Where there's a Pole, there's a goal...

News feature, December 2, 2005

Reviewing the Polish mountain-bike team with Andrzej Piatek

Andrzej Piatek, manager of Lotto Cycling Team, Poland's national mountain bike team, has brought a season of success to Polish cycling. In 2005, his athletes earned Polish national, European and world championship medals. Tomek Piechal sat with Piatek for a talk about the season and his plans for the future of Polish mountain biking.

Cyclingnews: Do you consider 2005 a successful year?

Andrzej Piatek: After four years of very exhausting training leading up to the [Athens] Olympic Games, we decided to rest a little bit in 2005. But we still wanted to get some more experience so it was a year of experiments for us. We focused mostly on the championships and won four medals during European championships and one during world championships. So yes, I would consider it a successful year.

CN: Would you say that the two medals Maja Wloszczowska earned this year confirm her position among mountain biking's world elite?

AP:I think Maja had the best season in her whole life. She came second in both the World and European Championships. She also placed well in her other races and as a result of her hard work, she also represented Poland during the world road championships in Madrid as well. Yes, I think she confirmed that she is the one of the best cross-country racers in the world.

CN: Aleksandra Dawidowicz, a junior cyclist on the Lotto Team, had a successful year as well - a gold medal in Polish national championships time trial and the silver medal during European MTB championships.

AP:Ola is very versatile. She is good in cross-country but also races on the road. And in 2005, she confirmed that she could also fight on the track. Maybe during the Olympic Games in Beijing she'll take part in both MTB and road race but time will tell what we need to focus her on in the next two years.

CN: We can't forget of Anna Szafraniec [polish road champion] and Magda Sadlecka [who unexpectedly won the senior Polish MTB Championships in Olsztyn], who both had rough seasons. How can that be explained?

AP:Their results were connected with my experiments with their training. I tried some new methods that unfortunately didn't work. But it was the best time for experiments, wasn't it? It wasn't so bad with Magda, who won Polish championships and placed seventh during the European Championships. For Ania though, it was a bad year for sure. I'm to blame for everything.

CN: Twenty-four year old Dariusz Batek, in his first year among the senior class, came second at the Polish MTB championships; the most unexpected result in your group. In fact, he was defeated only by Marek Galinskim, Poland's best mountain biker... will he become a kind of saviour for Polish cycling?

AP:Last autumn, I examined over two hundred riders from all over the whole country. The examinations said that Darek is a competitor with the right kind of skills to achieve great results in international competition. As a U-23 his first year, he took twelfth at the world championships, won the Polish U-23 Championship and placed second in the elite championship category. These results make me optimistic about his future. By winning the Polish road championships he showed he's also a road racer.

Will he become a saviour for male mountain biking in Poland? The truth is that we don't have cyclists who could stand and fight among international contestants in the elite category right now. I hope that Darek Batek, Kryspin Pyrgies and Pawel Szpila will match up to Marek and will get the amount of international points that will let us take the maximum number of riders to the Olympics. Maybe someone else will join them...

CN: Will you change anything in your group next year?

AP:I'm satisfied with all the riders. I'm satisfied with their commitment to training and the results we've seen so far. That atmosphere is half of what we need for success so I won't be taking any big chances in changes in the team.

CN: Tell me about the race for [UCI] points.

AP:It will be the same situation as before the Olympic Games in Athens. The combined total UCI points our riders earn during the season will decide the number of racers we can send to the Games. The countries with the highest three places in general classification at the end of 2007 will have a chance to send three participants to Beijing. We need to present a very high level of cycling from March till October in 2006 and again in 2007.

CN: Which events will be most important?

AP:We can collect the most points at the mountain-bike world championships in New Zealand. World Cups and continental championships are also important. We can also collect points in Poland at the national championship and the MTB Grand Prix. We think about all these tournaments very seriously.

CN: Isn't it a kind of impediment for cyclists to start chasing qualification three years before the Olympic Games?

AP:If we want to fight for the place in first three, we need to take four women and four men on each event where points matter. There's a huge cost to do this [these events will take place in such places as Curacao, Holland, Canada].

CN: Where and when do our mountain bikers start their preparations?

AP:We'll start in January in Zakopane with a general training camp. We'll ski, work out in the gym, swim and ride. We'll go to Tenerife in February then to Sierra Nevada to start racing in April.

CN: How will you manage to get your athletes to New Zealand for world championships healthy and rested [a thirty-hour plane trip]?

AP:The main problem is the change of time zone - we don't have to deal with altitude – so we'll fly to New Zealand ten days before the team race, the first race of the championships. Another challenge will be knowing the course. To be well prepared, we need to know the route. Without being able to go there beforehand, I want to find out everything I can.

CN: My last question – how do the training and diet of your cyclists change during the winter holiday? Will you hold them to weight limits, for example?

AP:They know that they can't get too fat because it will be hard to loose weight later. They can eat whatever they want during this period of course but they still should control it. Their weight shouldn't increase more than three to four kilograms.

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