Peace Race (Friedensfahrt, Závod míru, Course de la Paix, ...)
Although the Peace Race used to be burdened with a lot ideological ballast, it
managed to establish itself as the most important and the most difficult amateur
cycling competition of the time. And it had definitely also contributed a little bit to that
I like cycling (but it had not inspired me strong enough to take part in a similar race,
just the desire to do long-distance cycling). In the last decade or two, I have not been following its fate at all,
and only recently have I found that, after shedding its ideological component, it has survived till present.
Last month (May 1998) its 51st
edition has been held, leading from Poznan in Poland to Erfurt in Germany
(till 1980's, the race always led through all three capitals Warsaw, Prague
and Berlin, starting in one of them and ending in another one. The order of
the cities was rotating. So the race was also known as PWB, WPB, BPW, etc.).
It's survival was apparently to a large extent due to the now 67-year-old
Gustav Adolf Schur, who won
the race twice in 1950's, and whose name was the only one of the winners that I remembered
until now without having to refresh my memory, so he must had been really popular in his time.
In any case, East Germans were the ones who were the most crazy about this race
of the three organizing countries. Even now, most of the information I found about the race
on the Web, was in German. After successfully completing the organization of this year's race, Schur is
apparently thinking about switching
to politics (again - he used to be a deputy in the East German "parliament" for 32 years)!
Some history behind the Peace Race can be found in this
German article commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Friedensfahrt (it started as
a Czech-Polish race and East Germans were invited to join later in 1950, and only then one
apparently started to call it the Peace Race - Schur is said to talk still
today about the guilt he felt when arriving in the war-destroyed Warsaw in 1952, and how he and
his team wanted to show the Polish and the Czechs and Slovaks a picture of new peaceful Germany).
Apparently, the better traditions of the Peace Race do continue. I found two
mentions of two different Junior Peace Races organized for juniors or kids to instill in them
the love to cycling, one in Terezín,
Czech Republic (a real five-day junior race), and the other in Jena,
Germany (a family sports fest).