Book Review – The Race against the Stasi by Herbie Sykes


As much a view on life in East and West Germany during the Cold War and the impact of the Berlin Wall and border closures on the people as it is a cycling book.

Dieter Wiedemann was a cyclist in one of the state sponsored cycle clubs of East Germany (GDR) who, as a teenager, struck up a relationship with a girl in West Germany (FDR).  I’ll leave you to read the book to work out whether it had a happy ending but Dieter became one of the elite riders in the GDR and the book documents both his cycling story overlaid with records extracted from Stasi archives.  The tale is told directly by Dieter, his family and friends, and probably some who were not exactly friends.

I found it a captivating read documented in a unique manner, in the first person of each contributor.  I had heard of The Peace Race before but only vaguely knew of its level of support and prestige away from the core of Professional Cycle Racing in the rest of Europe.  The history of that alone makes it a worthwhile read.

Given the history of what I’ll term as The Eastern Block it is perhaps not surprising that national feelings could flow to the fore within The Peace Race but it was amusing to read of two events that had competitors wield cycle pumps in defence of their team mates.  One case was alleged, and later denied, but it still makes for an amusing anecdote.  It may be little surprise that in both instances a Russian competitor was on the receiving end, one from a Polish rider Stanislaw Krolak (the alleged incident) and the second from a GDR rider Manfred Weissleder.  Both became known as heroes in Poland.

I’ll leave you to read the details.  A recommended read.

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January 13, 2020 8:03 pm

Sounds like a great read – racing was a helluva lot different back then! On a personal note, my older brother apparently dated Ian Steel’s daughter for a wee while. Alas, I never got to meet the man! Beating the Soviets, the East Germans and the Poles back then must have been bloody difficult!