Local Tobiasz Kulikowski wins the inaugural GFNY Polska Gdynia
The sunny Gdynia and amazingly green hills and forests of the Kashubia region in the north of Poland proved to be a perfect scenery for the inaugural GFNY Polska – the opening race in the 2018/2019 calendar of GFNY cycling marathon series. In an exciting sprint finish, local rider Tobiasz Kulikowski topped his breakaway companions – Nestor Salinas (CHI) and Szymon Kufel (POL) – to claim the victory on the famous Kosciuszko Square.
With the toughest climb starting just 10 km into the race, a leading group of 27 riders made it to the first checkpoint at 20 km in 33:08, followed by a chasing pack riding 50 seconds behind. The leading peloton continued to expand their lead reaching 37 km mark in 59:24, nearly two minutes ahead of the second group.
As expected, the rolling hills of Kashubia proved to be selective and encouraged breakaway efforts. Shortly after 50 km Matthias Van Aken of Belgium decided to try his luck, followed by another three riders – Nestor Salinas, Tobiasz Kulikowski and Szymon Kufel, forming a breakaway group that was meant to make it to the finish.
- The beginning of the race was quite calm. However, when Van Aken broke away and we lost him from our sight, I knew it was time to speed up. The other two guys joined me, we managed to catch him and continued in a group of four – said Szymon Kufel, who won the Red Bull featured climb on 86 km.
After riding down back to the city, Van Aken was the first to struggle to keep the pace and started to lose distance to the leading three.
- It was the three of us and I started to feel cramps in my legs. I knew I couldn't win the sprint finish so my only chance was to attack a bit earlier. Unfortunately, I was not able to fight off their counterattack – said Kufel, who eventually finished third.
In a close sprint finish, Tobiasz Kulikowski topped Nestor Salinas, crossing the line in 3:28:30. For Salinas, it's another GFNY podium performance, after he finished second at GFNY Chile 2017.
Women's race was dominated by two Eastern European riders – Viktoria Bolshakova (RUS) and Svitlana Chebanenko (UKR) who took an early lead and was already 3,5 minutes ahead of their rivals at 37 km. Bolshakova broke away from her companion in the second part of the race and constantly building up her lead. She was 7 minutes ahead at the 114 km mark and eventually finished on the Kosciuszko Square in 3:40:20. Chebanenko held the second place followed by the best Polish female rider, Monika Sawa, Decathlon Strong Team.
A total of 175 riders finished the gran fondo distance (134 km) of the GFNY Polska Gdynia. Another 150 cyclists took part in a non-competitive medio fondo race on a shorter – 80 km - distance.
Lidia and Ulrich Fluhme, the founder of GFNY World series and organizers of the GFNY World Championship in New York, visited the race and rode the medio fondo distance:
- Gdynia is a fantastic location for a GFNY race. The course is beautiful and safe, because it's fully closed-to-traffic. Green forests, rolling hills, lots of people cheering you on in the countryside and the sunny weather we had on race day, what else do you need? We expect this race to grow strongly in the coming years. We are more than happy to have Gdynia on the global GFNY event map – said Lidia Fluhme.
The inaugural GFNY Gdynia also featured the GFNY Kids races for children aged 5-12. Zenon Jaskula, race ambassador and former pro cyclist who finished third in Tour de France 1993, commented on the event:
- I cannot be happier to see these young people enjoying cycling. These are our future champions, another generation of Polish cyclists. Once, it was Czesław Lang, myself, then Piotr Wadecki who also raced GFNY Gdynia today. Now, we are proud to see Michał Kwiatkowski and Rafał Majka in the elite peloton. Hopefully, one of those kids will write another chapter in the history of Polish cycling.
More information: www.gfnypolska.com
Photos and videos to follow soon: www.facebook.com/gfnygdynia
More about GFNY: www.gfny.com