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Zsolt Törzsök: our events contribute to the development of Hungarian cycling sport

Due to the spread of COVID-19 corona virus epidemic in Europe, the international cycling season, including the UCI category races in Hungary, temporarily came to a halt, and thus, Movement Health Recreational Sports Club (MER SE) also had to postpone its races.

Date: June 3, 2020
Zsolt Törzsök

Its three events, the Visegrad 4 Cycling Race originally planned for 18 April, the Visegrad 4 Junior Cycling World Cup with the initially intended date of 24-26 July, and the „One Belt One Road Hungary” race scheduled for 1-2 August, will all be run at new dates. In the re-designed race calendar of the International Cycling Union (UCI), these competitions have found their new places over a brief two-week period. We talked to Zsolt Törzsök, the chief organiser, about the busy preparations and the present situation of the races.

How did you cope with the past period caused by the corona virus? How could you face the fact that you might have to organise the races at a later time?

When it became clear that Europe can’t escape the spread of the epidemic, we did everything to finish all those tasks – driving along the race routes, on-site negotiations – that couldn’t have been possible after the introduction of the restrictions in Hungary. As an organiser, it was not too easy to experience the period of the lockdown, but I think everybody else felt the same way. At the same time, all the basic tasks of the organisation could go on smoothly even if they became more time-consuming as, of course, it was not always simple to arrange everything via telephone and internet from home office. The biggest issue was the compilation of the race calendar since it often happened that we had to wait for weeks for the answers of the International Cycling Union which, understandably, was not always able to give up up-to-date information.

Zsolt Törzsök

Zsolt Törzsök
(Photo: Zoltán Vanik)

Besides three international UCI category races, you will also organise the Elite road national championships, within a quite short period of time. How did the idea come to your mind to do this?

We start our races on 16-17 August with the „One Belt One Road” Hungary 2.2 category competition. This will be followed on 19 August by the Visegrad 4 Cycling Race, then on 23 August the Elite road national championships, which will be organised at a new venue with the help of NYKSE cycling club, and our race schedule will be finished with the Visegrad 4 Juniors Cycling World Cup between 26-28 August. Strangely, the road championships meant the biggest difficulty as the International Cycling Union obligatorily appointed 22-23 August as the date for the national championships. This made us alter our race calendar for the third time. This was not easy as the originally planned and already re-designed order of the races had to be re-scheduled again. In the meantime, the government of Hungary passed an order about the conditions of organising sports events according to which it is practically not allowed to have a road cycling race until 15 August in Hungary. So, to answer your question, knowing all these facts, we were basically forced to squeeze all our races into a 2-week period starting on 16 August. It a quite challenging task, but, with the help of all our co-organisers, it will not be impossible.

There have been no world-level international cycling competitions since 1928 in Hungary. Do you think the Visegrad 4 Juniors Cycling World Cup can be a new milestone in the life of Hungarian cycling sport?

After the epidemic, only two juniors world cup race venues survived: in Europe, Hungary alone, and the other is an organiser in the Far East, South Korea. Unfortunately, this causes the most serious problem as the two competitions will be run simultaneously, and what is more, a bit later the European Championships has also been scheduled for this same period, which can do nothing about. The race calendar of the UCI came out on 19 May, and rumour has it that the decision about the date of the European Championships was made on 18 May. According to the latest news, it will be held in France, but the venue is still not published in the calendar of the UCI. On the basis of all these, definitely the organisation of the World Cup will be the most difficult for us mainly because the participants will be junior riders, and international sports federations are still quite tentative about the travels of junior athletes. At the same time, it is our clear aim to break the ground the for the success of the following years from which Hungarian cycling sport can profit a lot.

Visegrad 4 Special Series 2019

Visegrad 4 Special Series 2019 – Vásárosnamény-Nyíregyháza
(Photo: Zoltán Vanik)

What kind of health precautions will be introduced at the races?

The health guidelines are still being developed. On the one hand they have to meet the requirements of the measures introduced in Hungary, on the other hand the International Cycling Federation has also issued a recommendation. We would like to create a package of measures which will be able minimize health risks. This work has just been started, more precisely after the international registration of the races has been finalised. I hope it will be completed in 2-3 weeks. We strive to respect all the expectations to the fullest. We follow the work of organisers abroad who arrange race at the start of the season if they have ideas that we can follow.

Are teams very much interested in your races?

We have reached the maximum headcount on the preliminary start list of the V4 Cycling Race within 2-3 days. On this basis, I assume that the interest in our event will exceed all previous expectations. Of course, this has some unfortunate consequences as well, namely that some teams that were regulars in the past years might not be able to start in the V4 Cycling Race due to its quota system. In case of the „One Belt One Road” Hungary, however, there is no such quota so most probably we will break a record with that event both in terms of the number of professional teams and the number of participants. This is almost sure. Another significant achievement for us is that a ProTeam has also indicated its intent to participate in both of our UCI category races. As for the World Cup, I can only repeat myself: the international federations still wait, but there are already enrolments for that as well, so the formation of the peloton is in progress. It is important to know that we must accept the enrolment of the first 25 countries in last year’s nations ranking, so we have been aware of the fact from the beginning that the start list will be completed later than in the case of the other international races we organise.

Gilberto Simoni and Zsolt Törzsök

Gilberto Simoni and Zsolt Törzsök
(Photo: Zoltán Vanik)

What results would make you content?

As our races are organised quite close to the national championships, we hope that besides our club teams, a strong national team will also take part in both elite races. We would be extremely happy if they could collect UCI points or, as in last year, they could finish in podium positions. As for the world cup, we also hope for the successful participation of the Hungarian riders since this race offers a great opportunity for our junior riders. I believe that both our international category races and our other events – like the V4 Pannonhalma Prologue, the Zoard Day Cycling Race, the V4 Mád and the Tour de Vásárosnamény – also contribute to the advance of the Hungarian cycling sport.

In the summer of 2019, you organised the first UCI category women’s race in Hungary, but it does not continue this year. Why is that, and do you plan to organise other women’s races in the future?

We are deeply sorry that our initiative did not have a greater response last year. We organised the first two professional women’s cycling races of Hungary, but we still feel the financial burden of it up to the present day, and thus this year we did not have women’s races in mind, and although in the long run we do not want to give up in them, at the moment this not our priority. We would have liked and still would like to continue. I think that the Hungarian riders achieved a realistic result both in Pannonhalma and Zalaegerszeg, and managed to gather UCI points, so we were able realise our sports goals with the organisation of the events.