This year’s Gracia Orlova team included Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, as well as Austria, Sweden, Lithuania, Belgium, Estonia and Austria. Competitors from the world tour teams did not participate, as at the same time in Luxembourg was held another stage competition – the Elsa Jacobs Ceratitit Festival.
Atom Deweloper Posciellux.pl Wrocław’s next starts include the Polish Cups – Zamość and Gostyń and the Belgian classic GP Eco-Struct (UCI category 1.1).
Interview with Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka
Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka, rival of Atom Deweloper Posciellux.pl Wroclaw, winner of the 34th edition of Gracia-Orlová.
Did you think that this would be the end of the race, or did you decide to do so?
Yes, that was the plan. I really wanted to win this race, I was very motivated. I felt good from the first stage. Tiredness was increasing day by day, but I was not the only one who felt it! (smile). Fortunately, we had a great race for this race and it turned out that Paulina and Paul had a very strong team, a specific goal and a good strategy. [Bentkowskich – przyp. red.]. We did our best, we were a team, you see in this race. And we won, so I’m very happy!Did a well-functioning winter work?
Cross-country skiing, skiing training, training camps in Croatia, especially in Livignio, where I worked hard, brought a lot. I think all this has led to such a good result.
We watched the course of the competition, watched the results, read your comments. But tell me, from the inside, from your prism, did the separate stages look like this?
At first, it was very fast and strong from the start, there was no idle, light walking at all. It was always going on. At the end of the first stage, the girls perfected me so that I could start the last climb from the front. I started sharply 300 meters before the finish line, but instead of going to the finish line, I made a mistake on the route (laughs). In spite of everything, I managed to climb to the top and win the stage, passing Jenny Rissveds just before the finish line.
On the second day we had a heavy ascent to the Pustevny pass. I wanted to go there seriously and get out of the peloton, but I listened to Paul [Bentkowskiego, dyrektora sportowego – przyp. red.]advised to wait for a larger group to arrive. From there, there is still 70 km to the finish line. We were left alone with Dominica at the summit, and soon Monica and a few other players appeared. While driving as a group, I was able to keep my strength to the finish line, which I took second place.
I did my best during the test, so I took back the leader’s uniform. Although I hoped that the situation would be clarified in the general classification, it did not happen. So, I started the afternoon stage with a slight time difference from my direct competitors. The race was nervous – many curves, narrow streets, peloton stretched. However, our girls were in control of the race, so I started quietly, even though I was running the race. We didn’t have a good position until the final, the opponents were able to close us, I even thought that nothing could be done, but then I saw a Swedish woman coming out of the bushes (laughs). His chain broke and he fell. I used this moment to make bonuses for at least some time. As a result, I won and “Doma” [Dominika Włodarczyk – przyp. red.] there were two. It was also important for us that our sponsor, Mr. Władysław Piszczałka, appeared in the competition that day, and I think we gave him a wonderful gift.
This calmed us down a bit, but the advantage still didn’t matter, so the speculation for the final stage was a fight for bonuses, if you can’t get on the stage podium, to win another 5 seconds. The girls distributed me for two bonuses, the second was a break we went with two players from the Dominican and Swedish national teams. Including Jenny, who finally decided to go alone. I looked at her, but she waved to tear me apart, so I asked the girls for support. Before the summit, they took me to the finish line and we won both this stage and the whole race!
Did Jenny Rissveds surprise you? He had an excellent race in this race.
I was most surprised in the second stage, because I did not expect him to take such a step to the finish. However, it comes from MTB, so it can drive such a short jump in a rigid and dynamic way. He is very strong in general, I am glad that I was able to compete directly with the best player in the world.
You competed in stage competitions, this is not your first experience with such a competition. How do you assess Gracia-Orlová in terms of difficulty?
There was something to go. The stages were conducted in a mountainous area, with the exception of timing. The climbs were short but stiff, so they got on their feet. It was not easy from the first day, but I can say about him that he was the lightest. The second was already very heavy, and Pustevny and the subsequent climbs made themselves felt. Saturday afternoon was the worst for me, my legs were empty after a time test, so the first rounds were very difficult for me, but then I gave up and performed well.
You also have to remember that we all want to show ourselves in a race like Gracia-Orlová. When world tour teams compete with title riders, the competition is more predictable, but also calmer, and you can tell if the cards are distributed correctly. Each of us could be a black horse of the race here, there was no clear favorite, it was not known what to expect from individual teams, we were all looking for a chance. This intensified the competition.
Your coach, Paulina Brzeźna-Bentkowska, said that you went like a real professional team – you fulfilled your expectations perfectly and reacted to the situation in the peloton.
I was very impressed with our ride. We all understood why we were there, what we had to do, and what goal we wanted to achieve together. One signal was enough for us to immediately change tactics, to cancel the race, to control the race. As a team leader in this race, I got a lot of support from the girls. Not only when he took me to the finish line, but also when he told me that my legs were heavy. I heard: “It hurts everyone, but you are strong, you can do it!” It motivates you and gives you wings.
Where will you compete in the near future?
In less than a week we will drive the classic GP Eco-Struct in Belgium, and then I will go to two races in France with the Polish team.
What are your most important starts this season?
The Polish championship will undoubtedly be the most important, but I would like to show myself in other competitions. I also target the European and world championships, especially the last one, because I like the route very much. I hope we have a good race in Australia.