The opening stage the 2014 Tour of Poland ended calamitously after a freak storm blew in. Words by Micky McMahon

It’s well known that crashes are part and parcel of bike racing, but when the riders rolled out of Gdansk last year for the opening stage of the 71st Tour of Poland, few could have imagined the chaos that would unfold during the 226km to Bydgoszcz.

Temperatures at the start reached 35ºC, but it was not only the heat that the riders had to contend with. With 50km to go, a freak storm wreaked havoc on the race, with rain, hail and gale force winds battering the peloton.


Awful conditions 


With sudden gusts, fallen trees, broken branches and slickened roads, just staying upright on the bike proved a challenge.

Janez Brajkovic after a crash on the 2014 Tour of Poland_Graham Watson_2

Many riders in the bunch (including Janez Brajkovic, above) succumbed to mass spills amid the detritus while, up front, with 20km remaining, the entire four-man breakaway slid off on a slippery left hander.

>>> Seven simple steps to be a successful cyclist

Although they all quickly remounted, it scuppered their chances of staying away.


Who made the cut? 


The sprinters’ teams — splintered and with notable absences as a result of the crashes — swept up the remaining three riders in the final kilometre.

>>> How to ride in the wind

But the chaos wasn’t over yet: as Giant-Shimano’s Luka Mezgec touched a wheel and was sent hurtling into the barriers, leaving Ag2r La Mondiale’s Yauheni Hutarovich to take the victory.

Miraculously, given the carnage, only five riders abandoned the race that day, but the bandages on display at the start of stage two were testament to just how trying the conditions had been.