gniecki. Very good conditions for rest at an affordable price. Long-opened restaurant, possibility to take rich lunch instead of breakfast (I always leave before the hour when the hotels start serving breakfast), possibility to store the bike in the room. This day ended with a distance of 345 km and 1175 hm. So I arrived at the CP1 and I fit in the limit of the race :).
I left at 4:52, an hour later than I had planned. However, I had time, because today's stage was supposed to be much shorter. To begin with, a statement that the departure from Hrubieszów needs to be modified a little bit, because it is currently hooked by several hundred metres under the ban on bikes. The beginning of the ride is struggling with the growing cold. It seems that it is getting more and more visible, but still it is getting colder. It was not until 8:00 a.m. that the temperatures started in two digits. That's when I stopped to have breakfast with tea on Orlen in Tomaszów Lubelski and warm up in the sun.
The road 865 from Belzec to Ciechanów is a little crowded. But behind Oleszyce, e.g. near Nowa Grobla, there is empty asphalt like gold! Such a situation all the way to Duńkowice, where the route turns to road no. 94 in the direction of Radymno, and then climbs quite large hills to Przemysl. The ride through this city will also have to be optimised in order to avoid streets full of holes.
I leave Przemyśl at 14:00 to take the classic route to Arłamów. Uphill, under the “Arłamów Hotel” I am at 4:30 p.m. It is worth remembering that behind the hotel there is an uphill driveway to Braniów and then to Roztoka. Then Ustrzyki Dolne, hop in the Żłobek and the last one in Lutowiska. I am there (in the “Stanica Kresowa” of Chreptiów) at 20:00. Another place worth recommending. Restaurant, long open reception and possibility of keeping the bike in the room. The day ended with a distance of 246 km and 2358 hm. In total 591 km and 3533 hm. So I still keep the limit of the race reaching CP2.
This time I gathered to the road at 3:02. In front of me the mountain section - almost 300 km and over 3000 hm. At the beginning the road through the heart of Bieszczady Mountains. The Wyżniańska Pass, Brzegi Górne, Przysłup. Just after 6:00 a.m. Garmin showed 3 degrees C, that is the lowest temperature during the whole expedition. I almost screamed out of the cold and used all my strength to keep my eyes open. I was looking for an open shop or gas station. I didn't get to the shop until after 8:00 in Komańcza. Again, it was time to have breakfast and warm up in the sun. Beskid Niski provided me with a wonderful view. Large flocks of sheep grazed by dogs. Lots of shepherds with cheese and other sheep and goat products. I preferred not to risk my stomach, but under other circumstances I would certainly stop and taste it. The road 897 until it connects to country road 19 is smooth asphalt and a little traffic. In Jaśliska I went down to the town to see the market square and the church from the film "God's Body". After reaching road 19, I turned left towards Barwinek. I immediately came across a busy pendulum, but I knew that this stretch lasted only a moment. In front of Tylawa I turned off on a beautiful road through Mszana and Chyrowa. This is a very good diversion for Dukla. Smooth asphalt, old farms, birds with wide wings circling over fields in search of prey and already abandoned stork nests. In Komisarski, the route joins road 993.
I already know that I'm going too slowly to be able to catch up with the race route to Czorsztyn. I am making the decision to take a shortcut through Gorlice and Nowy Sącz. The road to Gorlice is sometimes poor, sometimes good. But it is quite busy. Beyond Gorlice a local owner of a bicycle service joins me and drags me for a few nice kilometres. Praise him for it! Besides, it was nice to exchange a few words. I eat a good and cheap three-course dinner in a restaurant near the petrol station in Kryg. It is after 3:00 p.m. It remains to drive through Nowy Sacz and further in the direction of Pieniny to join the Race Around Poland route again. I meet a lot of road cyclists training. Nice view. Behind Stary Sacz I lose my way a bit and cycle up some free hops :) Then along Dunajec to Kroscienko. The town is beautifully lit. At the end a 36-kilometre cycle up to Czorsztyn. at the beginning gently, then over 10%. Well, castles were built on rocks :)
Overnight stay in a very friendly Kinga Wellness Hotel. I was 10:40 p.m., i.e. I managed to get there before the restaurant was closed :) Nice service, you can keep your bike in your room. The balance of the day - 283 km and 3042 hm. In total 874k m and 6575 hm. As I shortened the route and didn't make 900km in 3 days, it has to be considered that if it was a race, here I would be out of the limit and in the classification I would finish my adventure on PK2. As you can see, Race Around Poland is not an easy race. "Race" for everyone, but "Around" for the best!
There was a bathtub in the hotel and I had such a nice rest that I slept until 6:00 and I took off only at 6:53. Since the race defeated me and the limit caught up with me, I decided to celebrate it with a longer rest ;). After the descent from the castle in Czorsztyn, in Łapsze Niżne I experienced magical images. Just behind the high net, by the road, I saw a large flock of dignified, immobile, looking towards the sun - deer. For the first time in my life - so much and so close. I was quiet, I found a place to put my bike down and reach for my mobile to take a picture. They were even quieter. I don't know when, they went away without a sound. I was standing there for a while stupefied. A local highlander came up, confirmed that "they are coming here" and showed me his deer photos from his mobile :) At the foot of Łapszanka - traditional shop with breakfast. The cycleway up done very nicely. Views to the Tatras - beautiful. Further on towards Głodówka. Just after Bukowina Tatrzanska I realized that if I want to make it to Biesko-Biala, I have to shorten the route again. Fortunately, these regions, including Czarna Góra and Gliczary, I drove quite carefully during the Tour de Pologne Amatorów 2019, Maraton Północ Południe 2019 and Podhale Tour 2020. So I went through Ząb, only the other way than the RAP route and then I hit Jabłonka. I shortened through Slovakia to climb to Korbielów and from there I went down to the RAP route in Pewela Mała.
There, David from Filipowe Kilometry awaited me. Invaluable help. Together, we would climb easier to Rychwałdek, Kocierz, Wielka Puszcza and finally Przegibek in turn. From there, straight down to Bielsko-Biała for the night. We finished at 22:30 in the Beskid Park Hotel. But I don't recommend somehow strongly - the hotel just by the beer bar, to late brawls and a bicycle in the room on the illegal ;).
Balance of the day - only 188 km and 2621 hm, in total 1062 km and 9296 hm.
We set off with David at 3:47 am towards Rybnik. David's terrain, so he was able to guide me there. It rained from the very beginning. Behind Rybnik I say goodbye to my companion and fly towards Racibórz. It was a very nice, inspiring and fruitful meeting! Thanks, David!
In Racibórz I return to the RAP route. I enter a very nice area of the Opole region. Many little frequented roads of good quality. Beautiful nature. You want to squeeze! In Prudnik, I turn left at the Stanislaw Szozda’s roundabout. I look for other traces of our master. There they are! On the left a monument commemorating the greatest successes of the legendary rider.
An interesting adventure in Charbielin. Like a self-respecting bikepacker, I sit under the shop and eat lunch. A nice gentleman points out to me that there is a bench behind the shop. Indeed! Even in the shade. Besides, a table, two office chairs. And the traces of consumption in the form of countless caps and empty bottles nicely stacked. In addition, two dishes hanging on branches - a glass and a beer glass. And a pinned opener on a chain to the tree. Full proficiency!
Route 46 beyond Nysa is a little crowded, maybe we'll have to find an alternative, if it will be possible. But the accommodation in Zloty Stok, meaning "Staszica 16" near the Golden Mine, is a great place. The hosts used to co-organise MTB races. They even led a cycling group. They know what it is about. I was with them around 6 p.m. The bike in a special room. A stationary pump at hand. I was equipped with fresh fruit for the evening and lunch. I recommend it!
On that day, I cycled 220 km and 1503 hm. In total, on the counter - 1282 km and 10699 hm.
Day six and final.
I set off from Zloty Stok at 6:34. Direction - Klodzko. There, as planned, I ate breakfast at the station and waited for the opening of a sports market, where I bought civilian shoes, trousers and a t-shirt. And so I was supposed to do such shopping, but I deliberately waited for a track testing. Thus, I didn't have to carry extra things all week long to increase the weight of the set and take the volume of the bag. An alternative could have been to send the clothes to the last hotel. During the race, however, there will be a possibility to leave a repackage - at the finish line and/or in the organiser's support car (the one we will drive at the speed of the route limit). In this way the competitor will have access to his belongings at the end of the competition, regardless of whether he has completed the whole distance or finished at one of the CP.
Additionally, I called from the route to a hotel in Szklarska Poęba and asked if there will be a possibility to wash and dry cycling clothes. The lady from the Villa Wernera Hotel was so kind as to agree to take it over, without any extra charge.
In the Radków area, I realised why I have been hearing the wheel beating for a few days on downhill runs. This is because the problem was already on the flat. I found out that it was the rear wheel and I saw that the tyre was breaking at the rim. Unfortunately, that is my fault. Since the these are thick 32 mm tyres the nominal maximum pressure was not high. So I decided to get 10 PSI above the nominal before driving. This was not a good idea for this tyre. I had 120 kilometres to the finish line. I took the shortest route to Szklarska. I drove with my soul on my shoulder. It made no sense. I changed my mind and decided to stand in the nearest service station to solve the problem. I found one in Broumov (Czech Republic). A few dozen minutes waiting for the shop opening, 10 minutes of work and I had a new tyre for PLN 44 with service included.
In the vicinity of Mieroszów I return to the RAP route. There beautiful asphalt and very little traffic. Then the way up to the Rozdroże Kowarskie. In the vicinity of Ściegna, between Kowary and Karpacz, the Karkonosze Mountains appear with the reigning, characteristic Śnieżka peak, on which a round shape of the weather observatory can be seen from a distance.
In Karpacz, a nice meeting with Ilona and Maciek (Browerzyści) from my hometown Tomaszów. Further up the hill, to Orlinek, a slight descent and again up to Karpacz Górny (near the Wang Temple). Slowly the evening is getting better and the peaks of the Karkonosze Mountains disappear from the horizon. I am flying through Podgórzyn, Piechowice and I am fighting the last uphill stretch, that is Piastowska/Górna Street.
I reach the hotel before 10 p.m. That day I drove 158 km and 2472 hm. For 6 days a total of 1440 km and 13171 hm came out.
As promised by the lady from the reception desk I can give my clothes to the laundry. Now relax and in the morning a hotel breakfast with a beautiful view. This is an exception, because I always left before the hotels started to serve a meal. In two cases (Hrubieszów and Złoty Stok) instead of breakfast I got lunch.
Day Seven. Return.
After breakfast, I was waiting for a 20 km long descent to Jelenia Góra. There, at 1:04 p.m., I set off for Warsaw at IC Orzeszkowa. A very nice connection. Few people, Restaurant coach (Wars), places for bikes. I am there at 7:55 p.m. and before 9:00 p.m. I check in at home.