Mini Tour de Pologne: racing with the stars
Created in 1928, the Tour de Pologne is one of the major sports events in Poland, and has been voted "Best Sport Event of the Year" on four occasions.
But the UCI WorldTour event is by no means reserved exclusively for the world’s Elite. Since 1994 this major historic stage race has also organised competitions for children, allowing them to race on the same day, cross the same finish line and climb onto the same podium as their cycling heroes.
“This way, the kids can experience the race just like the stars of the peloton,” explains Czeslaw Lang, former professional cyclist and organiser of the Tour de Pologne. “It takes place on the final circuit of each stage before the arrival of the UCI WorldTour race. The exception is stage 6 where a mass participation event is organised.”
Since its introduction, the Mini Tour de Pologne has taken off, becoming incredibly popular with budding young cyclists and children just wanting to have a go. Initially there was one category for children aged 9 to 14. From 2014, there are two separate events to ensure everyone has a fair chance: one race for children aged 8-12, with two categories (8-10 and 11-12) and one for 13-14 year olds.
Some 1500 children take part each year, and in some cities the local police organise a training session that focuses on road safety.
Race ambassador is Michał Kwiatkowski, who won the Mini Tour de Pologne in 2004 and is now shining on the roads of the Tour de France. Patron of the ‘Michał Kwiatkowski’s Cycling Academy’, which takes part in Nutella Mini Tour de Pologne, he enjoys spending time with the young participants and answering their questions.
“I want to share my knowledge with them because I know that they have a dream to become a professional rider and I want to make this dream come true,” he says. “The Mini Tour de Pologne will always be in my memory. It was the race which inspired me to train to become a cyclist. Having the possibility to see the professional riders and take part in the event is something really extraordinary for the children.
"At the Nutella Mini Tour de Pologne last year I could see these children had the desire to race and compete. I could see myself a few years ago when I felt the same stress. I like spending time with children. They ask me questions about my previous career, the typical day of a rider, the races etc."
Highlights of the Mini Tour de Pologne are shown everyday on TVP1, the main public TV channel in Poland, just before the children’s programme. With a daily audience of 3 million, this is a great way of identifying Poland’s new talents on two wheels.