Although the weather is still freezing, road cycling is already finding its voice. The season in the Czech Republic will again peak twice in Moravia. First we have the June U23 Peace Race, and then at the end of July the elite cyclists will ride the Sazka Tour. Former professional cyclist, Leopold König, is on hand to ensure that both races meet the strictest conditions. In an interview with Milan Novotný for www.denik.cz he provides the latest news.
The largest domestic stage race takes place from 27 to 30 July. The best Czech riders along with World Tour riders, the elite road racing category, will line up at the start. “We want to maintain the high quality and attract additional stars,” says thirty-five-year-old König.
“Several changes will be made to the stages. In some places it will be tougher, whilst others will be shortened to encourage greater activity among the riders. The overall route is pretty much unchanged. It is a fair race. Two stages are decided on a hill climb, so triumph will be well deserved,” said the director.
Of the elite World Tour teams, the organisers can confirm the participation of Dutch team Jumbo Visma and German team Bora-Hansgrohe. “I am confident that we will be able to attract at least one more elite team. Of the 2nd-division category I can mention Spanish team Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, a team with a trio of Czechs; Daniel Babor, Tomáš Bárta and Michal Schlegel”.
"At the moment the rider line-up looks very good and it should be a very high-standard race again," he said. Safety plays an important role in accepting starters. "Many roads are very narrow. The maximum number of participants will be approximately one hundred and fifty, which is twenty-two teams. This is the same for both races," he added.
Safety is the top priority. "We devote maximum time and financial resources to it. Securing a route that can be up to two hundred kilometres long requires enormous effort and experience. This is not a football stadium or an ice-hockey arena, where it is possible to have everything under control via a camera system," he noted.
"It involves cooperation with the police, emergency services and paramedics. In addition, this year we will work with experts from Switzerland who specialise in stage races and have experience from, for example, the Giro d'Italia. We expect that the Swiss team will help us a lot in securing the entire track," said the organiser.
Returning to Jeseník
The route of the Peace Race, which takes place on 8-11 June, has remained pretty much the same for several years. There is a prologue plus three difficult stages. "According to feedback received, this format is favoured by the participating teams," revealed König. "For both races, we go to Jeseník. It will be tough again, it includes a very demanding climb, but let yourself be surprised."
In the past, future stars of the current elite peloton, such as Pogačar and Allaphillipe, cut their teeth on the Peace Race. Is it still like that? "The top five to ten riders in the final standings usually sign professional contracts with top or second division teams. It's not just about the winner, there are a lot of talents competing in Moravia," he said.
"A number of Czechs have also made their mark. This is logical. There is no better place to show off than at a race on local roads, watched by a number of scouts and managers," explained the race director. "When concluding contracts, performance in the Peace Race is taken into consideration. I know that last year a scout from Bora-Hansgrohe moved between the stages and watched the young riders on the difficult climbs."
The name König still carries weight
In the event organisation, the personal contribution of the former rider, who has a top ten finish in all the Grand Tour events, is significant. His grand tour successes were achieved in unprecedented style, always on his debut. He was ninth on the Vuelta in 2013, a year later he shined with seventh place on the Tour de France, and the following season he finished sixth on the Giro.
His cycling background plays a positive role. "The teams know what I achieved. Thanks to that, the doors are already ajar. I try to use my connections; I know many people personally. When I write to them, they know who is addressing them and try to accommodate me," König said.
"On one hand, it's about communication and finding teams, whilst on the other it also involves choosing routes and determining the direction the races will head from a sporting perspective, and the level of comfort the competitors will enjoy. I strive to make the race as pleasant as possible for them and to provide the best possible conditions," said the former competitor, who triumphed twice in Moravia when the race was known as the Czech Tour.
He intends to improve the quality of the races further. "I have an idea that both young riders and seasoned competitors from elite teams would come here to compete, and they would look forward to returning the following year. We know we are not the Tour de France, but we want to offer challenging and safe races."