Monday, 28 July 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 28.07.2014

Théodore Vienne
Théodore Vienne
Born in Roubaix on this day in 1864, Théodore Vienne was an amateur cyclist himelf, but he is primarily remembered as one of the men who established a race that has become perhaps the most famous in the world after the Tour de France - Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North. Having become fabulously wealthy through his textile factories, he became involved in sports promotion (and of events that are sometimes mistaken for sport, such as bull-fighting; he built Roubaix's torodrome and, on Bastille Day 1899, promoted a fight between a lion and a bull - which, pleasingly, descended into farce when the two animals refused to fight) after offering the grounds of one his factories to a bike race organised by the town's socialist-collectivist mayor Henri Carette, who saw sporting events as a way to improve the lives of the populace; it was such a success that Vienne recruited business associate and fellow amateur cyclist Maurice Perez and built a velodrome on a 46,000 square metre site. Among the many famous riders to compete there was "Major" Marshall Taylor, who made his first appearance before a wildly supportive French crowd at a time when he was banned from many velodromes at home in the USA because he was black.

The velodrome was enormously successful but, being entrepreneurs, Vienne and Perez wanted more. They soon hit upon the idea of holding a road race from Paris - where all the big races of the day began - to Roubaix, but this came with a problem: Roubaix had grown dramatically from 8,500 inhabitants in 1800 to more than 125,000 by 1890, but it remained a provincial industrial town, little known throughout the rest of the country and very much lacking the glamour of the capital. They also felt that they lacked the experience to organise both the start and end of the race, but realised that their event would immediately become more famous if it could be associated with an established race; so they contacted Louis Minart, editor of Le Vélo, suggesting that his newspaper might like to become involved with the race and enjoy a sales boost like that experienced by Véloce Sport through its Bordeaux-Paris. Minart was immediately keen but explained that the decision to back the race rested with the paper's director Paul Rousseau; he was, apparently, not entirely convinced that Rousseau would be convinced because Vienne and Perez changed their sales pitch, emphasising an idea that their race could be run as a preparation for Bordeaux-Paris. "The distance between Paris and Roubaix is roughly 280km, so it would be child's play for the future participants of Bordeaux–Paris," they told him, also mentioning that they had already arranged a prize of 1,000 francs.

Arenberg didn't feature in Paris-Roubaix until 1968; however,
as roads were built like this in those days, Breyer probably
experienced many similar cobbles on his way to Roubaix
Rousseau was as favourable as Minart and sent his cycling editor Victor Breyer with a driver to reconnoitre a route; Breyer went as far as Amiens by car, then continued by bike. As has happened so many times in the race's future history, the weather turned unpleasant and he arrived at Roubaix  covered in mud and soaked through after a painful day on the treacherous cobbles that would later give the race its unique character. At first, he planned to send a telegram to Minart advising him that the roads to Roubaix were simply too hard, too dangerous for the race to go ahead; fortunately, once he'd had a bath, a hot meal and some good wine, he realised what a spectacle it could be (Breyer, incidentally, must have had a sadistic streak - it was he who, in 1910, persuaded Henri Desgrange to include the Tourmalet in the Tour de France) and the race went ahead on the 19th of April, 1896. More than half the riders that applied to take part didn't show up; among those that did were Desgrange, who failed to finish, and Maurice Garin - who did finish and would win the first ever Tour de France seven years later. The winner, Josef Fischer, remains the only German victor.

Vienne died on the 1st of March 1921. His race still takes place each year, whereas Bordeaux-Paris has not been held since 1988.

Julia Shaw
Julia Shaw, born in The Wirral, Great Britain on this day in 1965, took part in no sport after she left school and no longer had to do physical education lessons - in fact, it wasn't until she'd graduated from university and begun working that she began to take an interest, inspired by a triathlete colleague. She says that it was the friendliness of the other triathletes she met that kept her interested, but it would be another ten years before she began to take a serious interest in cycling. By that time, she was already in her thirties.

Fortunately, female athletes retain their ability to perform well in endurance sports for longer than their male counterparts, hence the relatively high numbers of riders in the late 30s in women's cycling when compared to the men's sport. Shaw was no different - she won the Best British All-Rounder competition in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010; only the legendary Beryl Burton has won it more times. She also won the Beryl Burton Champion of Champions Trophy for four consecutive years between 2007 and 2010, and she was National Time Trial Champion in 2005 (and third in 2009, then second in 2010 and 2011). Still racing at the age of 47, she came fifth behind Wendy Houvenaghel, Olga Zabelinskaia, Hanka Kupfernagel and Pia Sundstedt at the 2012 Celtic Chrono in Ireland.

Shaw was not considered for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, but was selected for the 2010 Games after her second place at the Time Trial Nationals and won a bronze medal, finishing 10" behind Tara Whitten and 5" behind Linda Villumsen. Shaw's 2010 50-mile British TT record, 1h46'49", still stands; as does her 100-mile record of 3h45'22" from the same year. She also holds a degree and master's degree in physics and is involved in fibre optic research science.

Rik van Linden, born in Wilrijk on this day in 1949, won the Belgian Junior Road Race Championship in 1968, the Under-23 Ronde van Vlaanderen in 1969, Paris-Tours in 1971 and 1973 and Milano-Torino in 1977. He also rode well in stages races, including the Grand Tours - he won Stage 2 and second place in the Points competition at the 1972 Tour de France, Stages 7 and 17 at the 1973 Giro d'Italia, Stage 5 at the 1975 Giro, Stages 1b, 19, 21 and first place in the Points competition at the 1975 Tour, Stages 3 and 15 at the 1976 Giro, Stage 2 at the 1977 Giro and  Stages 1, 5 and 6 at the 1978 Giro.

Iker Flores
Born in Galdakao, Euskadi on this day in 1976, Iker Flores turned professional with Euskaltel-Euskadi in 1999, then won the Tour de l'Avenir in his second year with the team. Flores was a rider who spent his entire career on the verge of becoming great, coming 18th overall at the Vuelta a Espana in 2003 and finishing Stage 7 at the 2004 Tour de France in second place, but somehow never quite found the little extra he needed to break through. Finally, Euskaltel let him go; he spent his last professional season with ProContinental Fuerteventura-Canarias, then retired in 2007. Flores was Lanterne Rouge at the Tour in 2005 - as was his older brother brother Igor three years earlier.

Vasil Kiryienka, born in Rechytsa, Belarus (then USSR) on this day in 1981, was National Time Trial Champion in 2002, 2005 and 2006. He also won the Points competition at the Critérium International in 2011 and was second overall, then came sixth overall at the same event in 2012. At the end of that year he left Movistar and signed up to Team Sky, going on to win Stage 18 at the Vuelta a Espana; he is still with Sky as of 2014.

Chepe González, born in Sogamoso, Colombia on this day in 1968, won Stage 11 at the Tour de France in 1996, Stage 20 and the King of the Mountains at the Giro d'Italia in 1997 and Stage 5 and a second King of the Mountains at the Giro in 1999.

Walter Bénéteau, born in Les Essarts on this day in 1972, competed in and finished every Tour de France between 2000 and 2006. His best result was 42nd, in 2001.

Jeanne Deley, long-term partner of Tour de France director Henri Desgrange following his divorce, was born in Creusot on this day in 1878. Deley was a rather bohemian artist, known for the spirited parties she held at their villa and to which she invited cyclists, artists, actors, eccentrics and - most exotic of all - Americans; Desgrange seems not to have disapproved, an interesting contrast to the stern, pompous character he is usually portrayed as having been.

Cyclists born on this day: Maurice Moucheraud (France, 1933); Will Davis (France, 1877); Constantin Ciocan (Romania, 1943); Jan Bo Petersen (Denmark, 1970); Joe Waugh (Great Britain, 1952); František Kundert (Bohemia, now Czech Republic, 1891); Donald Eagle (New Zealand, 1936); Yvonne Schnorf (Switzerland, 1965); Viktor Manakov (USSR, 1960); Norbert Kostel (Austria, 1966); Baba Ganz (Switzerland, 1964); Adrian Prosser (Canada, 1956); Franco Gandini (Italy, 1936).

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 27.07.2014

Willy Kanis
Willy Kanis
One of the most successful Dutch track riders of all time, Willy Kanis - who was born in Kampen on this day in 1984 - began her cycling career at the age of six, riding in BMX competitions, and became a World Champion in that discipline in 2005 and 2006. She started track cycling in her teens and won two silver medals at the National Championships of 2003, then took two more in 2004 and another two in 2005 - and in 2006, won the 500m, Keirin and Sprint National titles to go with her second BMX gold medal.

Since 2007, Kanis has concentrated on the track, winning nine gold medals (including the 500m, Keirin and Sprint for a second time in 2008), silver and bronze at the Worlds in 2009, a third 500m National Championship in 2010 and a fourth 500m and third Keirin title at the Nationals in 2011. In 2010 she joined AA, one of the strongest teams ever seen in women's cycling, but one that would come to an end in 2012 when owner Leontien van Moorsel announced that she would be retiring from team management; Kanis ended her own career at the same time.

Colin Lewis
Born in Torquay, Great Britain on this day in 1942, Colin Lewis began racing in his late teens and finished his first big race - the 1960 Milk Race (now the Tour of Britain) - in seventh place. Good results in French races earned him a place in the traditional home of all promising riders from nations other than those that traditionally do well in cycling, the AC Boulogne-Billancourt, and in 1964 he was the best-placed British rider at the Olympics.

In 1967 Lewis faced a tough decision - go to the prominent French Peugeot team, with its big budget and good salaries, or go to the financially poorer British Mackeson-Whitbread team, which was offering him a salary of £4 a week (less than a fifth the average weekly wage in Britain at that time). He went to Mackeson-Whitbread, then got a pay rise to £8 a week by winning the National Championship and finishing the Tour de France in 84th place..

Lewis became the first rider to win the British road race champion title for two consecutive years in 1968 and took second place in the very first Tom Simpson memorial - had he have chosen Peugeot instead of Mackeson, he'd have ridden alongside Tom; as it was he rode with him on the Great Britain team at the Tour, then contested by national rather than trade teams. The two men were friends; they shared hotel rooms at the Tour in 1968, and Lewis was in bed wondering if Tom would be released from hospital to ride the next day when the news reached him that his room mate was dead.

Lewis realised that one of the main things holding back British riders was the culture shock they experienced when first racing in Europe, pointing out that the British amateur racing scene was decades behind its French, Belgian and Italian counterparts; British riders were therefore at a disadvantage right from the start and only the most exceptional - such as Simpson - stood any chance of catching up. He understood too that snaring a household name race sponsor was not always a good thing as more often than not they pulled out again after a year or so, deciding that cycling didn't give the returns they'd hoped, and that this created a feeling in the the mind of the public that the race had failed. Following his retirement, he became manager of Hackney's Eastway Cycle Circuit, since demolished to make way for the Olympic Velopark, and worked for seven years as training director at the South-East Centre of Excellence, using his experience to assist numerous young athletes develop into world-class competitors. He still owns Colin Lewis Cycles in Paignton, Devon, and is president of the Mid-Devon CC.

Allan Davis
Allan Davis
Allan Davis, born in Queensland, Australia on this day in 1980, started racing at the age of 10 and turned professional with Mapei-QuickStep in 2002 after being taken on as a trainee the year before. He began winning stages immediately.

In 2004, Davis rode his first Tour de France and took a handful of decent stage finishes; in 2005 he returned and came fifth in the Points competition, then won the Points at the Benelux Tour later in the year. 2006 got off to a superb start with second place on three stages at Paris-Nice, but his season was ruined when he was one of the riders implicated in Operacion Puerto and his Astana team was blocked from the Tour de France; all five riders from the team were subesquently cleared by the Spanish Federation and salvaged the year with victory at the Noosa International Criterium.

Davis began 2007 with the Discovery team, came second at Milan-San Remo and then won five stages (1, 3, 5, 6 and 9) at the Tour of Qinghai Lake. He also came within a hair's breadth of a Grand Tour when he came fourth, third and second on Stages 1, 3 and 7 at the Vuelta a Espana; oddly, he experienced some difficulty in securing a contract at the end of the season and had to settle for a ProContinental Mitsubishi-Jartazi for six months until ProTour QuickStep came knocking; he repaid them in 2009 with the General Classification and the Points competition at the Tour Down Under, then at the Giro d'Italia he again came close to a Grand Tour stage win with third place on Stage 6 and second on Stage 9.

In 2010, riding for Astana, he won the Points competition at the Tour of Poland and later took a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. 2011, during which he remained with Astana, proved to be a quieter year without victories; nevertheless his results remained good enough to win him a place with the new Australian GreenEDGE team for 2012 and he won the Jayco Bay Classic for them. He stayed with the team, now known as Orica-AIS, in 2013, but when his contract was not extended into 2014 he retired.

Alison Dunlap
Alison Dunlap
American mountain biker Alison Dunlap is one of the most successful riders in the history of the sport, with eight World MTB Championships (1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004), three National MTB Cross-Country Championships (1999, 2002 and 2004), three National Short-Track MTB Cross-Country Championships (1999, 2002 and 2004) and one MTB World Cup (2002) to her name. She was born in Denver on this day in 1969.

Dunlap also excels in cyclo cross and on road; she has been National Cyclo Cross Champion six times (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003), was National Road and Omnium Collegiate Champion in 1993, the year she also won the bronze medal at the National Road Race Championships. She now runs Alison Dunlap Adventure Camps in Moab, offering MTB coaching and holidays.

Jean-Marie Leblanc, born in Nueil-les-Aubiers (then Nueil-les-Argent) on this day in 1944, rode the Tour de France in 1968 and 1970. He finished both times, coming 58th overall the first time around and then 83rd the second, when he also managed his best stage result - tenth, on Stage 5a. Following his retirement in 1971 he became a cycling journalist; and in 1989 it turned out that the Tour wasn't quite finished with him yet - he became the race Director, a position he held until reaching retirement age in 2005, when he was replaced by Christian Prudhomme. He was the man responsible for the abolition of the red Intermediate Sprint and Combination jerseys and is remembered as a moderniser - his decisions, though not always popular with riders and fans, have stood the test of time.

Sep Vanmarcke
Sep Vanmarcke, born in Kortrijk, Belgium on this day in 1988, came second at Gent-Wevelgem in 2010, fourth at the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke in 2011 and first at the Omloop het Nieuwsblad in 2012. In 2013, riding for the new Belkin team, he aimed to concentrate on the Classics but injured his knee at Tirreno-Adriatico and was in obvious pain when he finished the Ronde van Vlaanderen three minutes behind winner Fabian Cancellara; however, he regained form remarkably quickly and was second behind Cancellara at Paris-Roubaix only a week later. His Classics campaign in 2014 was better still with fifth at the E3 Harelbeke, fourth at the Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix and third at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Alessanddro Bertolini, born in Rovereto, Italy on this day in 1971, won Paris-Brussels in 1997. Ten years later, he had a superb year in which he won the Giro dell'Appennino, the Coppa Agostoni, the Trittico Lombardo, the Giro del Veneto and the Coppa Placci and first place overall for points won in the UCI Europe Tour; the year after that he won his only Grand Tour stage victory, Stage 11 at the Giro d'Italia.

Swiss rider Hugo Schär, born on this day in 1948, participated in the Road Race at the 1972 Olympics but did not finish. In 1984, he filed a patent (US 4,458,556) for a new type of pedal that did away with the old-fashioned toe strap, using instead a specially-shaped pedal body and a strap that crossed the foot over the Lisfranc joint complex. This was intended to provide similar benefits to the clipless pedal that first became popular at about the same time and would prevent Schär's pedal becoming a success.

Other cyclists born on this day: Martijn Maaskant (Netherlands, 1973); Twan Poels (Netherlands, 1963); Nicola Loda (Italy, 1971); Julien Bérard (France, 1987); John Henry Lake (USA, 1878); Glauco Servadei (Italy, 1973); Omer Taverne (Belgium, 1904); Luis Alberto González (Colombia, 1965); Bohumil Kubrycht (Bohemia, now Czech Republic, 1886); Ludwik Turowski (Poland, 1901, died 1973); Robert Downs (Great Britain, 1954); Dieter Berkmann (West Germany, 1950); Karl Link (Germany, 1942); Claudio Vandelli (Italy, 1961); José Sánchez (Costa Rica, 1941); Rubén Placanica (Argentina, 1943); Massimo Brunelli (Italy, 1961); Erwin Tischler (West Germany, 1951).

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 26.07.2014

Uwe Raab at Paris-Roubaix
Uwe Raab, born in Wittenberg, East Germany in this day in 1962, won the Points competition at the Vuelta a Espana in 1990 and 1991. He also became World Amateur Road Race Champion in 1983.

Very few riders enjoy a career in competitive cycling as long as that of Geoff Cooke, who was born in Manchester on this day in 1944: his first major victory was the Sprint at the British Track Championships in 1963; almost half a century later he also won the Sprint for the 65-69 class at the World Championships in 2009. He has been a National Champion no fewer than 31 times, a World Masters Champion 18 times and held the World Masters Sprint Champion title for seven consecutive years between 1996 and 2002. In addition to racing, Cooke was a British Cycling coach for ten years and still works a youth coach to this day.

Julien Vermote, born in Kortrijk on this day in 1989, enjoyed an extremely successful amateur career and became Junior Champion of Belgium in 2004, came second in the Juniors Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2007 and was National Under-23 Time Trial Champion in 2009. He signed to  QuickStep in 2011 and, as tends to be the case when a rider first moves up to the top level of the sport, had a quiet year whilst adjusting to the increased competition; overall victory at the Dreidaagse van West-Vlaanderen and tenth place for Stage 21 at the Giro d'Italia in 2012 suggests he's finding his feet.

Spain has produced many great climbers, but few as good as Aurelio González Puente who was born in Valle de Villaverde on this day in 1940 and spent his entire career with KAS-Kaskol. In 1966, only his second year as a professional, he came third in the King of the Mountains at the Tour de France; the year after that he was third overall at the Vuelta a Espana, then won the King of the Mountains at the Giro d'Italia; in 1968, he won his first Tour stage (Stage 6) and the King of the Mountains. It seems likely that Puente could have been another Bahamontes, winning a Tour in a year when the mountains were given especial importance (and had Eddy Merckx not dominated it so entirely in the coming years); however, from 1969 he began to experience bad luck and failed to finish that year or the next. In 1970, he retired after a relatively short career of seven years.

Brice Feillu, born in Châteaudun on this day in 1985, won Stage 7 and came 25th overall at the 2009 Tour de France when he rode for Agritubel, the team with which he started his professional career one year earlier. In 2010 he moved to Vacansoleil, then in 2011 to LeopardTrek, but won no races with either. In 2012 he moved again, this time to Saur-Sojasun, and picked up a series of good top ten finishes including fifth place on Stage 16 at the Tour, and remained with the team until its demise at the end of 2013. For 2014, Brice has been with Bretagne-Séché Environnement where he rides alongside his brother Romain (a sprinter, whereas Brice specialises in climbing) following a few years in which they rode on different teams.

Christophe Laurent won the King of the Mountains at the Tour de l'Avenir in 2002 and at the Tour of California in 2007. He was born in Mende, France, on this day in 1977.

Jef Demuysere
Born in Wervik, Belgium on this day in 1907, Jef Demuysere won Stage 10 and finished third overall at the 1929 Tour de France, then fourth overall in 1930. In 1931 he won Stages 15 and 18 and finished in second place behind Antonin Magne, a placing he repeated at the Giro d'Italia in 1932 and 1933. In 1934 he won Milan-San Remo, the third Belgian to have ever done so.

Other cyclists born on this day: Romain Lemarchand (France, 1987); Ivan Kovalev (Russia, 1986); Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Italy, 1983); René Jørgensen (Denmark, 1975); Honorio Machado (Venezuela, 1982); Rudi Valenčič (Yugoslavia, 1941); Stanisław Zieliński (Poland, 1912, died 1939); Gottlieb Weber (Switzerland, 1910, died 1996); Jeon Dae-Heung (South Korea, 1976); Glenn Clarke (Australia, 1963); Errol Walters (Jamaica, 1956); Richard Ball (USA, 1944); Paul McCormack (Ireland, 1963); Étienne Chéret (France, 1886); Arne Klavenes (Norway, 1952); Anders Adamson (Sweden, 1957); Emil Schöpflin (Germany, 1910); Chris Wheeler (Australia, 1914, died 1984).

Friday, 25 July 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 25.07.2014

Ruslan Pidgornyy, born in Ukraine on this day in 1977, began his professional career with De Nardi-Pasta Montegrappa in 2002 and won the Giro del Friuli Venezia Giulia in 2003. He became National Road Race Champion in 2008. In 2004, Pidgornyy and team mate Yuriy Ivanov were sacked by the LPR-Piacenzi Management SRL team after they were accused of assaulting and robbing a woman working as a prostitute near Emilia in Italy. According to news reports at the time, the pair attempted to drag the woman into a car but were unsuccessful, then stole €150 from her - both men admitted their guilt. Two other members of the team, Dimitri Konyshev and Andrey Karpachev, were also arrested but were not sacked as they had apparently taken no active part in the attack. Pidgornyy was offered a contract with the Irish Tenax team the following year and remained with them for four years, later joining ISD-Neri for two seasons and ending his career with Vacansoleil-DCM in 2011.

Stage 4, Tour de France 1904
François Beaugendre, born in France on this day in 1880, rode in the 1903 Tour de France - the first ever held - and came ninth overall, 10h52'14" behind winner Maurice Garin. He entered again the following year and finished Stages 3 and 4 in third place, but then failed to start Stage 5; after numerous riders were disqualified some months after the race had ended, he became official winner of Stage 4 and leader of the race with an advantage of 25'15" over eventual General Classification winner Henri Cornet. Beaugendre rode the Tour again in 1907 and 1908, coming first fifth and then thirteenth, and retired in 1911. His brothers Joseph and Omer were also cyclists - Joseph rode the Tour in 1909, Omer - who won Paris-Tours in 1908 - in 1910.

Wilfried Trott, born in West Germany on this day in 1948, won the Rund um Köln a record three times (1972, 1976 and 1979).

Other cyclists born on this day: Matt Illingworth (Great Britain, 1968); Nacer Bouhanni (France, 1990); Alfred Letourneur (France, 1907); Jean Eudes Demaret (France, 1984); François Beaugendre (France, 1880); Guillaume Levarlet (France, 1985); Wladimir Belli (Italy, 1970); Gerardo Moncada (Colombia, 1962); Peter Riis Andersen (Denmark, 1980); Kosaku Takahashi (Japan, 1944); Robert Farrell (Trinidad and Tobago, 1949); Declan Lonergan (Ireland, 1969); Maurice Gillen (Luxembourg, 1895, died 1974); Per Digerud (Norway, 1933, died 1988); Masaki Inoue (Japan, 1979); Alfred Gaida (West Germany, 1951); Kouflu Alazar (Ethiopia, 1931).

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 24.07.2014

Ferdinand Kübler
Ferdinand Kübler
Born in Marthalen, Switzerland in 1919, Ferdinand Kübler - commonly called Ferdi, though he prefers Ferdy - is 95 years old today: making him the oldest surviving Tour de France winner in the world and the longest lived Tour winner in history. In his best years, Ferdy was like no rider seen before: an uncontrollable, impulsive, unstoppable rider every bit as likely to throw his chances away in a suicidal attack as to impress with his enormous talent. Ending his career took no less an opponent than Mont Ventoux, and he won more than 400 victories. Had he not have been limited to Swiss races in the early days of his career by the Nazi occupation of Europe, he might easily have come closer to Eddy Merckx's record of 525.

Kübler's professional career began with the Cilo team in 1940 and he became National Pursuit Champion on the track that year; he kept the title and won a stage at the Tour de Suisse the following year when he rode for the P. Egli Rad team. In 1942 he won the National Hill Climb Championship and the General Classification at the Tour de Suisse, then in 1943 he won the Pursuit Championship for a third time. In 1944 and 1945, he won A Travers Lausanne for the fourth and then fifth time and, in the latter year, also became National Cyclo Cross Champion; with the war over he was free to compete in foreign events but had a quiet year. He entered the Tour de France with the Tebag team in 1947 and won Stages 1 and 5, wearing the maillot jaune for one day and abandoning in Stage 7; having won the National Road Race Championship, the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse in 1948 he returned to the Tour in 1949 (having won the National Road Race Championship again) and won Stage 5, this time he abandoned in Stage 18. Later that year he won the silver medal at the World Road Race Championships.

There are those who say that had Fauto Coppi not have broken his pelvis at the Giro d'Italia and had Gino Bartali's Italian team have stayed in the race instead of going with him when he abandoned after allegedly being threatened by a man with a knife, Kübler would not have won the 1950 Tour de France. Coppi may indeed have won if he was able to race; but he wasn't and that's how cycling works, so that point is irrelevant. Bartali was aging and coming to the end of his career - he had been one of the greatest Tour riders ever seen and was still capable of beating far younger men in the mountains, but in this edition the time trials counted for a great deal and he wasn't as fast as he once was. Magni, meanwhile, was a superb rider in the flat time trials, as can be seen by his second place finish in Stage 6 when he was only 17" behind Kübler; but he wasn't much of a climber. Kübler could climb and time trial, so it seems that his insistence that he'd have won regardless is probably correct. Either way, it was a fair-and-square victory and we'll never know what might have been. It should also be remembered that he had phenomenal form that year, winning thirteen other races, fourth place overall at the Giro and three Tour stages.

Kübler on the Tour, 1950
Kübler met his match on the 18th of July in 1955, the day his impulsiveness led him to make a serious mistake - underestimating Ventoux. The Giant of Provence wasn't in the mood to go easy on anyone that day, as Jean Malléjac discovered, not even realising what was happening to him when he collapsed on the seared asphalt - when the doctors got to Malléjac they found him lying flat on the stony ground with one leg still trying to turn the pedals and he didn't regain consciousness for a quarter of an hour (he wasn't the only one - no fewer than six men collapsed and needed medical assistance that day).

Kübler had believed himself able to tame the mountain. Raphaël Géminiani tried to warn him: "Watch out, Ferdy - the Ventoux is not like any other col." Kübler, with his curious habit of referring to himself in the third person, replied: "Ferdy is not like any other rider." Then he tried to sprint to the summit, and hadn't got very far before he was reduced to begging for a push from spectators to get over. On the way down, ashen-faced and in a cold sweat, he found a bar and started drinking heavily - other customers persuaded him to continue and got him back on his bike, but he set off in the wrong direction and finished in 42nd place. "He is too old, Ferdy; he is to sick - Ferdy has killed himelf on the Ventoux," he told a press conference that night, then abandoned and never returned to the Tour. He won three races the following year, then retired in 1957.

After his racing years came to an end, Ferdy bought a flower shop and became manager of the Italian Gazzola team, home to Charly Gaul; another rider who sometimes foamed at the mouth when climbing, but a climber to whom even Ventoux paid respect. He was also a friend of Tom Simpson, who bore a passing resemblance to him - Simpson, of course, died on Ventoux in 1968. Kübler is still involved in Tour de Suisse public relations work to this day.

Daniel Morelon 
Daniel Morelon, born in Bourg-en-Bresse on this day in 1944, began cycling after going to see some races with his father and two older brothers. Having originally dreamed of a career as a road racer, he developed an interest in track cycling after watching Sante Gaiardoni winning the gold medals for the 1,000m Time Trial and Sprint at the 1960 Olympics; decided that his future lay in the velodrome, he entered his first race two years later and crashed (due to forgetting that he was on a fixed-gear bike, he said) yet still finished second behind Pierre Trentin, who would become his great rival.

In 1963, Morelon was summoned to complete his National Service with the French Army and joined the Insep National Sports Institute, which brought him into contact with coaches and training levels operating at the top levels of cycling. Within a year, he was specialising in the Sprint and was able to beat then World Champion Patrick Sercu - and two years later, he was World Champion himself: as he would be again in 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973 and 1975. Despite their rivarly, Morelon and Trentin often rode together in tandem events and became World Champions in 1966.

Morelon retired in 1977 and became National Coach; however, in 1980 he returned to competition and won silver for the Keirin and bronze for the Sprint at the European Championships. In 1990 he became chief of a training facility in Hyeres, where he coached Laurent Gané and developed a new rivalry with his Parisian counterpart Gérard Quintyn, the coach responsible for Florian Rousseau. Both men retired following the 2004 Olympics; while Morelon was taken on by the Italian team prior to the 2008 Games he decided instead to work for the Chinese, coaching Guo Shuang.

Josef Fuchs, born in Einseideln, Switzerland on this day in 1948, won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 1981.

Daisuke Imanaka, who was born in Hiroshima on this day in 1963, became the second Japanese rider to ride the Giro d'Italia (1995) and the Tour de France (1996).

Cyclists born on this day: Gerard Bosch van Drakestein (Netherlands, 1887, died 1972); Deb Murrell (Great Britain, 1966); Radiša Čubrić (Yugoslavia, later Serbia, 1962); Alberto Ongarato (Italy, 1975); Levi Heimans (Netherlands, 1985); Bob Downs (Great Britain, 1955); Aitor Pérez (Euskadi, 1977); Gabriele Missaglia (Italy, 1970); Adriano Durante (1940); Bjørn Stiler (Denmark, 1911); Bent Pedersen (Denmark, 1945); Heinz Richter (East Germany, 1947); Vratislav Šustr (Czechoslovakia, 1959); Arturo Gériz (Spain, 1964); Dania Pérez (Cuba, 1973); Tanasije Kuvalja (Yugoslavia, 1946); Kleanthis Barngas (Greece, 1978); Robert Pfarr (USA, 1920, died 2006).

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 23.07.2014

Judith Arndt
Born in Königs Wusterhausen, Germany on this day in 1976, Judith Arndt became one of the greatest and most popular all-rounders in cycling with numerous excellent results in road racing, time trials and on the track.

Arndt turned professional with the Red Bull team in 1999, at a time when she already had five National titles and one World Championship to her name. As a result she did not experience a year or two in which her results dipped while she adjusted to the increased competition as most riders do when they move up to the top level of the sport - having been competing at Elite level since 1995, there was no nasty "big step up" surprise waiting for her and in that first year she won Stage 1 and second place in the overall General Classification at the Holland Ladies' Tour, the Tour de Bretagne and numerous other events. She was a popular favourite for the 2000 Olympics but picked up a virus shortly before the Games; however, the National Pursuit and Points race prevented the year from becoming a total wash-out, as did silver medals for the same two events at the World Championships.

2001 was the year in which Arndt transformed herself from a track rider who could also ride well on the road into a world-beating road racer, winning another Tour de Bretagne and the Gracia Orlova in addition to second place at the Tour de l'Aude, the Thüringen-Rundfahrt and the Women's Challenge. She also won the National Individual Time Trial Championship for a third time and came third in the Road Race at the Nationals. One year later she won the National Road Race, the Women's Challenge, the Tour de l'Aude, the Tour de Snowy and the Redlands Classic. Since then, she has added more three more victories at the Gracia Orlova (2005, 2006, 2007), another Tour de l'Aude (2003), two editions of the Emakumeen Bira (2009, 2012), the National Individual Time Trial title another six times (2003, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2012), the Tour of Qatar (2012), two editions of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (2008, 2012), numerous other races and a vast number of other podium places. She called an end to her long career at the end of 2012, having won a number of very prestigious races, the National Road Race Championship, the National ITT Championship and the World ITT Championship and earned a silver medal in the time trial at the Olympics that year.

Sometimes outspoken, Arndt has clashed with the German cycling federation in the past. The most notable example of this came in 2004 when she raised her finger at the judges as she crossed the line (the gesture means "fuck off" in many nations) to show what she thought of the Federation's decision not to select her partner Petra Rossner in the Olympic team (Rossner won the World Cup in 2002 and had become National Road Race Champion two months before the Games; it does, therefore, seem strange that she wasn't selected). The Federation, as tends to be the way with national cycling federations, didn't take kindly to being criticised by a rider and forced Arndt to apologise; nevertheless, she earned an army of new fans.

Roger Hassenforder
Since the earliest days of the sport, cycling has been populated by eccentrics and characters - one of the most amusing of them all was Roger Hassenforder, who was born in Sausheim, France on this day in 1930 and became known as le boute-en-train ("the merry-maker") to the French and de Clown van de Elzas ("the Clown of Alsace") the the Dutch and Flemish. One of his most popular stunts was giving interviews during races, including the Tour de France.

Most cyclists rarely win anything, some win many races and a few will enjoy success at the Tour. Hassenforder was an unusual case in that almost all of his successes came in the Tour and he won very few smaller events - he won a total of eight Tour stages, including four in 1956 alone, and wore the maillot jaune for four days in 1953. Yet, he never won a Tour and in fact finished just one of the sixth he entered: 1956 when, despite those four stage wins, he was 50th overall.

When Hassenforder retired, he opened a cafe at Kaysersberg, one of the most beautiful and historic towns in the Alsace. It rapidly became a favourite haunt of local cyclists and those who visited from around the world, growing into a restaurant and hotel - it can still be found at 129 Rue General de Gaulle and, while no longer owned by the Hassenforder family, the new owners have been wise enough to keep it as the rider intended and have kept both the Hassenforder name and the restaurant's cycling links.

The Basque cyclist David Etxebarria, born in Abadiño on this day in 1973, won the Tour de l'Avenir in 1996 and Stages 9 and 12 at the Tour de France in 1999.

Jean Fontenay, who was born in Hirel on this day in 1911, came second overall at Paris-Nice in 1936 and wore the maillot jaune for two stages in the 1939 Tour de France.

Jörg Jaksche, born in Fürth, Germany on this day in 1976, won Paris-Nice and the Tour Méditerranéen in 2004, then came 16th overall at the Tour de France the following year. In 2006 he was one of the nine riders blocked from taking part in the Tour as part of the Operación Puerto investigation; in 2007 he admitted that he was "Bella," one of the code names used in documents seized from Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, and that he had received blood transfusions administered by the doctor.

Cyclists born on this day: Daniela Gassmann (Switzerland, 1964); Oleksandr Kvachuk (USSR/Ukraine, 1983); Rik Verbrugghe (Belgium, 1974); José Pittaro (Argentina, 1946); Hans-Peter Jakst (West Germany, 1954); Ali Ben Ali (Tunisia, 1933); Olaf Meyland-Smith (Denmark, 1882, died 1924); Benny Deschrooder (Belgium, 1980); Zoltán Halász (Hungary, 1960); Roberto Lezaun (Spain, 1967).

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 22.07.2014

Wiggins wins
On this day in 2012, Bradley Wiggins became the first British winner in the history of the Tour de France.

Giovanni Battaglin
Born in Marostica on this day in 1951, Giovanni Battaglin became one of the shining lights of Italian cycling at a time when it seemed the Belgians were going to take the sport over completely.

Battaglin first came to note in 1972 when he won the Baby Giro, the amateur version of the Giro d'Italia, which brought immediate offers to turn professional. He chose Jolljceramica and would remain with them for five seasons - and in his first year, aged only 21, amazed the cycling world by finishing third overall in the General Classification (behind Eddy Merckx and Felice Gimondi) and King of the Mountains (behind José Manuel Fuente and Merckx) at the Giro d'Italia. These were truly remarkable results: a serious new talent had arrived and some wondered if Battaglin might even prove a greater rider than Merckx, who was then at the height of his powers.

In 1974 he finished sixth, proving that he could repeat his good performance; in 1975 he won a stage for the first time (Stage 13, an individual time trial) but didn't finish the race, later that year he rode his first Tour de France and finished two stages in the top ten but once again couldn't finish the race. In 1976 he won Stage 2 at the Tour but failed to finish for the second time and in 1978 he won Stages 6, 7 and 8 at the Tour de Suisse.

1979 would be Battaglin's real breakthrough year with General Classification victory at the Tour of the Basque Country and the King of the Mountains at the Tour de France, where he was sixth overall despite receiving a penalty when he failed an anti-doping test. He won Stage 18 and came third overall at the Giro a year later, but his career thus far was merely a run-up to 1981 - the year that he won the Vuelta a Espana courtesy of a superb ride by his Inoxpran team in the Stage 10 mountain team time trial, then began the Giro three days after the Vuelta ended. He took the lead in Stage 19 and kept it for the remainder of the race, becoming the second man (after Merckx in 1973) to win the Vuelta and Giro in a single season.

He rode the Tour again in 1982 and 1984, but had nothing like his earlier success: his best placing was 46th for Stage 3 in 1982. He did, meanwhile, manage third place for Stage 9 at the Giro in 1984, but it was obvious that for Battaglin the best years came early and he retired later that year. The bike company he started in 1982 is still in operation, its products are among the most desirable bikes in the world.

Rasa Leleivytė
Three-time Lithuanian National Champion Rasa Leleivytė, born in Vilnius on this day in 1988, became World Junior Champion in 2006 and won the GP Città di Cornaredo in 2011. On the 18th of July 2012, the UCI revealed that an out-of-competition sample she provided on the 12th of June had tested positive for EPO; she was provisionally suspended pending investigation. When the investigation concluded that she had in fact used the drug, she was fined €5040 and handed a two-year ban, which came to an end nine days before her birthday in 2014.

Pascale Jules, born in La Garenne-Colombes on this day in 1961, won Stage 8 at the 1984 Tour de France. He was a close friend of Laurent Fignon and rode with him on the Renault-Elf team, the pair of them hoping to become the successors to Bernard Hinault, but moved to Seat-Orbea following a row with team manager Cyrille Guimard.

Jean-Claude Leclercq, born in Abbeville on this day in 1962, was French National Road Race Champion in 1985.

Jean-Claude Lebaube, born in Renneville on this day in 1937, wore the yellow jersey of the Tour de France for one day after Stage 11 in 1966. He was fourth in the overall General Classification at the 1963 Tour and fifth in 1965.

Cyclists born on this day: Ryan Anderson (Canada, 1987); Sam Bewley (New Zealand, 1987); Dries Devenyns (Belgium, 1983); Janek Tombak (USSR/Estonia, 1976); Pascal Jules (France, 1961); Patrick McDonough (USA, 1961); Francisco Pérez Sanchez (Spain, 1978); Godtfred Olsen (Denmark, 1883, died 1954); Pakanit Boriharnvanakhet (Thailand, 1949); Akio Kuwazawa (Japan, 1959); José Prieto(Cuba, 1949); Hjalmar Väre (Finland, 1892, died 1952); Max Triebsch (Germany, 1885); Daniel Amardeilh (France, 1959); Frits Schür (Netherlands, 1950); Bojan Udovic (Yugoslavia, 1957); Rufin Molomadan (Central African Republic, 1967); Jukka Heinikainen (Finland, 1972); Koloman Sovic (Yugoslavia, 1899, died 1971); Sjaak Pieters (Netherlands, 1957); Mario Vanegas (Colombia, 1939).