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Four-time Peace Race winner Ryszard Szurkowski dies at 75

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One of the most successful Polish cyclists of all time, Ryszard Szurkowski, died on Monday at the age of 75.

Szurkowski raced from the 1960s to the 1980s, winning the amateur road race at the 1973 Road World Championships as well as four editions of the Peace Race in the 1970s along the way.

In 1973 and 1975 he was part of Poland's Worlds-winning team time trial team and was twice a silver medallist in the discipline at the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games in Munich and Montreal.

"The loss is huge. A great athlete has passed away and, more importantly, a role model to follow," ex-pro Zenon Jaskuła told Sport.pl

"First, I raced with him and I remember he was a professor on the bike. He always knew when and how to attack. As a trainer, he was very demanding and very reliable."

Szurkowski moved into coaching after retiring, taking over leadership of the Polish national team, winning the 1985 Peace Race with Lech Piasecki and taking silver in the team time trial at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

"He was born too early because he couldn't turn professional like me. Now he's gone too soon," said Jaskuła of Szurkowski, who drew interest from Eddy Merckx's Molteni team during his career.

In 1985, Szurkowski was elected to the Polish parliament, and served as president of the Polish Cycling Federation in 2010. In 2018, a crash during a veteran's race in Cologne left him partially paralysed with spinal cord injuries, and an auction of items donated by Polish sports stars Robert Lewandowski, Kamil Stoch and Agnieszka Radwańska would help him pay the ensuing medical bills.

"He was 73 years old when he rode that unlucky race," Jaskuła said. "Were it not for the accident, he could have lived to 120 – that's how his body was. He led a very healthy lifestyle."

As well as his successes in the Peace Race, World Championships and Olymip Games, Szurkowski was a 12-time Polish national champion and also won 15 stages at the Tour de Pologne, spanning 1968 to 1984. In 1974, he won the Tour du Limousin, and won a stage of the Tour de l'Avenir the same season.

In Britain, he won six stages and two points jerseys at the Milk Race, as well as five stages and the overall at the Scottish Milk Race, and he also found success in such far-flung locales as the 1972 Tour of Bulgaria, 1979 Tour of Egypt, where he won the races outright, and the 1979 Vuelta al Tachira and 1975 GP Québec, where he took stage victories.

Ineos Grenadiers rider Michał Kwiatkowski was among those to pay tribute to Szurkowski, calling him "the best Polish rider of all time" in a post on Twitter. UAE Team Emirates climber Rafał Majka called him a "great man [and] magnificent athlete", while Bora-Hansgrohe's Maciej Bodnar simply called him "the greatest".

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