The cycling world’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has seen sanctions, fundraisers, and words of support on social media. For teams a bit closer to the conflict, however, there’s more immediacy – especially for countries bordering Ukraine, that are trying to accommodate refugees fleeing the warzone.
The leading Polish continental squad, HRE Mazowsze Serce Polski Team, has decided to provide its support in the most practical way it knows how: by sacrificing its race starts and sending team vehicles to the border, to help transport refugees onward around Poland.
HRE Mazowsze Serce Polski Team – which has an entirely Polish roster – has been steadily on the rise over the past couple of seasons. In 2020, they were the top-ranked continental team in Europe. In 2021, they were the top-ranked continental team in the world, with 14 wins. They were no doubt hopeful of further success in 2022 – but when your neighbor is invaded, plans change.
In a post on its Facebook page, the team wrote:
This is a very difficult situation for us, but there are things that are important and more important – we have decided to give up the start in the Visit Friesland Elfsteden Race. Today, four of our buses drove residents from Ukraine to different places of Poland. We help as much as we can, this is the most important goal for us today. The funds that were supposed to be issued for the first starts are being allocated to the “Ukraine project”
We believe that we are doing the right thing, we have a lot of Ukrainian friends from the cycling environment and that’s what we’re focusing on today.
Yesterday we transported and deployed about 60 people – we are shaken by the situation. We hope that our almost three-month preparations will not go in vain and soon we will be able to compete on the routes of Poland, Europe and the world with a clean heart and a calm mind.
Glory to Ukraine!
The team will also miss this week’s Croatian tour, the Istrian Spring Trophy, due to its entire fleet of team vehicles being involved in transporting refugees from the Ukrainian border. The squad plans to resume its season soon, with future race starts on the calendar including the U23 Giro d’Italia, Romania’s Sibiu Cycling Tour, and the Tour of Denmark.
Poland has accepted the majority of the 1.7 million refugees that have fled Ukraine, with the Polish Border Guard having recorded more than 1,027,000 people crossing the border. Many of them have been housed by private citizens or businesses. Poland has also announced plans to set up an 8bn zloty (US $ 1.75bn / € 1.61bn) fund for fleeing Ukrainians, including a one-off payment of 300 zlotys (£ 50) for each refugee.
HRE Mazowsze Serce Polski Team has been contacted by CyclingTips for further comment.