May 12, 2014
4X ProTour 2014 – Round 1 – Szczawno Zdroj, Poland
This is it. The countdown is over and the 2014 4X ProTour has started. Riders have been training hard and all the organisers have been preparing the events to make sure the 2014 4X ProTour is the best season yet. 7 rounds of gold and silver events will determine the overall champions, and Round 1 in Szczawno Zdroj got the season started on Saturday night.
Szczawno Zdroj is in south west Poland. The track in Szczawno is widely regarded as one of the finest 4X tracks in the world. At the heart of the city, it is the pride of the town, lined by hedgerows and trees. At around 40 seconds long, there is a mix of high and low speed, technical and huge jumps. There is something to suit all the riders and the racing is always amazing to reflect this.
Riders began to arrive in Szczawno on Thursday. The immaculately prepared track looked perfect. A new 40 foot double jump on the last straight had riders talking as it was pretty daunting at the end of a race, but as everyone started riding, they were all soon flying over it with ease.
On Saturday, the crowds began to arrive. With the race promoted on billboards and posters for 100km all around, there was no surprise that over 4,000 spectators turned up to watch qualifying and the race itself. With food and beer stands at the track, the atmosphere was amazing and the riders were ready to get the 2014 4X ProTour started.
The home crowd were going wild for all the local Polish riders. One by one the riders gave it their best shot to claim the fastest time in qualifying. Still, we feel, one of the allures to 4X crowds around the world is that 4X demands a single perfect lap just to qualify. A mistake and quite simply riders will go home and do not even race in the main event. It’s a ruthless system but one 4X riders and fans love. The pressure on each rider is immense, but who could keep their cool and take the fastest times.
In the women’s it was Slovenian rider Monika Hrastnik who took the fastest time. With an awesome lap, she stopped the clock in 51.8 seconds. Second went to German rider Dana Elena Schwalka with local girl Natalia Piwowarczyk sending the home crowd wild with a great qualifying run in third.
In the men’s, Tomas Slavik took the fastest time, and began 2013 the way he ended in 2013. Another Slavik; Hannes, (no relation!) from Austria took second fastest ahead of veteran rider Michal Prokop in third. Australian Blake Nielson in fourth with Scott Beaumont rounding out the top 5. The guys were absolutely on the ragged edge. They make it look so easy but the speed that they hit this track and these jumps at has to be seen to be believed.
So it was onto the knockout stages. The racing was superb all night. So much calculated racing from all the guys it was great to watch. The two Slavik’s, Prokop, and Scott Beaumont all went unbeaten to the semi finals. In the first semi, Tomas Slavik lined up against Beaumont, Lewis Lacey, and Aiko Gohler. As the gate dropped Slavik powered into the lead. Beaumont and Lacey battled on the first straight with Lacey grabbing second. Beaumont was lining up a pass on the last straight. Out of the last turn he carried good speed but made a mistake when jumping one of the pro line doubles. He almost landed on Lacey which would have taken them both out. Lacey kept his cool and booked his first ever 4X ProTour final.
In the second semi final, Hannes Slavik took gate 1, Prokop in 2, Felix Beckeman in 3 and Milan Mysik in 4. The gate dropped and there was plenty of banging. Prokop had it, then Slavik, then Prokop again. Beckeman made his move but it did not pay off and Mysik was on Slavik’s wheel all the way to the finish line, but in the end, Prokop and Slavik were in the final.
In the women’s small final; in her first ever 4X ProTour race, Eva Katherina Brauer took the win to give her 5th place for the night and her first ever podium. She is one of the new German riders who are making an impact in 4X right now. Look out for her in the future.
In the women’s main final, Hrastnik was in gate 1, Schwelka in 2, Piwowarczyk in 3 and Czech rider, Michaela Berakova in 4. The gate dropped and Hrastnik got the holeshot but over the first log jump bobbled allowing Schwelka to take the lead. She did not look back riding some great lines and hitting most of the huge jumps. Hrastnik took second and Piwowarczyk in third. Plenty of fresh names in women’s 4X ProTour for 2014 and healthy entry numbers were great to see.
So it was onto the men’s finals. Felix Beckeman took the win in the small final and this gave him the last step of the podium in 5th. A surprise was Beaumont, who after riding great all night, and going from gate 1, appeared to just roll out of the start and coast down the track in last place to give him eighth for the night. After the race he said he had felt ill all night and couldn’t breathe properly. Later on it seems that he had tonsillitis for the race! Congratulations to Milan Mysik for his highest ever 4X ProTour finish in sixth and Aiko Gohler in seventh.
The final race was the big one. Tomas Slavik took gate 1, Hannes Slavik in 2, Lacey in 3 and Prokop in 4. Prokop chose gate 4 when 3 was available to him, tactics to try and swoop inside on turn 1. As the gate dropped, Tomas Slavik got the jump, and to be honest did not look back. Prokop was fast and was there ready to capitalise on a mistake, but round one was owned by Tomas Slavik. Prokop finished second, Hannes Slavik in third and Lacey in fourth. A great return for Lacey after a crash here 12 months ago left him sidelined for the 2013 season.
The podiums, national anthems and ceremonies were capped off by an amazing fireworks display, and went into the 4X history books for this amazing venue.
An awesome event and a great start to the 2014 4X ProTour.
Round 2 of the 2014 4X ProTour will take place in Winterberg at the Dirtmasters festival on 1st June. This will be the first ever Silver 4X ProTour event so we are looking forward to reporting on that event.
For more information on the 4X ProTour, visit: