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21-7-2019, 09:36 UTC
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A Peace Race under a radioactive cloud
The Peace Race, dating back to 1948 and known as the “Tour de France of the East”, was a prestigious cycling event attended not only by communist bloc states but also guest cyclists from the West. It was on a high sporting level but it also played an important political and ideological role. Its traditional participants were from Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany. In 1986 the Soviet Union joined in and it was decided the race should start from Kiev (Ukraine). The Czechoslovak cyclists who were due to take part had been informed about the Chernobyl accident from their West-German colleagues during a bike race in Italy. They realised the dangers involved but for political reasons it was impossible to cancel the Ukraine laps or even the participation of the Czechoslovak team. The cyclists faced a crucial decision - to risk their health or jeopardize their career.
Jozef Regec wins in the first lap of the Peace race in Kiyv, photo: CTKJozef Regec wins in the first lap of the Peace race in Kiyv, photo: CTK
Others in the communist block faced the same dilemma. In the end, only 64 cyclists entered the race; less than half of the usual number of participants. As Jozef Regec - who participated in the race recalls – while all competitors from the eastern bloc turned up for the race, from the west, only the French were on the starting line. Six Czechoslovak cyclists were among the contesters – Jiří Škoda, Anton Novosad, Milan Jurčo, Roman Kreuziger, Radovan Fořt and Jozef Regec.
The first lap was a success for the Czechoslovak team. Josef Regec was its winner. This victory marked the start of a successful career for him. However, today he suffers from health problems and his left kidney had to be removed because of a tumor. Doctors could not confirm or rule out a connection with the race in Ukraine.