Last night during the usual meeting to discuss about how the track ended, and to plan the last details of the next one, we had a broad discussion about how to face our last day of cycling towards Katowice. Our bikes were still full of mud due to the crossing of that unfortunate stretch of soft clay soil and we all wanted to clean them up to avoid malfunctions or possible breakages.
After we arrived in the Hotel, we first looked for a car wash but our attempt was unsuccessful and Massimo, supported by others in the group, proposed to try again the next morning. However, in Katowice we would attend to a series of events starting at 2 p.m., and for a track of about 90 km, with numerous “rise and fall” for over 700 m in altitude, the available time was very limited. Adriano, since the beginning, claimed that it would be impossible to be in Katowice until 2 p.m. , therefore we should take it easier, stopping to wash all the bikes.
Daniele, however, remarked that we should stick to the plan and leave at 8 a.m. without making any stops to wash the bike. In fact, washing 17 bikes would have taken more than half an hour. At this point someone floated the idea of dividing the group into two, thus everyone could feel free to choose the best option. In the end, we decided to stay together as originally planned. Dino opted for an intermediate solution and decided to clean the bulk of the mud by using a couple of bottles fulfilled by hot water. Within a few minutes, the courtyard of the hotel have been populated by bicycles in a vertical position or lying on the ground, with a coming and going of people who alternated in the role of water carriers or precise cleaner of the vehicle.
A man, probably from the hotel staff, revealed us the existence of a service shower, asking for silence in return. In the blink of an eye Massimo, Gigi, Daniele and Adriano’ bikes ended up under the shower. A shower that turned out into unimaginable state, balanced by the great result of the bikes. In fact, it was halfway between a dirty repair-shop and a stable. A layer of semi-liquid mud was laid on the shower floor together with our footprints. Reporting under acceptable conditions the situation seemed a very tough challenge, but Gigi and Daniele made it and the shower came back to its starting conditions.
Next morning we were very focused on reaching the goal of arriving at 2 p.m. in Katowice, even if Daniele sent the request to postpone the meeting 1-hour later to the Municipality representative . We rode the bike at higher speed, thanks to the generous wind that pushed us behind, apart from Gigi C. who decided to make the last track in solitary proceeding at slower speed, since it was also equipped with the track.
The confirmation of the strong wind behind us (the weather forecast assumed 15-20 km/h) also came from the plumes that came out horizontally from the two high chimneys of a coal power plant. For more than ten kilometres we pedalled smelling the release of those fumes, initially perceived as a steel mill and then as the effect of burning coal. We realized that we had not found any sign that marked the geographical separation between the Czech Republic and Poland, but we all agreed that although this border was not marked on the ground, it was instead very presented in the air by a strong olfactory demarcation. What we thought was only the fall of the high paths of the plant that we crossed before in gradually mixed with thick brown smoke that came out of the houses, whose stoves were obviously powered by coal. As Arcadius will explain later on, it seems that people in their houses do not burn only coal, that already in itself represents a significant pollutant load in terms of emissions (and for this reason he always uses the mask when he goes for a run), but they burn everything: from clothes, to plastic, to anything that has any combustion capacity. Poland’s dependence on coal is a striking example of how far we are from tackling the issue of climate change with determination. The country that has hosted already 3 COPs in just over a decade (I think it is the only case in the world) with Poznan, Warsaw and now Katowice continues to maintain a very strong bond, which it does not intend to question, with the fossil source that represents the symbol of climate change.
These thoughts carried us towards the COP where we arrived at 13.59, without any mechanical problems (million to one-shot), perfectly on time. However, Adam Łęski (from Katowice Municipality) accepted to postpone our meeting at 3 p.m. without any problems. So we directly went to the main gate of the COP to took some pictures. The security service looked at us in a scepticism way asking us to stop on the entrance fee. In fact, they did not understand why a group of cyclists were standing with bags and luggage near the entrance of delegations. An Indian delegate that was passing by asked for a picture with us. Then, the similar request came from the ambassador of the cyclists of Africa and slowly the situation relaxed, so that we begun to spread like wildfire in the space just inside the main gate that turned into a kind of photographic set, among our shots and those of the participants of the COP and some journalists. We started feeling cold due to the long break and we decided to move to the “Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra”, where Adam was waiting for us together with a television troupe. Here we simulated the official arrival and we were interviewed by a non well-defined TV.
Just the time to park our bikes in a safe garage for the night, offered by Adam, and we moved quickly to a restaurant where Arcadius – a delegate of MAPEI – were waiting for us. Here we could join a hearty and good hot meal offered by MAPEI. Sitting in the heat of the restaurant was the perfect conclusion of our journey and all the relaxed faces for the awareness of having completed also this year an adventure not so easy and obvious.
It is not yet time for analyzing how much Ride With Us has been able to reach its goal this year. The fact is that we did not managed to organize so many events on a local scale compared to the previous editions. In fact, it was very difficult to involve the population and local political decision-makers. Additionally, the long bike ride (almost 1,300 km) had perhaps sometimes taken the connotation of a cycling gesture rather than a remarkable sign for climate change. This is a risk that is always hidden when the number of participants increased.
The question that circulates between us is already addressed to the future. Will there be a new edition of RWU in 2019? If yes, where will we go? We still do not have any clues, it depends on the analysis that we will do together with the group-organizer. Instead, it is time to thank all those that helped to organize the fifth edition of RWU. Particularly, the organizing committee lead by Paolo (also for its beautiful tracks and as the head of the group for almost all the time), Dino (the chief mechanic of the group and the essential “broom” in closing of the group), Massimo (fantasy photographer and valid support to Dino for both functions), Corina (our irreplaceable Minister of Finance with his inseparable (also for their marriage bond) Undersecretary of Economics Alberto LG, Alberto F. that always involved a large network of contacts among the cycling world, Mauro, Lucia and Claudio B. for taking part in the organization of the tour without being able to take part and finally Nadia and Gabriele who managed their stage perfectly. A special thank goes to Renato, one of our doctors who gave up a stop to assist Maurizio who get sick. The list of technical sponsors and patronages is very long, but we would like to underline the very former one (Selle Royal) and the most recent (Toy Color) and then in random order: Hotel Tritone, Aequilibria, Gabo typography, Selene Campanella Grafica, UNI, Accredia, FIAB, Opzione Zero, Legambiente, LIPU, WWF, Birdlife, Kyoto Club, Italian Climate Network, Terraè, Guggia, Girolibero, Idea Diade, ilMeteo.it. Least but not last, Pedalare Veneziano that has become a key element of RWU project.
RWU 2018 ended today, but we are looking for the next edition!!!