Paweł Bernas was everywhere in first ever edition of Great War Remembrance Race (1.1), launching his own attacks, responding to the key ones, getting up after a crash, and pulling away exactly when it mattered the most. After that enormous performance he finished in 2nd place.
Info: August 24th, Nieuwpoort – Ieper, 192,7km
Course: flat, paved with cobbles
Opening kilometers of this Belgian race, which commemorated 100th anniversary of the end of I World War, were fast, lively and exciting. There were multiple breakaway attempts, but for a long time none of them stuck. Finally a strong, 19-man group went clear near the halfway point and it included Paweł Bernas. Kamil Gradek tried to bridge across to his teammate, but eventually he had to call it and return to the pack.
That quality escape, with representatives of most top teams, established a solid lead of over 2 minutes, but the main bunch was not ready to throw the towel.
Bernas didn’t want to make it easy on his opponents either, as he pulled away solo with 37km and quickly opened 30s gap. He was eagerly defending that lead, despite a crash that happened in one of the turns, where his wheel slipped and he fell on the side of the road. He quickly got back on his feet and continued to push hard in the front. Even though he got caught with 19km to go, he still had enough power in his legs, to keep pushing strong in the leading group.
When the decisive attack was launched with 10km, he was exactly where he was supposed to be, showcasing his great ability to “read” races. He went clear alongside Mihkel Raim and Preben Van Hecke and didn’t look back. Together they gained around 20 seconds on the chasers and managed to hold on. Bernas opened the sprint from first position and only Raim could overtake the Pole before the line.
It was very stressful right from the get-go. Cobbles, wind, bergs, gravel and quality field – everything what Belgium has to offer in one event. I knew that I’m in good shape, but I was not sure, how my body will react to another day of racing, since it was my 13th race day in the last three weeks. Legs turned out to be good and I finally had some luck. I got into the decisive breakaway and decided not to wait for others’ moves, knowing that I’m the dark horse in that group – Bernas explained.
To sum it up I can say that I’m very happy with that 2nd place. It’s an unique event, which will remain in the cycling calendar and its prestige will grow with every year, so to have finished it on the podium is a huge honor.
I want to thank my teammates, who helped me early in the race, before the breakaway was established, and for the support I got from the team car.