Tour of Croatia 2016 Has Begun: The Start in Osijek

Total Croatia News

The eagerly anticipated second Tour of Croatia began on April 19, 2016 in Osijek. TCN’s James Macdonald was there. 

It has been a year in the making since the last Tour of Croatia happened in 2015. The wait is now over and it all starts this year in Osijek. The world will be watching the race as it will be broadcasted over the Television networks and live streaming on the internet. Total Croatian news was able to meet up with Communications/ Media Manager Mario Dukaric. He said that the races biggest stars have come out and to race. The city of Osijek, sponsors and volunteers have giving great support in helping out with today’s event. There are 21 teams in today’s match and it will be a good race for sprinters towards the finish line. The weather won’t be too much of a problem as it will rain later in the evening.

Who to watch is the key question with the biggest names in the Tour of Croatia. It is important to keep a watch on the favorites like Mark Cavendish who has won in the past 26 stages of Tour De France putting him third on the all-time list. Accomplishing fourth on the all-time list of the Grand Tour winners with forty-four victories. The completion is Sagan Juraj from TNK Tinkoff who also has given a good run for the money
Team Tinkoff in their official site sports director Jan Valach and Ivan Basso said this “We will be taking it stage by stage with the guys here, but we have a strong, balanced team who can score results on the different stages that we have. In Sergio and Jesper we’ve got two climbers for the tougher stages, then for the sprints we have Michael Kolar and Erik Baška. Juraj and Nikolay have been in good condition at the classics, and then Jay has already shown his strength this season.”

It’s 9 am in the morning standing in downtown Osijek watching the race teams get the final gear together and last check on the bikes. The motor Arcade that stands beside Hotel Osijek is alive with action as the mechanics go over the check list. Slowly the crowd builds no sign of a helicopter yet as the media mentioned it would be flying over the cyclist giving a bird’s eye view. The camera crew is on the ground with news feeds back to the station. Barricades start to build around the street down the road to keep spectators back. The one biggest complaint was what happened to the great weather on Monday as today it was cold and damp being beside the River Drava. One last check with the tourist board to see about my press pass. I meet up with Mislav and advises me things have been taken care of and I am to meet up with the press both just around the corner.

When I arrive there I see some familiar faces from yesterday. The center stage was the place to be set up right beside the Starting point. Tour of Croatia host calls up the teams to official sign up and check-in just before the race begins. The cyclist show up ready to go with their game face on as the announcer tries to get them to smile. Each team gets introduced to the media with a applause as their names are called out.

The crowd of spectators and media move towards the starting line. The children are let out of school to get a glimpse of one of the spectacular events happening in their home town. This event has 21 teams riding in the race. The countdown starts with the crowd shouting out the final numbers. Then with just the crowd begins to cheer as the cyclist pass by heading out of the starting line. The media pulls out and starts to run towards the next check point.

This first segment is good way to get the teams physiological ready for the more difficult terrain that is in the coming stages. For cyclist that may have been Altitude training it won’t be too harsh or stressful on the body. The Terrain through Osijek to Varazdin length is 235.1 km with a vertical climb of 120 hm. In Stage 1 the schedule map shows this terrain to be mostly flat, with its quick turns that can catch them off guard. The general comments from cyclist was, they could not really say much about the course as they have not completed it. The question is best left to the end of todays run. The challenges that await them in today race is it belongs to the sprinters in the team because the land is mostly flat. It is predicted that riders will bunch up in Pelton as they will breakaway in the final stages towards Varaždin. The peloton formation of cyclist will save energy in long stretch. How this is accomplished is the group rides in packed tight formation saving up to 40% energy as causes a slipstream reducing wind drag. The formation can react to attacks and maneuver to change in position of team riders with less effort. When it comes time for the sprint the rider from the back jumps to the front to take the lead. The team must work together to perform with precise timing as they attempt to take the lead and hold on to it. The race could be all over as all it takes is a blink losing hold of the lead. In past races as we see time and time again a single rider can dominate through all the segments of the course and in the last segment the underdog surpasses them taking the Jersey home.

Looking at Osijek it is the ideal starting place for Tour of Croatia with so much culture and history dating back over hundreds of years. The Tour of Croatia makes every possible effort to pass as many landmarks throughout the race. The viewers at home and visiting will see the many winding roads the cyclist will venture through as they make their way out of the city.

1) At the starting point the people will see the race begin right beside the landmark of Osijek Cathedral. This is one of many famous churches in Croatia with it Baroque architecture drawing in many tourist to see every year.
2) As we are just a few seconds into the race the tour travels past the  “Croatian National Theater” . The first quick turn is a right, onto the street Hrvastske Republike, the cyclist will ride by “Freedom Square” and “  J. J. Strossmayer University of  Osijek,  Faculty of Philosophy”.
3) Left turn is made onto Stjepana Radica passing the Osijek Market (Tržnica Osijek).
4) Turn right onto Europske Avenu with Vienna Secession Block houses that have maintained their original design for more than a century standing on the opposite side the building of Croatian Chamber of Economy (Hrvatska gospodarska komora). The group rides past the gardens and fountain decated to Strossmayer.
5) With more zig zags and turns they make their way into Tvrđa the Old Town of the city of Osijek. This is the largest, and best preserved ensemble of Baroque buildings in Croatia and consists of a Habsburg star fort built on the right bank of the River Drava.
6) The next turn loops its way back through the downtown passing the most recent built office tower with mirror glass called “Eurodom”.
7) Then the most significant Castle Pejačević (Dvorac Pejačević) that dates centurys ago from past empires dating back approx. 1796.

Once out of the downtown core and headed along Strossmayera it kicks into a long straight away through Visnjevac. Visnjevac children and adults are outside ready to cheer on the Cycling teams as they race by. The next towns they are going to pass through are Koprivnica, Ludbreg, and finally Varazdin were this will be the most challenging journey. Many cyclist agree and is often said there is no better way to see Croatia than on a bike.

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