PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : Retro PEZ Talk: Edward ‘Eddie B’ Borysewicz – Part 1!

Retro PEZ Talk: Edward ‘Eddie B’ Borysewicz – Part 1!
Retro Interview: Edward ‘Eddie B’ Borysewicz brought US cycling to the pinnacle of success at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics with a boat load of medals. Award winning coach, but with a dark cloud of blood doping over his head. In part 1, Ed Hood hears about the early years, Lance, Greg and the riders of the present.

Over the last month or two we’ve been catching up with some of those ‘cult’ 80’s riders – and even one of the managers who helped define that decade, Len Pettyjohn. But no serious look back at the period can be complete without speaking to a certain gentleman of Polish extraction; Mr. Edward Borysewicz – ‘Eddie B.’

LA Olympics '84

A champion cyclist in Poland who became a coach, moved to the US and coached the US team to their greatest ever medal haul in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He was feted as a hero until the ‘blood doping’ scandal erupted and split the world down the middle; a man who did what he had to do to deliver - or an East European cheat?

Before we hear what the man has to say, PEZ extends our deepest thanks to Sandra Wright Sutherland without whom this interview would not have been possible. Sandra is currently engaged in writing a book about ‘Mr. B’ to follow on from her tome on Audrey McElmury, the USA’s first world road champion in Brno back in 1969.

Now, if you’re strapped in, we’ll proceed:

PEZ: Tell us about your palmarès back in Poland.
Eddie Borysewicz:
I was a bike rider in Poland from 17 to 29. I started as a junior, with nothing. I was National Champion several times, both as a junior and a senior, in pursuit. My best year was 1965 when I won seven races. When I started physical education to be a member of the National cycling team, 1500 candidates competed for 90-some places. This is a very top level job. Many people try to achieve it.

Several different doctors check your body, check your blood, check your fitness, and see if you can do the program, because it is very hard, physically, too. After this medical testing 700-800 people are gone, they have no chance. Next, another seven hundred are gone; down to 200 - that was the physical test. I qualified, I passed all aspects. Next was the theory test. That was chemistry, biology, all this stuff, language and second language. I passed this too. I qualified in the top 20 of 90-some. I’m a lucky guy because God give me one thing: memory. Over there it’s a very hard program. The program for physiology and anatomy is much bigger than in medical school. We can switch to medical school after two years, because it is so hard.

There are two things young people are expected to do in Poland that held back my cycling. Everyone is required to be in Army — for two years. When I was released from that, I went back to cycling. After school is over, you are expected to work for two years to pay back for your education. I always went back to cycling as soon as I could. When I was 20, in January, I was on the National Team getting ready for the Peace Race when I was misdiagnosed with TB because of an old scar appearing on an X-ray. They sent me to a clinic where they gave me medication that was not needed and made me very sick. I went in feeling like a rooster and got out feeling like a pigeon.

It took me six months to feel good again, to become part of the National Team again and produce good results. Because of this damage, I knew that I would not be a World Champion, that dream was over, but I was still strong. When I did all this testing and got into school, I was 21. All together, I was on the National Team for six years. I was on the track team and I was on the road team. This was good for coaching because I had track experience, and I had road experience. I said to myself, “I know I’m not going to be a World Champion, so I’m going to educate myself, I’m going to be a coach and develop World Champions”. That was my motivation.

I received my Master’s degree in physical education and I got a coach’s license. In Poland, the government is very strict. Over there, when you are 29 you retire, you are considered an old guy. I know when I was forced to quit I felt best in my life and I was 30, so I could have kept racing. Over there when you are a coach, you can’t race, because when you’re racing, you think of yourself. You must think about your team. The Chief of the top of my sport in my city told me that it was time for me to pay back, “We educated you”. I won a National race on a Sunday and on Monday I was suddenly a coach and started coaching all my friends.

A young Eddie B in his racing days

PEZ: You were a runner first?
In Poland is a different system. Sponsors for clubs are businesses, and business is required to do stuff like that. My father was military before. He paid attention to how I walk, he paid attention to how I ran, he told me how I have to run, you know, toe positions, and stuff like that. I raced 400 meters with no training and I qualified. Next, my friend taught me because he was a runner. He was older. We started running every evening, after work, in the park or to the forest, for a run, and I remember I made progress by some seconds; then more progress to the National Champs and the 400 meters.

I went back to live in the city of Lodz with my parents and I started to ride the bike. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know how to glue tires. I knew nothing about organizations or clubs or anything. I saw one guy on a motorcycle pacing a pack of young guys on bikes. I tucked in behind and waited. He had them sprint to the top of the hill. These guys were too slow, I went around, passed them and then slowed down again, tucking in behind. I did the same thing again for the next sprint.

After training, the coach told me who he was and I went to his club; he told me he’d like to have me in the club. In Poland, it’s not like in America; you have to be invited to join a club. Later I had a really good time because our President and Board liked me so much, I had the best salary and I had everything I needed. My team, “SPOLEM”, was a trade business, they have many stores. (grocery stores/retailers cooperative, night club in Krakow). I always stayed with the same club.

Eddie still has Polish contacts

PEZ: How many years did you coach and did your methods change much over the years?
I coached over 45 years, almost 50 now, since I still coach a few people. Now I am more for consultations. I coached 10 years in Poland and then I started coaching in the U.S. in 1977. My coaching always changes. A coach is responsible for results. Whatever I see or hear about, I watch and think. If I think it might help improve performance and results, I try it with my riders. There have been many changes over my career, physical and mechanical. Sometimes I am the one who gets an idea and I try something that hasn’t been done before. Sometimes I get into trouble, but as long as it’s legal and looks like it will help, I try and hope it works.

I am the first one who used radio to coach my riders during a race. Someone else claims that they used it first, but I used it in Poland and after I came to the U.S. when we were in South America. The coach can see things riders can’t. Instead of running around the track like a monkey, it’s easier to use a radio. In Poland, I used radio to tell riders when to sprint, but it was just with beeps. After I came to the U.S., I used it in a race in South America until officials told me not to. Now it is not legal on the track, but it’s used in road races, all the time in the Tour and the Olympics, you see it on TV. When I was with Mr Weisel (Subaru Montgomery), we were the first team to use titanium frames in our Pro Cycling Team and we used helium in the tires. I have always looked for how to improve riders’ ability to perform, everything from their physical health to mechanical advantages. As a coach, my responsibility is for results, so that’s what I look for, how I can improve results.

Olympic glory with Alexi Grewal

PEZ: Why come to the USA?
I came to the U.S. for the 1976 Montreal Olympics when one of the riders I developed in Poland, Mieczyslaw Nowicki, won two Olympic medals; and also for a vacation. I met Mike Fraysse and his father at their bike store. I couldn’t speak English and they couldn’t speak Polish, so we could only talk in French. They asked me to come for a ride and loaned me a bike. I was surprised at all the people who showed up for the ride and their physical condition. I fitted some of them to their bikes and talked to Mike and his dad about my training for bicycling and coaching in Poland. They decided maybe I could be a coach in America. I had already done all I wanted to do in Poland. For Polish people, America is a golden opportunity. So, I figured how much I would need in order to live in the U.S. and told them. They seemed happy to write a check immediately. That was the beginning, totally an accidental meeting.

PEZ: Who was the biggest talent you worked with?
Greg Lemond. He was a diamond. If he hadn’t gotten shot, he would have won the Tour 10 more times, with no drugs. A diamond is indestructible; all you need to do is polish it. He was better than Lance. I worked with Lance and worked with Greg. With Lance, I don’t think - like stupid people do - that he is a cheater. He’s not a cheater. He just made things even. Check the winners, the top ten in the Tour de France. Everybody tested positive on someday or another but he didn’t, because he was smart. The only problem with Lance for me was that he’s a typical Texan guy. That’s the problem. The leader has to share with his team - Lance was not good with that.

'Lemond was the best!'

PEZ: Who was the biggest talent who 'slipped away'?
Steve Wood. He had a girlfriend who took him away from cycling. Love is love and that is dangerous for cycling too, especially when you are young. He was 18 years old and he won the Nationals, beat the Stetinas and everybody.

But for me, the best guy was Lemond. Second best for results, for talent, was Andy Hampsten. Andy was a climber, that’s called a “spider”. I didn’t select him for Olympic Games and he was upset. The road course was not for him - too flat. It was a problem, choosing between him or Phinney, who was the best sprinter – so the tactics were for Davis. Alexi Grewal did nothing but wait for the opportunity and it worked out perfectly. I was lucky because the tactics were good, no flat tires, no last-moment sickness, and we prepared well. And, we had this advantage - our guys were fresh!

PEZ: Are you still in touch with many of your guys?
Yes, many of them, not all. I get calls from some of them.

La Alpujarra - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Rafal Majka (Tinkoff - Saxo) Chaves Rubio Jhoan Esteban (Team Orica Greenedge) pictured during La Vuelta 2015 Stage 7 from Jodar to La Alpujarra - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2015
Rafal Majka needs to improve his sprint

PEZ: Majka is the top Polish rider right now, how would you improve him?
I have not worked with him, that’s one thing. I don’t know much about him. For me, it looks like his development is very good. He would have to work on weakest point - his sprint. Maybe I would put him into track races. I don’t know what I would do.

Poland’s other big rider, Kwiatkowski is an incredible talent. He was skinny but still people pushed him to lose weight. Be careful with losing weight. It can happen naturally, by racing, but not too much. You take your time, and it can be great a great help. When you push too hard to lose weight, you will lose muscle, that’s the problem.

Taylor Phinney - Best days behind him

PEZ: Can Taylor Phinney get back to the top?
No. I think he is hurt mentally, not only physically. He had a terrible crash - I don’t know exactly how he is. I say this because I believe he is not 100%. Part of the problem is mental. He can be good, but his best time is behind him. There was a screw up, that’s not his fault. He’s an unbelievable talent who has not reached his potential. For me he hasn’t yet reached his potential because for me, a couple things: too early he went to the road, and too hard to the road, because he is a tall guy, and you have to wait until he gets down to being very skinny - because if not, the problem is climbing. Tall guys can climb, but they must be skinny. Young guys have natural fat.

I remember when I was a bike rider, I was skinny, was like this oak (knocks on hard table). You have to do everything gradually, to be smart. Pushing too much is a problem. Lemond come to me after two years, said “Thank you very much for what you did for me.” Because I held him back like a stallion, and didn’t go over the top with work. A young rider must be always hungry. When he is not, it is not good, because it - overtraining - causes mental and physical problems.

Peter Sagan: 'Incredible!'

PEZ: What do you think of Peter Sagan?

# In part two we’ll cover LA 1984, have that stiff brandy ready. #

It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he's covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,500 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself - many years and kilograms ago - and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site where more of his musings on our sport can be found.


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