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