Eastern Europe has an abundance of quality races such as Bike Maraton Jelenia Gora. MarathonMTB are big fans of the racing here, it's about time the delights of racing in Poland and Czech Republic where better known. Technical testing trails, nice scenery, slick organisation, easy to use website stocked with essential information, well-marked courses, good hotels and local infrastructure are all key attributes in determining a successful race. Several organisers in Poland and Czech Republic know how to put all these things together, there's a good choice of one day races and stage races.
Bike Maraton have a series of 12 events with the Jelenia Gora round also holding UCI World Marathon Series status. The race organiser also hosts the Jelenia Gora Trophy Maja Wloszczowska UCI cross country race the day before the marathon, another opportunity for riders to double up racing success and enjoyment. The races pulled in some top riders including Jolanda Neff, European XC Champion and World Marathon Champion.
Jelenia Gora is an attractive place for lovers of tourism and active leisure. The town and its surroundings are excellent areas for hiking, winter sports, and biking. We arrived a few days early so had the opportunity to practise the course and enjoy the delights of breakfast at the official race hotel - Osada Sniezka, oh the pancakes! There are 3 routes on offer with the UCI race tackling 87 kilometres and 2600 metres of ascent. A real mountain bike course with lots of steep climbing and technical descents. The trails used in the race are a mix of loamy loose singletrack and wider tracks with natural rock gardens aplenty. The climbs are occasionally on trails but usually on gravel roads except when they get so steep they have be tarmac so the huge logging trucks can get traction! Some of the descents are super technical, a full suspension bike and dropper seatpost would definitely help many riders future performance on this course. I actually opted for my Simplon Razorblade hardtail, the lighter weight and stiffness would help me on the climbs which is where I was more likely to lose time.
The marathon race began in the pedestrianised old part of Jelenia Gora, the town square was awash with colourful lycra and crowds of supporters. With a police escort we stormed out of town towards the hills. The JBG2 team were here on mass and swamped the front of the race with riders like Hans Becking, Thomas Litscer, last year's winner Sebastien Carabin and myself joining them. Jolanda Neff and Michalina Ziolkowska quickly gapped the rest of the women’s field.
Adrian Brzozka from JBG2 attacked before the 32km timing point and gapped the next group of half a dozen chasers. I was sat comfortably in that chase group, on track to achieve my objectives until a broken gear cable ended my chance of glory, my string of bad luck continues. After a long walk to the feed zone and slow fix I was almost 30 minutes down on that chase group I’d been with. I rode on though determined to enjoy the amazing trails on offer, using it as a training experience. I’ll continue to strive for that result at the next opportunity.
Adrian Brzokzka would hold on for the win ahead of JBG2 teammates Mariusz Michalek and Piotr Brzozka. In the women’s the World Champion Jolanda Neff took the win ahead of Michalina Ziolkowska and Karolina Sowa.
A huge storm rolled into Jelenia Gora just as the race leaders finished but the heavy rain wasn’t enough to dampen the race experience. A big weekend of UCI racing went down in Eastern Europe and it’s a weekend you need to add to the diary for 2018.