The history of istrian cycling
The first cycling club in Istria called “Veloce club Polese” (Pula speed club) was founded as early as the 19th century, to be more exact on November 11, 1896. After having founded the club, Pula’s cycling enthusiasts started organizing races from Pula to Pazin. Only three years later Pula got its velodrome at the site of the present Gymnasium building. The cycling track was 333 meters long and the wooden stands could seat 1,200 spectators.
“Veloce club Polese” was active until the Second World War. Right after the War the cycling section at the “Unione sportiva operaia” (Workers’ sports society) was founded. In spite of all hardship during that period, the 150-kilometer Slobodna Istra race was organized in 1947. The following year Edoardo Rajković initiated the race that would become the pride of Istrian cycling – the international junior stage race Kroz Istru, which has been listed in the World cup calendar since 2003.
Day after day, cycling was becoming increasingly popular in Istria. There were a growing number of amateur cyclists, and among the many three can be singled out as winners of the Yugoslav championship. In chronological order these are: Nevio Valčić, Cvjetko Bilić and Bruno Bulić.
Nevio Valčić was the winner of the 1958 Kroz Jugoslaviju race, and three times finished in second place. He was four times winner of Jadranska magistrala, and was also four times the national champion (once junior and three times senior). In 1953 he won Kroz Istru, and was twelfth at the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960.
According to all the results, Cvjetko Bilić was the best cyclist in Yugoslav history. However, among his great achievements, those to be singled out are two victories at Kroz Jugoslaviju race (1965 and 1971), one at Alpe Adria (1972), three victories at Kroz Srbiju, Hrvatsku i Sloveniju and those at races in Algeria and Austria. The greatest victory in his career was Gran Premio di Liberazione in Italy in 1974, which according to many was the “world spring championship”. He was sixth at the prestigious Tour de L'Avenire and competed at three Olympic Games: in Munich and Mexico City as a cyclist, and in Seoul as the national team captain and coach.
Bruno Bulić won several prestigious races: Kroz Istru, Kroz Jugoslaviju, Jadranska magistrala, Giro del Friuli, and in his career there were altogether 63 victories. He competed at the Olympic Games in Moscow (eighth) and Los Angeles (ninth in the 100 km team race), won silver and bronze medals at the Mediterranean Games in Split (1979) and Casablanca (1983), and was twice winner of the Balkan championship in team competition. In 1986 he competed at Giro d'Italia, where he was altogether 25th and ended up with a ruptured calf tendon.
After Bruno Bulić, there were many other famous cyclists in Istria, but the best results were achieved by Martin Čotar from Pazin in 1999 when he became European time trial champion under 23. Today there are four clubs in Istria that are active in road racing with very good results at the national level. These are “Pula”, “Loborika”, “Kršan” and “Puris-Kamen”.