Iquite often get into discussion­s with older riders about the changes in profession­al cycling that have happened over the last years. It’s always nice to get them going on the stories about a peloton that seems a world away from the one I live in today, and it leaves a funny image in my head of a very controlled game that was only sometimes hard, with a rockstar lifestyle and a whole book of unwritten rules. However, this last week I got a small taste of all that.

I’ve just finished the Tour de Pologne, a week-long race with a few of those long transition sprint stages that have become unpopular these days. In the first three days we racked up at least 650km and I must admit that it doesn’t bother me too much that we don’t see these long boring stages too often. In times of old they did them but they would also spend much of the day chatting with whoever they found themselves riding next to. However, now with the increased pace and importance of keeping the legs for the sprint, we spent most of each day in one long line, dodging potholes.

There were a few more hints to the cycling of old too. People often talk about the role of the TV motorbikes and helicopter having an impact on the race to help the home riders, which probably happens a bit everywhere, but on the flat we’ve found ourselves accelerati­ng up to 65km/h after a corner, and once you can take a breather you look up to see a moto five metres in front of whoever is pulling and the helicopter directly behind the peloton. There’s the start of the race too, and it’s normal that the road is blocked once people are happy with the break that’s gone, but here it happens pretty fast and just has very much a group-discussion feel to it. Like, everyone sees a rider attack and depending on who it is, everyone gives a yes or a no. When 20 big guys are in the front and have all collective­ly said yes, broad shoulders are used to discourage further chaos. This kind of collective thinking carries on through the race, and it goes from one extreme to another quickly.

You go from really easy to super-fast, from relaxed chatting and being told off for braking too much to bumping handlebars, crashes and hanging on for dear life. I’m not complainin­g about this, there isn’t really bullying going on as some people like to call it, it’s more the fact that we’re all profession­als and have common interests in terms of race events. It doesn’t make it short on drama either because it’s an incredible final hour once you’re there. I’m just disappoint­ed that the rockstar lifestyle bit didn’t come into it, all I had was watching James Bond movies with Ryan Mullen until late to compensate for the late starts.

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