Tomáš Bábek has been collecting championship titles in track cycling at an incredible pace. However, after competing at the London Olympics in 2012, he was hit by a car and seriously injured, leaving him in a coma for several days. He had no idea whether he’d ever be able to ride a bike again, yet several years later this Brno rider became the World Cup champion as well as the European champion and finished second at the world championship. He was also one of the few top international riders to get invited to the world of traditional Japanese keirin races.


You come from Brno and compete in races all over the world. Apart from your family, what brings you back to #brnoregion?
I lived in Japan for two years and this year I returned to the Czech Republic. On one hand, it was nice there, but when you leave your home region for a culture as different as theirs, you begin to realize how nice it is back home and how good we are doing here. When I was competing in Japan, I missed Brno very much. Now I’m happy to be back and don’t feel like leaving anymore. Also, this sport makes it hard for me to leave; I represent our country and to do that somewhere else I’d have to get some other citizenship, which I don’t want. I’m a typical, proud Czech. Besides, I do my training in Brno, our team is based in Brno, and it’s the only team in the Czech Republic I can sprint for. My training field is practically around the corner which saves me a lot of time. Simply put, I love Brno. I was born here, I like to be here, and I like to come back.

The best from cycling in a few seconds

Track cycling is a traditional sport in Brno. What does your team look like these days?
Well, we are fighters here. Of course, we don’t do well at all the races, but considering that we don’t even have a covered velodrome, we do well pretty often. Basically, we train at the old velodrome, and the last time it was reconstructed was in the 1980s. They’ve been talking about building a new one here for a long time and there are actually plans to build the most up-to-date multifunctional hall in Europe here. The idea is for it to be used not only by professional cyclists but also amateurs and cycling enthusiasts. On the other hand, though, the costs are huge. One half should be covered by the city of Brno while the other by the government. In the meantime, we train at the old one, trying to make the most of it. It’s like professional swimmers doing their training for the world championship at the Brno dam!

The beginnings of cycling races in #brnoregion arose from the industrial boom of the 19th century. The owner of a local sugar refinery – Sir Bauer – had a clay race track built in the municipality of Pisárky. The very first race at what’s called Bauer’s ramp was held on July 21, 1889, and looked a bit different to what sports championships look like today. In addition to a number of sports disciplines, there was a ceremonial banquet and a folk-music band. And the racers were looking forward to winning some valuable prizes, such as a walking stick or silver writing implements.

 
Track cycling is an attractive discipline for spectators, but it’s not too widespread. Why is that?
Track cycling isn’t likely to become a mainstream sport because each discipline of it has its own set of rules. And there’ll be no crowds of fans like you see with football or ice hockey here. We don’t need such crowds anyway, as this is no “big” sport discipline. We’d like cyclists, locals, and all those who support us to come, along with anyone who’s fond of sports and interested in new things. If you get to know this sport, you’ll start to enjoy it. Take, for example, the Tour de France, which is very popular, but you always see the peloton only go through or you have to watch the entire race for seven hours on TV. With track cycling, however, you get the best of what road cycling can offer: finishes, intermediate sprints, and sprints – all these in a short race you can easily watch from start to finish.
 
In Japan, track cycling is a very popular sport. Where’s the difference?
The main reason is that keirin is mostly about betting. It’s no secret that the Japanese like to bet, so it’s more about winning money than enjoying the sport for them. It’s a traditional thing there, just like horse racing, powerboat racing or speedway racing – they gamble massively on all these. Keirin is one of many sports they can bet on. There are lots of fans who spend a total of around 8 billion USD a year on betting.

Brno velodrome – a rarity from the 1960s

Track cycling and the Brno velodrome, which is called Favál here, rose to its highest popularity in the 1960s. After its last reconstruction in 1969, the elite of cycling arrived in Brno for the World Championship. Being the oldest track in Europe, it no longer complies with the standards of professional sport, yet the best riders from around the world keep coming back for the traditional GP Brno race.

 
When the riders from abroad come here to race at a velodrome from the 1960s they can no longer see anywhere else – what are their reactions?
Well, we receive thank-you emails in which they admit that this is one of their favourite summer races. The racers appreciate the friendly atmosphere, enthusiastic spectators, and the well-organized race, and they totally forget about how insane this velodrome is. Some even like it for its special charm. Six-time Olympic champion Jason Kenny came here as well as some guys from the Netherlands who broke our track record, and all these riders like to come back over and over again.


What about the Czechs and cycling – do the locals come watch the races?
Statistically, cycling is the most frequently done sport in the Czech Republic. Track cycling is just one of the disciplines; interesting, but not so popular yet. There aren’t too many big races here, due to the troublesome state of our facilities. For example, the Six Days of Rotterdam is a cycling event attended by five to ten thousand spectators – basically one great, traditional show. Our Grand Prix in Brno attracts around one thousand spectators. We’ve been working hard to create something here, but it takes time. Together with Robin Wagner, we’ve founded the Track Cycling Academy, hoping to attract people to the track and show them how interesting this sport is – full of adrenaline but also safe. When you overcome your fear of riding a bike with no brakes which just won’t stop pedalling, you discover incredible euphoria. I think it’s because it’s not as difficult as it seems. It’s only about overcoming your fear.
 
Do you ever go for a ride outside, all by yourself just for the fun of it?
When I have some time off, I always bring my bike because I’m so fond of cycling. Cycling is my life, and it’s when I relax as well. For me, it’s a part of my regeneration, so even when I have a break in my training regime, I go for a ride anyway.


So when you go for a ride, which areas in the Czech Republic are the best?
Of course, the most beautiful is South Moravia – towards Hodonín, Kyjov or Mikulov. Simply put, the entire wine-making region, with its beautiful paths. It’s always sunny there and the landscape is simply amazing.
 
What’s your biggest sports challenge now?
The Summer Olympics in Tokyo 2020 and winning a medal there. A thing I may not pull off, but I’m going to do my best and keep hoping.

30. 09. 2019
Photos: Tomáš Hliva / asphaltcyclinglab.cc, Martina Koštanská, Český olympijský tým

More articles

Open Gardens Live

Open Gardens

Open Gardens is an educational and consulting centre located in the centre of Brno where a unique passive house lies, literally, hidden away. It’s the perfect inspiration for build... Read more
Czechs – the masters of hiking markers Live

Czechs – the masters of hiking markers

It’s free, healthy, enjoyable, and widely-accessible – what could that be? Hiking! A hobby the Czechs have been enjoying for over a century. And you can tell wherever you go, liter... Read more
Saving the rainforests Live

Saving the rainforests

In 2018 alone, around 8 thousand square kilometres of Amazonian rainforest were destroyed, and this number continues to grow at an alarming rate. This largest rainforest in the wor... Read more
Mendel is… A beekeeper! Live

Mendel is… A beekeeper!

We think highly of the giants from our region. And since Johann Gregor Mendel is one of the most interesting people to ever live in #brnoregion, we decided to throw him a huge birt... Read more
Music as a chemical reaction Live

Music as a chemical reaction

Have you ever wondered what sound carbon would produce? Yes, #brnoregion boasts top-quality research in chemistry, but sometimes we even provide answers to seemingly insane questio... Read more
Brno in maps Live

Brno in maps

Find the capital of South Moravia on a map? Easy. But where can you find out which part of the city people feel best in or where the largest number people live at the same place? T... Read more
Artist Kateřina Šedá connects people not only in #brnoregion Live

Artist Kateřina Šedá connects people not only in #brnoregion

Despite being a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Kateřina Šedá’s projects leave her working mainly with people, communities, and relationships. She conducts her soci... Read more
Journeys to the Beginning of Time Live

Journeys to the Beginning of Time

#brnoregion – not only hot now for its spirit of science and research, knowledge economy and universities, but equally interesting in the very distant past. If you’re a fan of preh... Read more
The air is our sea Live

The air is our sea

The Czech Republic is an aviation superpower. It’s one of a handful of countries that can manufacture an entire airplane – from nose to tail. In fact, the history of Czech as well ... Read more
Brno is a great place to do research and raise our daughter Live

Brno is a great place to do research and raise our daughter

Stefania Pagliari and Giancarlo Forte have been living in Brno since 2013 and aren’t planning to leave, not even after their daughter was born here in 2017. Read more
Brno Festival wins opera Oscar! Live

Brno Festival wins opera Oscar!

Janáček Brno won The International Opera Award for the best festival of last year. Read more
The things they call “impossible” are the most interesting Live

The things they call “impossible” are the most interesting

“A lot of innovations are made by the artists simply trying out various technologies without knowing exactly what they can do,” says Martin Králík from the 3D studio at the Faculty... Read more
The best gaming weekend is coming! Live

The best gaming weekend is coming!

Just two weeks from now, the gaming industry’s biggest developers, stars and fans will all come together in Brno to get inspired, share experience, and, above all, have some fun. O... Read more
Blue and white fairy-tale from #brnoregion Live

Blue and white fairy-tale from #brnoregion

Around four thousand years ago in far-off Asia, people learned to use the indigo plant to dye fabric. Then, via Silk Road, this art spread to Egypt and – several centuries later – ... Read more
From the computer to the stove and global success Live

From the computer to the stove and global success

Food and drinks are our never-ending passion. Just look at how many people – without any experience or relevant education – hurl themselves into the hospitality business and manage... Read more
Mendel University celebrates 100 years of stories Live

Mendel University celebrates 100 years of stories

Mendel University is yet another institution to celebrate its 100th birthday this year, as it was established right after independent Czechoslovakia. The celebration in the spirit ... Read more
Taste the whole world in #brnoregion Live

Taste the whole world in #brnoregion

Based on an analysis by Bott and Co Solicitors, you can find 94 national cuisines in New York, making it number one in the world. No, #brnoregion isn’t this cosmopolitan, but our s... Read more
Too crazy for ordinary sports events? Live

Too crazy for ordinary sports events?

Visit #brnoregion! We are just crazy. But laughter heals! (And strengthens your abs.) Fun is a crucial part of our lives – without it, things would just be boring. Here we love to ... Read more
The secret of Czech Christmas Live

The secret of Czech Christmas

Christmas in the Czech Republic may seem the same as in lots of other countries. It’s cold, the city is covered with colourful lights, a decorated Christmas tree, good food, gifts,... Read more
What the IT guys in #brnoregion do after work Live

What the IT guys in #brnoregion do after work

It’s always great if you truly enjoy your work, but sometimes it’s also good to take a break and spend some time on something a bit different. Or someone completely different. We w... Read more
Who’s changing the world for the better? Live

Who’s changing the world for the better?

Let’s talk about those who like to do things right while improving the world around them, no matter whether they’d like to fight the drought or invest the money into building the c... Read more
Do we speak English in #brnoregion? Live

Do we speak English in #brnoregion?

For many companies in #brnoregion, speaking English is completely normal, and – as Austria is so close – lots of us speak German as well. And even if it may not always be simple wi... Read more
Petra Střelecká: In Brno, sitting in a café is an experience Live

Petra Střelecká: In Brno, sitting in a café is an experience

Brno is a city of coffee. And top baristas! The baristas from Prague and Brno keep alternating on the first spot in Czech barista competitions. Petra Střelecká is one of them and s... Read more
The best climber in the world comes from #brnoregion Live

The best climber in the world comes from #brnoregion

Adam Ondra runs on rocks like a chamois and keeps breaking world records. He creates new grades (currently 9c) and reigns supreme in bouldering, vertical rock climbing and also on ... Read more
Long live the Marmalade Queens! Live

Long live the Marmalade Queens!

In #brnoregion we can only dream about trees heavy with juicy lemons and oranges. But this doesn’t stop us from making some of the best marmalades in the world! How is that possibl... Read more
In Vino Veritas in #brnoregion Live

In Vino Veritas in #brnoregion

Do you feel like having a glass of wine (or two, three, ehm…) from time to time? Right now? Cool! In that case #brnoregion is the right place for you because here you come across w... Read more
Gaming stars are coming to Brno Live

Gaming stars are coming to Brno

The third annual game developers conference and festival, Game Access ‘18, is about to kick off in Brno. Beyond novelties from the digital gaming world, it also promises its attend... Read more
Brno as the capital of European coffee culture Live

Brno as the capital of European coffee culture

Premium coffee is a huge trend all around Europe, but Brno is closer to it more than anyone else. That’s because we have been drinking it since the 18th century. We enjoy not only ... Read more
From A to B Live

From A to B

Speaking of transport and transportation, #brnoregion still has some issues to improve but also so much to be proud of. The public transport in Brno in particular is one of the c... Read more
Enjoy Majáles - the biggest student festival Live

Enjoy Majáles - the biggest student festival

The most entertaining part of the student year in #brnoregion? Definitely spring. Before the semester moves into the test period, it’s necessary to recharge one’s batteries and to ... Read more
#brnoregion, Excellent Starting Line Live

#brnoregion, Excellent Starting Line

Four year seasons, varied landscapes and nature, great city with sporting facilities, this is a fantastic background for everyone to find the best sporting activities in #brnoregio... Read more
Spank the Baby! Easter Volume Live

Spank the Baby! Easter Volume

Czech Easter is a big deal. Controversial. Loved and hated. And also magic. Let’s find out what “pomlázka” is, how a decorated Easter egg looks like, and how a bit of symbolic viol... Read more
Armin the Extraordinary Live

Armin the Extraordinary

What a funny paradox it is that insignificant trivia get in the spotlight while very important phenomena go unnoticed. Quite the same with people: there are so many so-called celeb... Read more
Our hearts beat for games in #brnoregion Live

Our hearts beat for games in #brnoregion

Do you like playing? No matter if you prefer board games with a gang of friends or online gaming, #brnoregion will feel like heaven. We enjoy playing games and we love creating the... Read more
INTERCONNECTION & #BRNOREGION Live

INTERCONNECTION & #BRNOREGION

In 2000 Stephen Hawking published his vision that the new century would be the age of complexity. If Mr. Hawking was not mistaken, this century is going to be the age of ... Read more
TO CREATE AND TO LIVE. Live

TO CREATE AND TO LIVE.

#brnoregion is strong and modern background for creators looking for support on their way to success as well as their real home. It provides everyone with high living standarts. ... Read more
15 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE MOVING IN TO #BRNOREGION Live

15 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE MOVING IN TO #BRNOREGION

Sure, the internet is full of practical information about living in the Czech republic. But not many guides will tell you the real deal of living in the astonishing #brnoregion. Read more
Innovate your travelling! Live

Innovate your travelling!

How can you save money on the road, entertain your kids on a trip or discover the world from your couch at home? We have a couple of great tips from creative and clever heads from ... Read more
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more