Everyone has a favorite rider / racer for one reason or another mine happens to be Robert Krzyzostaniak and its not just because he loved the show 'married with children' or that he is the proudest American you have ever met. Robert was a polish teammate of mine who really opened my eyes to the rest of the world and what racing was truly all about - to enjoy it.
In 1989 Robert and the rest of the Polish National Cycling Team (Zamana, Wiart, Mershieski, ect.) flew into southern California for the Tour of Mexico and the airlines lost all their bikes and luggage. They were put up in a hotel while waiting for their stuff and Robert said they gathered into one of the hotel rooms and found themselves immediately saying things like, "I'm not going back are you?". They all decided that this was their opportunity to defect. One of them had a contact in Chicago (1.5 million Polish Americans in Chicago) and he made arrangements to get them all to the windy city.
Edward Borysewicz aka Eddy B was running the Subaru Montgomery cycling team in 89' and knew of the defection. Knowing that they were all world class athletes with Polish National Titles to all their names, he grabbed them all for his Subaru team. Eddy B's teams were famous for their constant ebb and flow or athletes and they all eventually found themselves scrapping for new teams. Zamana found himself on Motorola via Kelme after a stage win in the Dauphine and Robert and Kristof signed on with Wheelsmith. All of these guys had world class talent.
These folks had almost nothing to their names and when you spent time with them you realized that every tire every calorie every opportunity was looked at with utter appreciation. Robert was a blast to travel with because all he talked about was becoming an American and how fun that was going to be for him. You got the impression that it was easy for them in the county of excess and gluttony. Robert would absolutely trip on the amount food that was left on plates in restaurants as well as the insane serving sizes.
My first race with Robert was at the Cat's Hill Criterium in Los Gatos. He decided to get away solo because they were going to give away a Tag Heuer watch to the KOM that day and it was going to be worth more than the win. He stayed away all day with a huge gap until the last lap when his rear wheel imploded on him and the field zipped past him just before the line. He didn't seem to care because he already had a buyer for that watch and he probably lived off that for weeks.
He also grabbed an impressive stage win at the Cascade Classic in 94'. He was in a break with a bunch of Coors Light and other pros and his Mavic Zap electronic shifting went to shit on him only allowing for a 12 or 23 so he toughed it out in the break and won the sprint in a 39 x 12. It was surreal for me to be riding back to the hotel with this humble guy who just beat out Julich, Hincapie, Grewall, Moninger, and Engleman. He was always so stocked just be in America with all the crazy opportunity at his fingertips that winning that stage was almost inconsequential to him. On the way back to the hotel we kept telling him , "do you realize what you just did?". I remember him telling us that the effort he put out for that win in a major US pro race would have put him somewhere in the field in a Polish race.
Hanging out with Robert for those few years helped me realize the importance of appreciating opportunities we all have and more importantly to enjoy them.
For the record:
The last I have heard Robert and his family own a couple of Hotels in Colorado.