The peace race



limerickman

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We're used here to discussing the great cycling tours such as the Tour De France, The Giro, The Vuelta, Tour of Switzerland etc.

On race which doesn't seem to feature much is The Peace Race.
The Peace Race was a 2 week grand tour that developed in countries behind the Iron Curtain. Usually this race, traversed East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Each year the race would begin at the start of May (to coincide with international workers day), and all the top riders from the Eastern bloc as well as amateurs from the West would compete against each other.

A really fascinating read is Herbie Sykes book entitled The Race against the Stasi.
This book tells the story of the Peace Race, East German cycling and the career of Dieter Wiedemann.
Wiedeman was a world class cyclist who defected to West during a very successful career.

What does jump of the page is how popular the Peace Race was among the general public. Sykes books says that the support for the Peace Race was far higher than The Tour De France.
 
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limerickman

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Finished this book last night.

What a read!

The cycling story plays second fiddle to how the East German state was spying on literally every single one of their citizens by using their neighbour to do the state's spying.
 

mpre53

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Maybe it was popular with the general public because the Stasi would be taking note of who wasn't out there cheering for the glory of sport in that workers' paradise known as the DDR. ;)

Even without that, life in the crappiest of the Iron Curtain shitholes was so grim, that the public was grateful for any summertime distraction---while their prosperous cousins on the other side of the Wall were off enjoying their weeks of holiday. Plus, even if you owned a car for a get-away, it was a Trabant. Which might get you 50 kilometers out of town before dying.
 

Corzhens

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Gee, how I love to see that race live. It's not really for the race but for the scenery that those countries could offer. If I would have the opportunity to watch that Peace Race, I may be like a documentarists in covering the race (of course I wouldn't be riding on a bike but in a vehicle). Honestly, this is the first time I've heard of this race. All I know is the Tour de France.
 

mpre53

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Unfortunately, East Germany wasn't the most scenic place in Europe, under the iron fist of Erich Hoenicher. One of the most, if not THE most, true disciples of Stalin in the whole Eastern Bloc. Lots of the destruction wrought during WW II was never repaired.
 

limerickman

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Maybe it was popular with the general public because the Stasi would be taking note of who wasn't out there cheering for the glory of sport in that workers' paradise known as the DDR. ;)

Even without that, life in the crappiest of the Iron Curtain shitholes was so grim, that the public was grateful for any summertime distraction---while their prosperous cousins on the other side of the Wall were off enjoying their weeks of holiday. Plus, even if you owned a car for a get-away, it was a Trabant. Which might get you 50 kilometers out of town before dying.

Trabant's were a health and safety nightmare. When refuelling you literally pumped the fuel directly in to the engine, right beside where all the electrical circuits were in the design. Madness.

But you're dead right about life in East Germany. Literally your next door neighbour could (and probably was) reporting all your movements to the Stasi.
This is what the book emphasises. You had next door neighbouring reporting the comings and goings at the neighbouring house - despite you all being literally in the exact same boat.

GDR was literally a police state.
 

limerickman

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Gee, how I love to see that race live. It's not really for the race but for the scenery that those countries could offer. If I would have the opportunity to watch that Peace Race, I may be like a documentarists in covering the race (of course I wouldn't be riding on a bike but in a vehicle). Honestly, this is the first time I've heard of this race. All I know is the Tour de France.

As far as I know it is still raced.

The idea behind the race was that the Communist authorities in Poland, Czechoslovakia and eventually East Germany wanted to promote a sports concept which would help unify more closely people in those countries living under those regimes. That was the idea.
However, the authorities in those countries also used these races to make political points.
It was important that the local population be seen to be "supportive" of the race - that meant that the citizen had no choice but to be out on the roadside supporting the race when it passed through the local area.
The second thing is that only certain countries from the West were invited to race this race. Those invited had to first prove their amateur credentials before being allowed by the Peace Race organisers to participate.

The authorities in those countries regarded professional cycling as being corrupt - because cyclists won for themselves.
Whereas cyclists from behind the Iron Curtain trained and raced and won for the glory of the state.
State first, individual second.
In reality those cyclists behind the Iron Curtain were professional in all but name, because they had jobs that allowed them to train every single day and the State paid their wages and for their upkeep. Some great riders such as Gustav (Tave) Schur went on to have very successful careers as part of the East German political/social system. If Schur had raced here in the West, I've no doubt that we'd be speaking of him along with the likes of Anquetil etc.
 
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Corzhens

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The idea behind the race was that the Communist authorities in Poland, Czechoslovakia and eventually East Germany wanted to promote a sports concept which would help unify more closely people in those countries living under those regimes. That was the idea.

That's a nice idea - using sports to unify the countries. And cycling is not a contact sport like basketball or soccer so the camaraderie and broherhood is easier to solicit. This reminds me of the Tour of Luzon in the Philippines where the laps ended in provinces. After the race, a banquet is hosted by the mayor of the town or city. It was a good way of bonding for the cyclists. And I also had read that some nights there were singing by those cyclists instead of sleeping in preparation for the next day's race.
 

mpre53

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There was a problem with trying to unify the Poles, Czechs, and Germans---they all hated each other from WW II. The only unity was that their leaders were all Moscow-dictated stooges. Some guy named Dubcek tried to break that mold in 1968, and it ended in front of a column of Soviet tanks rolling into Wenceslas Square in Prague.
 

limerickman

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That's a nice idea - using sports to unify the countries. And cycling is not a contact sport like basketball or soccer so the camaraderie and broherhood is easier to solicit. This reminds me of the Tour of Luzon in the Philippines where the laps ended in provinces. After the race, a banquet is hosted by the mayor of the town or city. It was a good way of bonding for the cyclists. And I also had read that some nights there were singing by those cyclists instead of sleeping in preparation for the next day's race.

Yes, it was good in theory to spread harmony by staging this cycling race.
But as MPR says, the political regimes in East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia were little more than Soviet imposed
regimes. The governments of these countries were Communist. People had no choice when voting because there was only one political party to vote for.

Even though East Germany was Communist at the time, other Communist countries remembered what the German's did during WWII.
 
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solostarr

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We should not be in a hurry in life ever we should not run in order to get something in life at whatever costs. if we ride safely in life it's my guarantee that one will achieve success in his life similarly if we cycle safely and with Peace it won't be more difficult to achieve success like slim body, mental alertness, and a healthy mind to be happy ever in life it;s good that these countries have started the peace race.Be Fit Be Happy and Keep smiling.
 

jimmy484

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The DDR also one of the most highly developed doping programs.

LOL. That was actually my first thought when I saw the words "behind the Iron Curtain". Give them their due though; no-one dopes quite like the communists. It's actually a skill and a science in-and-of itself. That's pretty much what Lance Armstrong said: I never had an unfair advantage.....
 

OursIsTheFury

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That's an interesting concept though, what happens in the back of one of history's greatest divisions, and how a group of people who really have nothing in common with each other would unite for a race just for their love of cycling. East and west, no matter what country you are from, as long as you enjoy cycling, then you can create a bond with complete strangers, a bond that have transcended a major rift between countries at the time. It's truly an amazing accomplishment.
 
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limerickman

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LOL. That was actually my first thought when I saw the words "behind the Iron Curtain". Give them their due though; no-one dopes quite like the communists. It's actually a skill and a science in-and-of itself. That's pretty much what Lance Armstrong said: I never had an unfair advantage.....

You need to look at your own backyard before accusing others of doping.
 

Damien Lee

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Thanks for sharing this info about the Peace Race, as it's the first time I hear about it. It's great to see that cycling is enjoyed in so many diverse parts of the world, and also for a good cause. I've always had some interest in Eastern Europe, in terms of the political developments that took place over there. But have never considered what cycling events are like over there until now.