VeloVeritas didn’t make it down to The Drummond Trophy; Norrie would never forgive us if we didn’t pay some sort of tribute to his famous race.
So it was our pleasure to contact the 2015 winner, Polish Raleigh man, Karol Domagalski to hear his story – it’s a good one.
It’s a long way from the world’s third biggest stage race – the Vuelta a Espana – to Strathaven; but that’s bike racing for you.
Karol rode U23 in Spain for the Caja Rural amateur team, moved up to their pro continental squad and a Vuelta ride.
What’s he doing at The Drummond?
Read on …
Poland has a great cycling tradition; who were the riders you admired as a young rider, Karol?
“I started this adventure with the bike due to my idol Sylvester Szmyd the CCC pro; I admired him for his selfless riding for Basso when they were both with Liquigas.”
Team Azysa U23 in España – why Spain and how did you get the ride?
“After my first year as a U23 spent in Poland I decided to go to Spain.
“Why there? It’s a country with great cycling tradition and there is always beautiful weather.
“Thomas Marczyński the Torku Sekerspor and ex-CCC professional knew the Azysy directors and helped me get the ride.”
Then you got a ride with the Caja Rural amateur squad – you must have had some nice results, tell us about them?
“The last year I spent on the U23 Caja amateur team I started the season badly because of a very bad crash in a race.
“I was treated by the doctors for four months but I did not give up and form finally came.
“In the last two months of the season I won 10 races.
“I did what I wanted in those races – it was an amazing time.
“After those wins the heads of the pro team did many tests on me – including blood tests – and I signed a two year contract with the Caja pro squad.”
How would you describe yourself as a rider?
“I’m a versatile rider.
“I know what’s happening in a race and I can help my leader but I also know how to race as a leader.
“I especially like the small mountain/hills maximum three to five kilometres and feel at home when the cross winds come.
“I never give up – quietly and persistently I strive to do my job.”
Caja Rural – what was it like riding with them?
“Over the three years in the Caja pro squad I gained a lot of experience.
“I rode the biggest races in the world with the best riders in the world.
“It was amazing, a dream come true when I rode the Vuelta a Espana in 2014.
“An amazing race – soo soo long and hard; it was a great three years.”
Where was ‘home’ in Spain – how did the life compare to Poland?
“For the last three years I had two houses – one in Spain in Calpe and in Poland in the Skała near to Kraków.
“Life in Spain is very peaceful and at ease; no one gets too excited if it has to be tomorrow…
“And of course it’s always beautiful weather.
“In Poland, at home there is always something to do; you’re always busy – that’s the difference.”
You rode the Vuelta with Caja Rural; what are your most vivid memories of it?
“Ha ha, I’ll never forget that feeling when you get up on the morning on the 17th stage and your legs just say; ‘stop!’
“Then you have to say; ‘shut up legs!’
“It’s an amazing race with everything organised perfectly. Every day you eat pasta or rice and after each stage, you have massage. That time is the best and most pleasant part of the day!
“In such a long race, anything can happen – you get sick, you can have a crash; you’re 100% focused for 21 days, which is very difficult.”
Why and how did the Raleigh connection come about?
“It’s a long story.
“Caja left me ‘on ice’ and I had no team for a month.
“It was already very late for a deal with a pro continental team so I started searching continental teams.
“Suddenly I got an answer from Cherie Pridham that Raleigh was interested in working with me.”
Are you aware of the team’s great history from the 70’s and 80’s?
“Before signing a contract, I checked the history of the team – it turned out that they were once a great team and rode big races.
“That helped convince me that this was a team for me.”
Did you ever think about trying to get a ride with CCC in Poland?
“Even before the Vuelta a contract with CCC was possible.
“I waited for a long time, thinking that I would extend the contract Caja – but it turned out that Caja left me high and dry and it was too late for CCC …”
Where are you living in England – how does it compare to Espana?
“I live in Derby, a nice city – the weather here is not very good; that’s the only difference.”
Is the calendar not a little light for someone like you coming from a full Spanish/Polish programme?
“As I said earlier; for a good deal with a pro conti team it was too late.
“Now I’m here and I’m fine.
“Cherie has had the chance to see how it is when I am the leader of the team.
“All the time I train hard and try not to forget the level of the UCI HC and World Tour races.
“But we also have a lot of good races here in the UK; Tour of Yorkshire, Tour of Britain, Cicle Classic, Velthon Classic, Beaumont Trophy, Ride London…
“There’s not a big race every week but that’s how it is.”
Tell us about winning The Drummond, please.
“Our tactics were to have as many people up front as possible.
“When I attacked I thought that one of my riders would jump over to me but that didn’t happen and I had to ride for over an hour at my threshold!
“I didn’t know if I could manage it – however, I succeeded and won in good style, solo.”
What did you think of Scotland – and the Scottish riders?
“The weather is a little uncertain for sure!
“In Scotland the races can be really difficult because of the terrain – much of the parcours is over hills.
“In addition to the heavy roads there’s the bad weather – which all makes racing in Scotland a sport for strong riders!
“The local guys are very good – aggressive.”
What are your goals for 2015?
“I want to show that I can win!”