When a cycling race opens borders
Our team mostly comes home from far away countries and is impressed by the experiences there, impressed when sport can do more. When sport grows beyond itself, it can mean something to a country and its people. This is what you experience in Eritrea, where cycling is the hope for the youth or you experience it in Rwanda, where cycling reunites a country after a terrible war.
It does not need to travel far to find similar examples. As unknown and therefore as discoverable as the African continent may seem to us, we are also unfamiliar with the deep East of Europe. All you need is the effort of a long car drive. When you reach the first border control behind Austria and this old-fashioned procedure repeats crossing borders of the following countries, you know that something seems to be different here.
Not so long ago, in fact in 1992, the situation in former Yugoslavia escalated after the collapse of the Soviet Union. What followed is one of the darkest periods in European history. A terrible war began, former friends and neighbors began to slaughter themselves, fueled by nationalist propaganda. The situation was complicated and still is today. It created from the former Yugoslavia many small countries, which are still politically highly divided and among which the population still suffers.
Anyone who reads something about this topic will understand the great gesture of organizing a cycling race that starts in the Serbian city of Belgrade and ends in Banjaluka in Bosnia Herzegovina. If for a short time window the barriers of the borders of both countries remain at the top and 150 cyclists as well as their companion can pass the border unhindered.
Newcomer Aaron Grosser was able to put on the right scene for the first time in this cycling race. Three sprint arrivals offered good prerequisites, perhaps in the overall standings to have a say. But the first stage consisted of a mountain arrival, which should be trend-setting for the overall standings.
BIKE AID make winners
As a young rider in a new team it is often not easy to be recognized directly by the older riders, to be able to rely on their support. But that's exactly what the team's strength seems to be. To enable new riders in the near future to do their best, to give them the self-confidence and support.
Lucas Carstensen, for example, won the first stage of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo Gabon in Gabon in his first race for the team in 2018. Or Clint Hendricks, the talent from South Africa, who came to BIKE AID in the fall and shortly thereafter celebrated his first UCI victory in Indonesia. And of course Salim Kipkemboi, who entered the first UCI victory of a Kenyan in the Arab Emirates with BIKE AID.
Now it was Aaron Grosser. He mastered the mountain finish of the first stage without any time lag and flourished on the next stages on. With fourth place in a chaotic final in Brčko on stage two and a second place on the third stage to Teslić, he moved up in the GC. On the podium of the third stage, Aaron was surrounded by the concentrated World Tour experience of a Marko Kump, whom he referred to in third place or the stage winner Wouter Wippert.
Just before the final stage, Aaron just separated 9 seconds from his namesake Aaron Gate from New Zealand, the leader of the general classification. There was a small hope to change that, though Gate relied on an incredibly experienced team.
Like the Gauls against the Romans, the BIKE AID boys set off for the final stage and tried to put the strong opponent in the bredouille. Unexpectedly early, this was already possible after about 50km of racing distance, when the yellow jersey fell behind due to chaos in a small village. A small mountain classification, defects and falls and the field splintered. Aaron and Nikodemus Holler jumped in the first group and a high speed race over another 125km broke out. The yellow jersey lost second by second and it seemed possible right before the finish line that Aaron was racing for the overall victory.
Time equality after 14 hours, 55 minutes and 35 seconds
Aaron sprinted to third place on the podium again, securing important bonus seconds and appearing at the top of the standings, the biggest success of his young career in sight: victory in the overall standings of a Category 2.1 race at the Europe Tour.
They wanted to start the award ceremony, when the UCI commissars came to ponder. As second, Paweł Franczak from Poland crossed the finish line and secured bonus seconds as well. The results of the stages had to be scrutinized and for Aaron it was infinite minutes. Then it was clear: Aaron is at the same time with Franczak in the overall standings, but Franczak had the lead in the addition of individual placements.
Aaron ended the tour in time with the winner in second place. A situation in which one gets angry first, but then has to be happy to see what that result means. Also the biggest success so far for Aaron and another great team performance for BIKE AID.