The second part of my Aussie blog will be more about people rather than my performances. I have over-analyzed the World Final already and it’s time to put it into bed. It’s old news anyway. Instead I would like to write about something that is a big part of my career, either in positive or negative terms.
On a warm and sunny Sunday, the day after the World Final, Findon was the center of Cycle Speedway World. The World Cup is the most prestigious event in any Tour schedule, and I was glad to see it being the last event of this Tour. It could be more strategically timed, as having it in the afternoon rather than in the evening has taken that special “floodlight effect” out of it, and the atmosphere was a bit subdued. It was done, so we could have a proper farewell party afterwards, which is understandable.
The World Cup format had changed over the years. It was evolving as more countries were joining in, and some were dropping. To be fair, every Championships we have seen ran over different programme, but since America we have had it over 16 heats with just four top teams in it. To me this is the best way of deciding who the best team in the World is. In the past the 32 heat formula was simply boring and even people in the pits could not see where teams were in terms of lead and points, let alone people in the stands.
Happy to be in the team, I was put in the first race, and got jumped on by Ty Geertsen straight out of the start. Much to my surprise I have to say. I don’t think I was properly focused that day. After some controversies and a near walk out, we have started dominating the event. Couple of clever rides and we were quite comfortable. Again some stunning rides from Marcin and the rest of the boys. My fortunes had turned too and three rides to go we were the World Cup winners, no matter what, being 13 points up. I could afford an exclusion for an alleged legging in my last race.
It was so good to have that World Cup back again. I remember last time we had it in Czestochowa in 2007. With the core of the team still the same, the Wroclaw trio of myself, Marcin and Maciej still pulling it, it was very similar setting to that time back in Poland. The only difference being, I am now on the wrong side of 30. It was potentially my last chance of having that trophy in my hands. I have to say that the team spirit was a lot better than in the past. I don’t know if it was for the excellence of performance or just down to good Aussie weather. Teams were getting on and the trophies were flowing. It was very much in contrast to last year’s Europeans in Ipswich where we just did not gel at all and we have lost that Euro Cup in the pits, in my opinion.
Cycle Speedway is a specific sport. With it being such a small and “closed shop” environment, frictions always appear. The social media and internet is great for developing, but if misused is also a quick way to ruin things. Training and sacrifices make riders very fragile. It is almost like living an illusion. We are all trying to big this sport up to make ourselves look better, more important, a bigger fish. We all believe that the bike we ride is an absolute best; riders agree, then disagree,; we gain supporters, they switch sides. It is a constant battle, on and off the track.
I had my own battle.
The battle I have been fighting for almost half a decade. I must say I can’t remember where it all started. It had finished at George’s and Asia’s farewell party and I am glad we can all turn the page. It is easy to say that the Wroclaw three would have combined the most medals and appearances for Poland in our sport’s almost 20 year history. Once best friends we didn’t share a word for at least last 5 years, even when wearing red and white. Pride, jealousy, stubbornness. It was in the back of my mind every time a big event was coming closer. I have to say sometimes it gave me that extra motivation at training. I always have somebody in front of me when training. At the beginning of my riding in the UK it was Dave Hemsley, then Damian Wozny, Maciej Ganczarek but most often I was chasing Marcin. Every rainy day I kept saying to myself, “I bet he would have gone training today” it was like a constant psychological battle with an imaginary opponent. It’s fine when it works and when it doesn’t hurt anybody. But with people turning nasty online and riders taking sides, it just went out of hand. I have said some things, a long time ago, and it was never forgotten. What one see as harmless comments, others can take offense to. I always thought there were people interested in the feud to go on, for their own benefit, so it went on for much longer than it should. I have made attempts to bury the hatchet at the 2009 tour, but the circumstances weren’t great. The tour went unexpectedly bad for the Leszno riders and it was the start of the Torun v Leszno spat. It then went on as I have joined the Torun club.
From being school mates, team partners and country leaders we were reduced to enemies. Poland suffered its consequences in the 2009 WC and the mentioned Euros last year. Team spirit wasn’t there at all and riders were split into two groups. 2013 was the first year we were a team and were pulling together. I have to say that a lot of it is thanks to Pawel Cegielski. His appointment as a junior team manager have elevated his status as a man in charge and his approach remained very professional throughout the whole tour. I really hope it will end the much overblown divide in the Polish sport. As for me, Marcin and Maciej – we have had words. It wasn’t the easiest conversation but we all have ended in the lake in the middle of a drunken night… much like when me and Marcin were teenagers, going on holidays together. I think we’ll be fine. There is some positive news from Wroclaw, where we all come from. A group of enthusiasts have started training and racing challenge matches. It’s not too late to have a team together…
As for now, my Polska days are over. Good times.