The Polish Affair
Go behind-the-scenes with us as we delve into the untold stories of our maiden season. The black and white B-roll Series lifts the veil on episodes – bittersweet, inspiring, funny – from the road that seldom get shared. This is the B-roll story from Stage 4 of the 2023 Tour de Pologne.
30 November 2023. Words and photos by Eva Tome.
It was August 1st and the team arrived in the small but quaint town of Strzelin for the start of Stage 4 of Tour de Pologne. Anticipation hung in the air, fueled not only by the promise of a sprint showdown but also the formidable gales that whispered challenges to both riders and staff. This marked the midpoint of our final WorldTour stage-race of the season, and the lofty dreams we harbored were yet to take tangible form.
Matteo Moschetti held the key to those dreams. A silent understanding pervaded the atmosphere, suggesting that today might be the day – a day to unleash Moschetti’s speed upon the world. His lead-out train, charged with a razor-sharp focus, echoed this sentiment. Crafted by the strategic minds of Sports Directors Gabrielle Missaglia and Piotr Wadecki, the game plan exuded an aura of unwavering certainty. The route, a prophetic. Morale, soaring. The riders, ready for the impending battle.
In the realm of cycling, success rarely ambushes; it’s a direct consequence of meticulous preparation, boundless motivation, and flawless teamwork. No room exists for error or hesitation. Our plan: shield Matteo throughout the day, a mission that demanded constant wind protection, impeccable positioning, and proactive anticipation of potential pitfalls.
Yet, even in the prelude to the stage, hurdles materialized in the neutral section. Not one, not two, but three of our riders grappled with mechanical issues, including Matteo himself. With calm resolve, they all rejoined the peloton before the official start, thanks to swift bike changes facilitated by our mechanic Edgar Coso.
The stage unfolded like a Chopin sonata, tugging at our heartstrings. The initial 30 kilometers were a devoted quest to restore Matteo Moschetti, alongside the Polish duo of Kamil Malecki and Szymon Sajnok, to their first race bikes. This mission was accomplished just in time for the impending crosswind sectors.
Just as our racing pulses were quieting, disaster struck on a crucial cobbled stretch with both Matteo and Szymon falling victim to untimely punctures. DS Piotr Wadecki, behind the wheel of race car 1, skilfully navigated the race convoy like a pinball wizard, weaving through other team cars and cyclists dealing with their own unfortunate punctures. Providing support within the race became a race in itself, a heart-pounding pursuit that demanded nerves of steel.
Chaos ensued as the race radio announced that the crosswinds had shattered the peloton into fragments. However, Moschetti displayed unwavering composure. Three bike changes and two punctures later, he persistently fought his way back to the main bunch. Eating into his reserves, generously showering the Polish countryside with precious watts.
“What is happening today?!” – Wadecki thought out loud, echoing the shocked angst of everyone in the race car.
Eventually, the wind died down and a concerted effort from various teams brought the groups back together and the projected bunch sprint in Opole was back on the cards. A three rider breakaway rode the front but the narrow gap of one minuted spelled a cloak of certainty that the trio was doomed. Yet they pushed forward, taking turns towards a palpable fate.
Carl Fredrik Hagen put in a diligent effort at the front of the peloton, keeping the break in check for over 50 kilometers. Taking the wind exacts its toll, a challenge sometimes more daunting than scaling double-gradient climbs. Used to shining on the mountainous terrain, Hagen morphed into a rouleur for the day.
With 25 kilometers to the finish line, the seconds between the breakaway and the peloton dwindled to a mere 20. The game of cat and mouse entered its final act. Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team, a silvery presence in the galloping bunch, surged forward with renewed energy, as the last breakaway survivor was caught.
As the peloton organized into color-coded blocks, various teams assembled their troops at the frontline. Ineos, Jayco Alula, Human Powered Health secured premium real estate, while our team adopted a more conservative position, keeping the powder dry for the crucial moments ahead.
The final surge to the front occurred with 3 kilometers to go, led by the towering figure of Swede Tobias Ludvigsson. A mad 1-kilometer effort followed before Kiwi Jack Bauer took the reins. With 500 meters to go, local talent Szymon ushered Matteo, strategically positioned behind his wheel.
The finish line loomed, both tantalisingly near and deceptively far. Too near to abdicate the front positions and too far to launch a lead-out. A rider from Alpecin-Deceuninck offered some reprieve to Szymon who, like a human furnace, kept going until the final right-hand corner, with 500mts to go. Matteo, fifth wheel heading into the decisive turn, encountered a momentary setback as a light touch of the brakes forced him wide. Undeterred, he battled on, passing riders to secure a hard-fought third place on the line.
Although victory eluded him, Matteo refused to yield. The result sheet would display a podium finish, not the coveted win, but the true story of Stage 4 at the Tour de Pologne transcended the finish line photo. It spoke of self-belief, resilience, teamwork, and the ability to turn setbacks into triumphs.
As Matteo unclipped in front of his soigneur, a blend of frustration and heat radiated from his exhausted limbs. Despite the disappointment, he directed words of gratitude to each of his teammates, who arrived one by one, depleted from the day’s effort. He understood the sacrifices made for him and yearned to reward them with a victory roar. This time, it wasn’t to be.
The result sheet may reflect a third-place finish, but the real story of Stage 4 at the Tour de Pologne is one of unwavering determination and the ability to transform misfortune into fortune. It’s a victory that requires no champagne – a triumph of the spirit that resonates far beyond the podium.