Chicken soup for breakfast and a rest day outing to Auschwitz? Welcome to the Peace Race.
Ivy CC stalwart Ken Clark took time to talk to VeloVeritas, and our resident Peace Race expert Ivan, about what it was like to ride the ‘Communist Tour de France.’
When did you ride it, Ken?
“For GB in 1985, I was 29 and riding domestically for the Ivy – I’ve been a member since I was 16.”
How did you gain selection?
“I rode a good TTT for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982; we narrowly missed bronze.
“On the strength of that I got a try out with the GB TTT squad.
“I heard later the team manager, Jim Henry had told the strongmen, Elliott and Waugh to make it hard on the hills to see what the new boys were made of.
“I could get up the climbs OK if I was in good condition so I coped with it without too much bother.
“I rode the Giro di Regione in ’83, and: rode strongly in the ’85 Health race. I also put up some strong showings in Denmark.
“I was first reserve for the Olympic TTT in ’84 – I was even measured for the suit – but didn’t go.”
Did you work full time; how did you prepare for it?
“I’ve always worked full time; I’d spoken to John (Clanky) Clark about it and he’d told me that it was a huge race.
“I upped my training and rode in England to get quality racing – events like the Pernod and Cotswolds.”
How was the organisation?
“Some aspects were terrible.
“For one of the transfers, each team had a bus – but three or four of them broke down; many of the hotels were shocking, there was one day we got chicken soup for breakfast; the food was terrible, lots of cabbage, and in Moscow the beer was undrinkable.
“But on the other hand, we were given new Barum tubulars at the start, all your race food was supplied, your washing was done for you and after each stage there was a young chaperone to put a blanket round you, give you hot tea and look after your bike.”
How about the roads?
“There were cobbles, tram lines, railway lines and 20% climbs on cobbles.
“If it was wet you had to make sure that you crossed the tram or railway lines at right angles or you were down.
“That said, I went the whole race with just one puncture.
“But the Swiss guys – who were riding the first of the ‘clincher’ tyres – at the first rail crossing we encountered, all six of them punctured at once!”
What were the parcours like?
“There was a bit of everything, average stage distance was around 120 miles; there were days when we rode past the coal mines in Poland and finished the stage looking like miners ourselves.
“But there were other days in the south of Poland, in the mountains where it was beautiful – like the Swiss Alps.
“It was actually Prague-Moscow-Prague-Warsaw-Berlin that year; 13 stages, 1712 kilometres with one rest day and an average speed of 43 kph.”