I would like to inform you about a case from this season which shows how
1/ proper rules of the race,
2/ proper communication between the organizer and the racer.
The organizer of the North Cape - Tarifa race (7400 km) Andy Buchs decided to create a "not classified" category for me after I had arrived back in the Czech Republic. He promised some more explanations and details of his results change (blog, 21. 7. 2022). But so far, nothing has been published until now. He is acting like I do not exist and he has not replied to any of my three emails (where I easily disprove his weak and false argumentation of the transfer to the "not classified" category). He even refused to send me photos from the race which I paid in the starting fee. This is really a sad story and biggest injustice I have ever faced. Anyway, if you ask me now what I see when I hear the name of the race, it is the beautiful European nature, faces of nice people, my amazing friends & fans, and people whom the charity part of my participation (collected 27 000 €) helped. Still, if you want to know more about the negative part of the race, read my statement below:
Three days after I reached the finish line of the North Cape - Tarifa race, with the second-placed rider just approaching the finish line, the race organiser Andy Buchs decided to create a new "solo not classified" category in which riders would keep their time and complete course record but would not be included in the overall race standings. He subsequently placed me in this category. At the finish line, he greeted me as the fastest, congratulated me on a great performance and presented me with the finisher's shirt. Today I understand why his almost only question to me was when I was flying home. He wanted to take an unfair hit on the results at a time when I would be back in the Czech Republic out of his reach.
Before I left for the north, my friend and our team member Tadeáš Kopča offered me to take a trip with his family in a camper van around Europe and take pictures of me in several places. Of course, we looked at the rules of the race to make sure we did not break any. For the section of the rules dealing with assistance on the route, see the appendix "RULES". I was interested in the photos of Tadeáš, who has been recording my races over the last few years, in view of my planned book and lectures.
What surprised me very much was that the day before the start the organiser did not arrive at the official “riders meeting.” I wanted to discuss with him there the possibility of taking photographs. But he didn't come! He only sent his representative (a Polish participant of the race) who brough in trackers and some documents be sign. So me and Tadáš met Andy for the first time only few hours before the actual start of the NCT. Of course we stressed to him that we know the rules and we will respect them as we do in all other races. He even told us that he had no problem if they would ride next to me for a while to interview me when riding. However, we immediately discarded the idea because riding side by side might raise suspicions among other riders that I would be supported. Andy had arranged with Tadeáš to take pictures of other race participants and also that Tadeáš would probably also receive a tracker so that everyone could see that he was not hanging around me as a support car. We were very interested in obtaining the tracker, because it would definitely calm down any doubters. But the tracker was never delivered.
Before the start I heard some comments from the competitors about Tadeáš's van. It did not make me start well at all. Tadeáš and I said that he would always stand further away from the track and take pictures from distance. After the start, Tadeáš took pictures of the other participants. But gradually the starting field stretched to tens and hundreds of kilometres. Of course, for a family with two children (2 and 4 years old) it was impossible to prolong the journey because of the riders in the back positions. The pressure from the riders who were unable to accept my fast pace was growing. The situation was escalated most by the German rider Paul Bernd, who tried to keep up with me in the race as long as he could. When he found out that I was faster than him, he started posting all over the internet that I was sleeping in the van and that they were carrying things for me. He was absurdly turning off his own tracker while riding. All of which resulted in his disqualification. Andy contradicted Bernd by saying that I, unlike him, was riding according to the rules - see the appendix "COMMUNICATION BETWEEN ANDY AND BERND".
When we were in Switzerland, Andy succumbed to the pressure of the competitors and forbade Tadeáš to continue taking photos. He emailed me, too. He also reproached Tadeáš quite harshly for not taking pictures of the other competitors (by that time already hundreds of kilometres behind me) and not following his condition. But he must have known very well that with two small children they could not function as photojournalists in the whole width of the starting field. By this time, both Tadeáš and I were out of data. Andy himself had recommended turning them off because they are extremely expensive in Switzerland. So we both did not read his mail. Then Andy saw Tadeáš at the route. I did not even know about Tadeáš. He was taking pictures of me crossing the bridge so I would not notice them. The problem was that although we had been asking Andy for his phone number, he would not give it to us. He said communication would be handled with all the racers by email only (a very bad approach to such a crucial thing as communication). Andy wrote another email saying that we had not been following the rules and that I was disqualified. He told Tadeáš about my disqualification on the spot. Tadeáš immediately provided Andy with the proof that I had passed without any knowledge of them and that he did not know about his ban on photos because he was not on the data. Fortunately, Andy's disqualification email was read at home by my wife Šárka and she immediately replied to Andy - see the appendix "EMAIL COMMUNICATION WITH MY WIFE". Andy replied to her that I could continue the race and the final decision would come at the finish. He subsequently met me on the track and said nothing to me. He was checking to make sure I really did not know anything and that I was off-line. He wished me a good ride in the Swiss mountain passes. I was even more shocked when I switched off the Airplane mode and learned from my wife what Andy had written in his email. Tadeáš, of course, stopped taking pictures and never came to the route again. I had a very bad ride after that. It was like someone had cut off my legs. Knowing that I had to cover thousands of kilometres not being sure I was still in the race was putting me under severe psychological pressure. After all, that is probably what Andy wanted. From then on, Andy played me like a piece on a chessboard. I would just like to add that Andy had both my and Tadeáš’s phone numbers. He never used them.
However, when we met again, I told Andy I was sorry for what had happened, but we could not act on his instructions in the email while we were off-line. I assured him that Tadeáš would no longer be taking pictures anywhere on the route. Tadeáš wrote the same to Andy. By the way, he kept sending Andy the specific position where he was during the race, thus substituting the role of an undelivered tracker. With a smile on his face, Andy told me to continue the race and forget the whole episode and enjoy the route. I took it as a matter that had been resolved and explained.
Andy knew very well that I was riding unsupported, that Tadeáš only came close a couple of times to take pictures - mostly from distance. Frequently Tadeáš was parked somewhere and secretly watching me. There was no other rider more watched than me. 1300 km before the finish I had a big crash. I tore my palm and side and had to go to hospital for treatment. I was struggling with swollen feet in my shoes at the time. It was a critical moment in the race when I slowed down and was glad to be able to continue. Furthermore, the end of my handlebar cracked. But I was able to cope with that. I moved the brake lever up on the handlebar and removed the broken piece. Everything worked as it should, even with the injured hand, my handlebar held up better after the adjustment than if it had been in its original position. Andy noticed the modification on social media after two days of my riding and emailed me at 12:30 in the morning telling me I was not allowed to continue. That my bike was unfit and I needed to seek professional service and have the handlebar replaced in their entirety. I obeyed him and spent several hours on a useless replacement that cost me a lot of money in addition to time. At the beginning of the race we signed a paper for him that all decisions and actions during the race are our responsibility. So he did not have to interfere with the repair of my bike at all. It was clear that he would take every opportunity to “play” with me.
Still, I respected everything and did as Andy instructed in the email. At the finish line, he greeted me with congratulations on a great performance and handed me the finisher's shirt. He waited until I arrived home so he could place me in a special "solo not classified" category. As a justification, he referred back to the incident of July 1, which arose from my inability to read his email. He then goes on to cite, quite nonsensically, the sections where I slowed down on the grounds that Tadeáš was no longer around the route. Andy chose those when I was dealing with serious health and technical problems. On the other hand, in the last section of the race, for example, I was 15 hours faster than the runner-up. I was increasing my lead constantly throughout the race (regardless of whether Tadeáš was taking pictures or not.) Moreover, I have recorded all the bivouacs and overnight stays (even on Instagram) and I can clearly prove that I always solved the accommodation myself and did not use any help. Andy's decision to put me out of the race was certainly boosted by the posts of people on social media who blamed him for not welcoming the winner of the race with enough dignity (it was not my opinion - I took crossing the finish line as a special moment and did not need any fanfare). Andy constantly mentioned my fans bringing negative atmosphere to the race, see his message the email in the appendix "LAST MAIL COMMUNICATION WITH ANDY". In the end, however, he was the one who influenced the race in the first place with a completely shocking and negative decision. His last email clearly shows a total bias and implies that the race was more of an audition for friends than a fair measure of strength.
I am facing a totally incomprehensible and spineless injustice. The organiser took the race into his own hands and fixed the order of the race. It is sad. I cannot do anything about it. I know what I sacrificed for the race, I know what I had to overcome during the race, I know that I rode from the first to the last meter fair according to the rules. So I know who the winner is, and knowing that my fans are aware of it too helps me digest this craziness.
----------------------------------------- appendices ---------------------------------------------
RULES (original version)
Self-Reliance and NCT to Participant Contact
19) ‘Self-supported’. The NCT is a self-supported event. Self-supported must be accepted and understood by Participants as a term commonly used in relation to some other past events and having the following definition: "A commonly recognised term among long-distance racing, Audax and Randonneur cycling communities, self-supported simply means 'do it all yourself' and is similar in ethos to a ‘reliability trial’ event. Self-supported event participants accept that no support or assistance is offered or implied by any organisers during the ride unless notified clearly in advance, and that all decisions for welfare are the participant’s own and are made individually and voluntarily." No other clauses of this contract related to Liability or limitations of Liability are to be made invalid by any interpretation of this meaning.
20) Advice. Information or advice may be offered by the NCT to Participants for transport, food, shelter or similar logistical considerations relating to NCT Participation and any advice is offered and taken in the spirit of friendly guidance and cannot offer certainty to be relied upon or any guarantee of service quality or safety.
21) Offers during the NCT. Any offers of support to Participants from the NCT while on the Route are accepted by Participants to be made in the spirit of goodwill and wholly within the terms of this contract and no clauses in this contract are voided by any offers made by the NCT and accepted by Participants. Offers made or services provided by other businesses during Participation are outside of the scope and validity of this contract and the NCT accepts no responsibility for any losses or damages related to those offers made or services provided by other businesses.
COMMUNICATION BETWEEN ANDY AND BERND
EMAIL COMMUNICATION WITH MY WIFE + with me
LAST MAIL COMMUNICATION WITH ANDY