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Behind the bars: the race starts after "fourty"

10 years, 40 stages, about 3 thousands kilometres, at least 110 – 120 kilometres of vertical climbing – these are numbers that has formed a history of the most famous and international Polish Stage Race nowadays. Numbers above include almost every characteristic peaks of Beskid Śląski, Beskid Żywiecki, Czech’ part of Beskidy mountain chain. For overall amount of these parameters consist really short and easy stages, at least they were so comparing to real beasts demolishing hardest of the hardest and best prepared riders. We have had so far exhausting stages which were 5 – 5,5 – hour – battle for winner and counted over hundred kilometres with almost 4 thousand metres of vertical climbing. Those have covered Beskidy MTB Trophy with real legend. For ten years there have been lot of pain, sweat, tears, despairs, depletions, suffering but above all and before others happiness, fortitude and satisfaction. We have had a pleasure to ride in beautiful sunshine and in the other hand during heavy showers that tested completely riders’ morale, resistance and bikes durability, and ruthlessly decimated finishers’ list. Since 2007 start lists have included riders from about 30 countries around the world, from 6 continents, national champions, Olympics participants, and mostly mountain biking's “Joe Blows” who not once in a blue moon crossed the line when top riders were going to bed.

It is 29th of May 2016th and we are waiting in sectors for final countdown to dot the i's and cross the t's – 40th stage of that awesome 10-year-old journey. During last minutes, beside a gentle breeze we can feel that strength of will is going to spin cranks that day instead of muscles. My friend noticed, that we had a “zombie party” around us. Most of us look and feel at least very tired. Weather couldn’t make-up its mind. …. Yesterday’ – evening thunderstorm with heavy showers for sure made a flush on today’s trail face. Either clouds didn’t want to resign, nor the sun was giving up…. For sure Bartek Janowski hadn’t then given up yet. He looked like he was to devour German rival with his eyes. For sure each of us was going to have his own battle till the last meter of 75-km-long and 3,3 thousand ascent stage. The stage which, in my humble opinion, has been king stage since several last years. As it occurred later, the real racing that day started for many after 40th kilometre what was third feed zone. Finally we started… Milan Damek disappeared just in first km. Did he want to close his time loss and win the race? The others are spinning easy and breathing deeply looking forward to the first of nine sharp climbs of today’s profile – Kozińce thru Połom. That climb passed unexpectedly fast for me. Did legs remember how to spin on climbs well after 3 previous, demanding days?? Hope so. My plan is simple – not burn legs till first descent begins, enter it as close to front of the race as possible, and take it easy during first halfway. I caught Peter, he also knows that this stage will take heavy toll… I’m passing some other rivals and fall into that crazy trail without slowing down. I’m overtaking Bartek and few seconds later catching Marcin. Hmmm – it's not going to well today – I thought. 

Anyway, with two other riders we’re starting next steep climb to Smerekowiec. Somebody inform us that we’re 2-3 minutes behind leaders. Marcin is slowly dropping me. There is no sense to force my legs, he is too strong for me this year. Fare him well. Before we reached the top and started descent to Brenna I overtook and dropped foreign rivals. Unfortunately this year we do not have a pleasure to ride outstanding single-track traversing to Grabowa. Instead we got a furious descent and next then one bonus 350-meter-climb to Grabowa thru nearby Stary Groń. I’m looking over my shoulder and see Łukasz approaching me very slowly and no one else behind him. In front of my, at the top of steep section Milan Damek is again saying pardon to his tire or rather something what imitate. Even tractor doesn’t work in such terrain with slick tires… Sorry. In front of me I can see somebody looking like Manuel Fumic, but he is not. He is Krzysiek from Resovia called the Shovel :) I joined him and together we’re heading for Kotarz, where I change my “locomotive”. How the hell did you find here Peter?? Well, I must have been very lazy till then to waste such an advantage gained throughout Kozińce descent. Anyway, he is leading on climbs, I’m driving pistons while descending. On Kotarz I am looking rapidly to my right and glimpse to monumental peak with television sender on the top – Skrzyczne – paragliders’ mecca. Few minutes later, after having reached next top – Hyrca – I dropped my companion for a minute on steep, rocky descent and entered one of the best trail in Silesian Beskidy. Have I already told that trails like Beskid’ travers could – for me - create complete length of that route? Just fun. Beskid Śląski's best – of. And it’s exactly like I wanted to name that part of “behind the bars”, but how should I name then my biggest dream – route of Trophy stage covering mentioned above Skrzyczne with mind-blowing descent to Buczkowice?? Can’t even imagine. Kowal – fight for that, It’ll be top of the tops. 

On Karkoszczonka pass, having eaten an energy bar, I started climb to Klimczok – one of the two longest – leads this year along quite easy graver road. Thank God it’s not that tough and steep like the one throug Stołów last year. Do You remember? I reached for energy gel and try to close a gap to four Stevens’ and Rapiro-Focus riders. Guys are completely empty. I overtook them exactly when Peter closed his gap I did while traversing Beskidek. In front of us Marcin is repairing his chain. Last hundred meters to pass between Klimczok and Magura almost hiking on our knees. Somebody using a flashlight here?? No it’s my cousin taking pictures. Thanks for the shots. After short but pithy and rocky climb we reach top of the Klimczok. If only there were a clean blue sky we could observe Tatra Mountains and Babia Góra Pea. Panorama from Klimczok can be unforgettable. Descent to Błatnia is another occasion to drop Peter. I went full gas, but he is still on my tail. Well, let’s try later in Brenna. But, well, he is learning. Well done Peter, good to see you’re getting better skilled. From the third feed zone in Brenna, approximately 40th km of the race, we started real race that day.

Second long climb to Kotarz, started with 1,5 km of steep asphalt road. According to information we’re riding on 5th – 6th place. On that climb Peter pushed higher gear and after a few minutes he disappeared. Route became less steep after approaching forest above last buildings. Track is meandering slope of Beskid Węgierski and slowly gaining a height. In two thirds of the climb I felt someone’s breath behind my back. It’s Marcin making – up his time lost for mechanical problems. If only he didn’t have technical problems every day he would almost beat overall winner – Michal Kanera :) I left with Bartek and together are riding forward Salmopol pass where one of the last climb starts. Pushing our cranks so hard with cadence about 30rpm we got top of Malinów. Legs burn! On a descent to last feed zone in Nowa Osada I played my own game. I left Bartek behind. At the bottom left turn back and a brutal climb to Cieńków Wyżni is driven by my thought about completing the race. Rain is timidly playing its melody. Let it play, it’s beautiful. I rush down into direction of Czerniańskie Lake and its russet surface. I’m almost at home! Just a “Zameczek” climb left ahead. Wojtek is cheering me while passing by car, few hundred meters further I watched behind my back and noticed that I had overtaken some other rider with red number on the bar. My dream about top ten on last stage is coming true! Last 5 km left and desired 10th-anniversary-trophy-finisher-tshirt is in my hands. Yupi:) For me it was Trophy of many uncertainties, moments of despair, hard moments on climbs, but before all lots of awesome moments spent riding my favourite trails and admiring best landscapes in Beskidy in company of fantastic rivals. Marcin, Piotr, Bartek, Łukasz, Krzysztof – thanks for ride, rivalry and motivation. Andrey – get healthy soon. Bartek J. and Michał N. – congratulation. And how not to think about next year??