How did it start?

While I was working for MANN+HUMMEL in Poland, I was also a professional Volleyball player. After playing in league matches for 15 years, I decided to retire as the punishment on my body was starting to be problematic. I still needed to do some physical activity and my then Director, Tomasz Mosinski, who is a keen road cyclist, suggested taking up the sport as a great alternative. And so, my love of road cycling began.

I moved to MANN+HUMEL UK in 2017 and continued my road cycling here. For last few years I’ve ride many fames route’s around Europe and am now experienced at transporting my bike by road or air to many exciting places such as Tour de France stages, Mallorca, spring classics in Belgium and France to ride my bike.

The French connection

As part of my job, I cooperate with our French plant in Laval within our Purchasing HUB EU1 structures. There was an instant connection as many of them are also enthusiastic road cyclists.

MANN+HUMMEL France team

This year, the MANN+HUMMEL France team decided to take part in the André Dufraisse Cycling Sportive in nearby Limoges. Le CYCLE magazine places this event in the top 50 most beautiful sportives in France and around the world. It is in the top 15 of French sportives in terms of participants with an average 2,000 cyclists registering. It has become a firm fixture for many riders when planning their sportive season. The race pays tribute to a local cycling champion, André Dufraisse, who won five cyclo-cross rainbow jerseys and seven French national championships; one of the most impressive records in French sport.

In the meantime, one of the colleagues could not participate in this event so, as I was due to be in France for meetings at the same time, they invited me to be part of the team. I travelled to France in the car with my bike in the back. After some very productive meetings, I stayed on over the weekend and travelled to Limoges with the MANN+HUMMEL France team.

Karol Sobczyk

Race day arrives

On the day of the race, we were up at 6:00am to have breakfast together. With around six hours in the saddle ahead of us, it was important to fill up with some energy, and let it digest. 8:30 am and we were at the starting line. On registration, we had a choice of four circuits, all of which start from the centre of Limoges and which gave us the unforgettable experience of a mass start from a city centre. The team chose to complete La LIMOUSINE, a 160km circuit with 2,010m of climbing. However, I decided to challenge myself and, together with another colleague, opted for the aptly-named La LIMOUSINE Challenge which features 180km of road racing with 2,600m of climbing.

It was gruelling but so worth it. The atmosphere at the start and throughout was electric – cycling as part of a team, the crowds cheering us on, little kids cycling beside us. It was all so memorable. I image that this is what professional cyclists experience when riding the grand tours such as the Tour de France or La Vuelta.

The podium spot

Finally, all finished with a big smile on our faces and proud of our achievements. My finish time was 6 hrs 9 mins (avg. speed 30 km/h), which I very pleased with, although I was hoping for 6 hours or under! One surprise at the end was the event organizers honouring all the foreign riders who competed. That meant I ended up on the podium for the first time in my cycling/racing life! Alright, they gave me a UK flag even though I am Polish but maybe next time, I’ll hold both!

at the podium spot

I would like to thanks to Gilles Basset from MANN+HUMEL France for the invitation, Eric Limousine for a perfect trip organisation, and rest of the cycling colleagues from France for great camaraderie and fantastic, active weekend in France!