Darłowo by bike – interview with Daria Pikulik

Daria Pikulik is a Polish track and road cyclist, junior world champion and vice-champion (2015.) A multiple medallist of the Polish Championships of Poland on road and track. She is the only Polish athlete to win a medal at the 2020 World Championships in an Olympic discipline – at the end of February, on the cycling track in Berlin, she won bronze in the omnium. She made her debut in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Now she wants to go to Tokyo to win a medal. She lives in Darłowo, and together with her sister Wiktoria, have represented the Ziemia Darłowska Cycling Club for years.

The Darłowo region is the north-eastern part of West Pomeranian Voivodship. Its specific microclimate, 20-kilometre-long stretch of wide, sandy beaches, clean environment, and natural and landscape values make it one of the most attractive tourist regions of the Baltic Sea. Is it an attractive area for cycling?

At the end of May, the 24th edition of the Polish Cup in Women’s Cycling was held in Darłowo. The girls came to us from all over Poland and asked if it is always so windy here. Indeed, the proximity of the Baltic Sea means that we quite often feel the wind from the sea during our training.

But we have great trails! Both for our training and recreational riding. It is very varied, many cycle tracks are still being built. Of course, we train mainly on the road. Outside the holiday season we have plenty of little frequented roads at our disposal. Fortunately, we can find such even during the season, although we know that the traffic on the streets is heavier.

I sometimes get the impression that tourists get annoyed at passing cyclists, they can honk at us, and they don’t even know that they are passing athletes who have been at home and training here for years.

Do you know your way around the Darłowo area?

Basically yes. I know all the routes near the city, so it’s hard to surprise me. And yet I am still discovering new ones. To add variety to our long training sessions, we try to go to new places and choose roads we haven’t ridden before. We have quite a lot to cover, as the furthest we can go during our trainings is the area of Polanów, which is about 60 km from Darłówek. However, my sister takes care of planning the routes, because she is better oriented in the terrain.

What is your favourite cycle route?

I like to cycle before the season, usually in May, along the paths leading to Darłówek. Ride through this coastal part of town, over our unique bridge, ride for a while by the sea itself. I really like to ride between the sea and Kopañ Lake and get to the village of Wicie, look at the seaside cliffs, resembling those in Gdynia.

As for interesting places, heading towards Jarosławiec, you will encounter numerous climbs and jumps. If someone would like to do a bigger climb for training, I recommend going to Góra Chełmska in Koszalin, 36 km from Marina Royale. It is the highest (about 137 m above sea level) hill in the whole Pomerania, and at the same time interesting, thanks to the fact that it is one of the three holy mountains of Pomerania, and apart from a sanctuary there is a view tower there that offers beautiful views.

Your favourite place in Darłowo, but maybe not so much for cycling?
It’s the viewing footbridge on the western dune. I like to go there for a walk with my dog. Another such a place are the small villages near Lake Kopań, for example Drozdowo.

Can we meet you on the beach?
No, not really. I don’t like lying down and doing nothing, and I’m not keen on water sports either. Though, to be honest, in August, after the Olympics, when I get back from Tokyo, I will be happy to lie down on our golden sand and relax.

Do you remember where you would cycle as a kid?
There were no such times because I avoided sports as a child. I was chubby and the only thing I liked was roller-skating. When I got on my bike… I started kickin’ it. Ten years ago, at the age of 14, I started cycling and immediately entered the world of hard training. At that time there was quite a big group of girls willing to do professional cycling. Maybe that’s why the coaches didn’t indulge us and started testing us in tough workouts – straight away on the road and riding in a group. The first training I remember was a 30 km ride and a crash – a friend ran over my arm, but I got up and carried on. I have a tough character and I like competition.

Good luck at the Olympics! We keep our fingers crossed!
Team POC Partners