Sunday, 24 August 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 24.08.2014

Roger de Vlaeminck
Classic de Vlaeminck territory - on the Koppenberg
Some riders specialise in sprints, others in the mountains and others on the long, flat sections that make up the bulk of the total distance of many races. Some excel in time trials; some perform well on two or more types of stage and may win Grand Tours as a result. A few achieve their victories through their ability to absorb pain, to keep going and attacking in conditions that have other riders fighting simply to survive - at which point, having ridden themselves to the point of exhaustion, they attack again, knowing that this is the point at which they can hurt their opponents the most. They are the Flandriens. Briek Schotte was the toughest of them all, so tough that many claim he was the only Flandrien - but if anyone came close, it was Roger de Vlaeminck.

Born on this day in 1947 into a family of traveling clothes merchants (hence his later nickname, "The Gypsy"), de Vlaeminck's childhood love was football; but if a youngster wanted to make his name as an athlete in Belgium cycling was the way forward, and the best place to start was in cyclo cross. Encouraged by older brother Erik - who by this time had already won 17 races of his own - he began racing cross as a junior in 1965. He won two races that year, both cross, and one cross and one road race in 1966. Then in 1967 he won 14 and reached the podium in ten more.

Having won Belgium's International Amateurs and the World Amateurs Cyclo Cross Championships, the General Classification at the Ronde van Belgie and Stages 10a and 10b at the Tour de l'Avenir in 1968, de Vlaeminck turned professional with Flandria-De Clerck-Krüger in 1969. Most riders find themselves overwhelmed by the increased level of competition in their first professional year, but not de Vlaeminck: he won 21 races, including the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the National Road Race Champion, and he was second at Milan-San Remo and Gent-Wevelgem. It was already obvious that here was a potentially great Classics rider, but few suspected just how great he would become. There were more clues the following year, when he won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Scheldeprijs, then more in 1971 with another Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne victory followed by wins at the E3 Harelbeke and Waalse Pijl.

De Vlaeminck remained a professional for 20 years and, for a decade, seemed all but unbeatable in the Classics: his remarkable palmares includes Milan-San Remo (1973, 1978, 1979), two Milano-Torino (1972, 1974), two Giri di Lombardia (1974, 1976), two Omloops Het Volk (1969, 1979) and two Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (1970, 1971), Scheldeprijs (1970), the E3 Harelbeke (1971), Liège-Bastogne-Liège (1970), La Flèche Wallonne (1971), the Ronde van Vlaanderen (1977) and Paris-Brussels (1981) in addition World Cyclo Cross Championship (1975), two National Road Race Championships (1969, 1981), General Classification and six stage wins at the 1975 Tour de Suisse, six consecutive overall General Classification victories at Tirreno-Adriatico between 1972 and 1977 and 22 stage wins (including seven in 1975 alone) plus overall Points competition triumphs at the Giro d'Italia between 1972 and 1979.

De Vlaeminck's pavé on the Chemin des Géants leading
to Roubaix velodrome
However, impressive though his achievements in all of those races are, de Vlaeminck will not be remembered for them. His place in history, as befits his Flandrien status, was earned at the hardest race of them all - Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North. Some of the hardest men in cycling - Merckx, Hinault - found Paris-Roubaix and its cobbles that shatter bikes, bones and careers with ease simply too much and, after proving that they could win, preferred to stay away from what has been variously described as "a circus," bullshit," "bollocks," "the true definition of hell... I don't know if it's really necessary to impose it on us" and "the most beautiful race in the world." It could have been made for a rider like de Vlaeminck. Before him, only four men had won three editions since it was first held in 1896 - he won four, in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1977. Only Tom Boonen has equaled that record, but there are many (including de Vlaeminck) who will say that Boonen had no real competitors in 2012.

De Vlaeminck is estimated to have won some 257 races during his career, though the figure may be higher as he continued to race small criterium events the results of which sometimes go unrecorded. He is still involved in cycling today, coaching the cyclo cross stars of the future at his farm near Kaprijke, and he is regularly approached for comments by journalists who know that his passionate and sometimes controversial opinions on modern cycling are always good value.

Cuban Women's Team, Pan-Am Championships 2005.
Second from the right: Yuliet Rodríguez Jiménez
Cuban Yuliet Rodríguez Jiménez, who was born on this day in 1977, became National Time Trial Champion in 1995 then  in 1996 defended the title and added the National Road Race title - she would keep the former until 2001, then win it back from 2003-2006 and the latter until 1999 before winning it back in 2001 and 2004-2006. She also won overall at the Tour of Guadeloupe in 1996 and 1997,  the road race at the 1997 Pan-American Championships and the Points and Scratch races at the National Track Championships in 2004.

José Antonio Hermida, born in Puigcerdà, Spain on this day in 1978, was European Mountain Bike Champion in 2002, 2004 and 2007, National Cyclo Cross Champion in 2007 and 2008 and World Cross Country MTB Champion in 2010.

Romain Hardy, born in Flers, France on this day in 1988, has been riding for the pro continental Bretagne-Schuller team since 2010 - the year that he won Stage 4 at the Tour de l'Avenir.  In 2013, he will be moving up a step to Cofidis and may make his first appearance at the Grand Tours.

Other cyclists born on this day: Matthew Glaetzer (Australia, 1992); Cyrille Monnerais (France, 1983); Mohamed Mir (Algeria, 1963); Wang Yan (China, 1974); Edward Salas (Australia, 1965); Aurélie Halbwachs (Mauritius, 1986); Nguyễn Văn Châu (South Vietnam, 1940); Fredy Arber (Switzerland, 1928).

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 23.08.2014

Johan Bruyneel
Bruyneel in 2007
Born in Izegem, Belgium on this day in 1964, Johan Bruyneel has been one of the highest-profile figures in professional cycling for almost a quarter of a century - as a rider and as a manager, and for good reasons and bad.

Bruyneel got his first taste of racing glory when he took third place at the Juniors' Trofee van Vlaanderen Reningelst in 1983. Three years after that he won the Amateur Ronde van België, then turned professional with SEFB in 1987 and remained with them until 1989, the year that he won Stages 2 and 9 at the Tour de Suisse. In 1990, riding for Lotto Superclub, he won the Tour de l'Avenir and marked himself out as a man to watch in future Grand Tours; he also rode his first Tour de France that year and - remarkably, for a debutant, finished Stage 17 in second place and was 17th overall. He was not as fortunate at the Tour in 1991 with 35th overall, but he won Stage 12 at the Vuelta a Espana in 1992 and triumphed at the GP des Nations. 1993 was his real break-through year: he not only won Stage 6 at the Tour, but did it at an average speed of 49.417kph - then a record, and since bettered only twice - and was seventh overall. Two years later he won Stage 7, though he would later express disappointment at how he'd won: having launched an attack early on in the stage, he'd found himself desperately hanging to Miguel Indurain's back wheel for much of the parcours before getting the better of him in a sprint. Most riders and fans would claim that simply keeping up with Indurain - especially when the five-time Tour winner was going all-out to win time on his rivals - was sufficiently worthy to make the victory morally his, but Bruyneel apparently felt that since he'd been in Indurain's slipstream for so much of the day he had an unfair advantage in the final sprint to the finish line. At the following Tour he came within centimetres of a career-ending injury when he lost control during a descent on Stage 7, coming off the road and plunging into a ravine. As ever when such things happen, spectators fell silent and for a moment or two, then a few people peered over the edge - just as the rider clambered back up to the road and onto his bike to complete the stage (he abandoned a few days later). He stayed away from the Tour in 1997, then abandoned after Stage 9 in 1998, which would be his last year as a professional rider.

With UCI president Pat McQuaid
Whilst Bruyneel's riding career would be the envy of any cyclist, it was as a manager that he found his greatest success. Immediately after retiring, he was invited to manage US Postal - the team that counted among its number a young American rider who, after showing promise for some years, had finished that year's Vuelta a Espana in fourth place. His name was Lance Armstrong, and he welcomed the new manager's plans to knock the team into shape: US Postal was, according to Armstrong, "the Bad News Bears, a mismatch of bikes, cars, clothing, equipment" and the team was run on an annual budget of "only" $3 million (directeurs sportif and managers of women's professional teams will doubtless be wondering how the team ever made ends meet). At the time of writing, we have reason to doubt the methods Bruyneel used to get his riders race-ready - he is at the centre of a doping investigation that, if he and others are found guilty, could prove to be a greater scandal than the Festina Affair or Operacion Puerto - but there is no doubt at all that when it comes to the logistics and practicalities of running a professional cycling team, he is extraordinarily talented: within a year, US Postal had been transformed from a rag-tag bunch of gifted mavericks into one of the most polished, well-drilled teams ever seen in cycling. Armstrong, of course, went on to win an unprecedented seven consecutive Tours; Alberto Contador won another - his first - in 2007 and the other riders on the team were victorious at a huge number of races during the decade that Bruyneel controlled the outfit.

In 2007, Bruyneel announced that he was going to leave cycling. However, he was then approached by representatives of the Kazakhstan government and offered a position managing the Astana team which, earlier that year, had been accused of running a doping ring and was thrown out of the Tour. Apparently not a man to back down from a challenge (nor, one assumes, a fat cheque), he accepted. Levi Leipheimer and Contador went with him; the team was again blocked from the Tour in 2008, but Contador won the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana while Leipheimer was second at the Vuelta and won the Tour of California. Astana was allowed back into the Tour in 2009 and Contador won in superb style with Armstrong, who had decided to return from retirement, taking third; they also won the team classifications at the Tour and the Giro, another Tour of California (Leipheimer), Paris-Nice (Contador) and numerous other races.

With the ONCE team
Bruyneel left Astana at the end of 2009, but he still wasn't ready to retire and became manager of RadioShack, a team part-owned by Armstrong. With eight members of the 2008 Tour-winning Astana squad also making the move (Contador, who had gone to SaxoBank, was the only one that did not) and several very talented riders from elsewhere signed up to the team, RadioShack looked a force to be reckoned with in 2010 and did indeed win an impressive 23 times, but the season was not without setbacks - in May, it was revealed that Bruyneel was being investigated by the Belgian Federation due to an accusation made by Floyd Landis that he ran a doping ring whilst manager of US Postal and, though RadioShack won the teams classification at the Tour (the second time an American team did so; the other being, of course, US Postal in 2009). At the end of the year rumours that RadioShack and LeopardTrek would merge for 2012 were confirmed, though Leopard owner Flavio Becca claimed that his team was taking over RadioShack's sponsors and some of its riders, thus making it sound more like a corporate take-over than a merger. The resulting team was to be called RadioShack-Nissan, its aim was to propel Andy Schleck to a Tour win - and the differences in how Bruyneel and Becca described its birth were the first indication of friction.

Andy Schleck, along with older brother Frank and several other members of the team, performed considerably less well than expected in the first few months of 2012 - only Fabian Cancellara seemed to have good form, but he ended up out of action after suffering a quadruple collarbone fracture at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Hints began to emerge that the riders were not happy: Andy dropped heavy hints he wasn't happy about Bruyneel's decision to keep the Schleck's preferred directeur sportif Kim Andersen away from the Tour (and even indicated that he would remain in touch within him during the race), while Frank was understandably not impressed to be accused of "letting the team down" when he abandoned the Giro with an injured shoulder. Jakob Fuglsang openly criticised team management and was not selected for the Tour squad as a result; it was later reported that his salary had been with-held as a punishment, and few fans will have been surprised when he announced that he would be leaving for Astana at the end of the year. Before long, there were rumours that the Schlecks would be going too, either to an existing team or to a newly-formed one: a dangerous situation for Bruyneel, because the brothers had done the same before when they left SaxoBank - and had asset-stripped it of good riders in doing so.

The biggest controversy of the year came in May at the Tour of California - as Bruyneel stepped off the plane onto US soil, he was met by USADA officials who served him with a subpoena as part of their own investigation into doping at US Postal. Further details soon became public, revealing that the scale and scope of the investigation was enormous: in addition to Bruyneel, US Postal's official doctor Pedro Celaya, the notorious Dr. Michele Ferrari and a number of other figures were being investigated, including Lance Armstrong. The case has not yet reached its conclusion as important questions, such as how did Armstrong - who was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories, did not bother contesting the decision to do so and eventually confessed to using EPO - manage to avoid being caught out when he had been submitted to so many anti-doping tests still need to be answered.

For the time being at least, though, Bruyneel's career in professional cycling is over: in April 2014, he was banned from having any involvement whatsoever in professional cycling for ten years, and extraordinarily long sanction that reflects the serious nature of the fraud.

Manfred Donike
Born in Köttingen, Germany on this day in 1933, Manfred Donike was a highly successful cyclist during the 1950s and 1960s when he rode for a number of professional teams including Bismarck, Express, Altenburger, Feru-Underberg and Torpedo; with the exception of Feru, which was based in Switzerland, he spent his career with German teams. In 1954 he won the National Amateur Madison Championship with Paul Vadder, he would also win the Elite Professional madison at the Nationals three years later with Edi Gieseler and reached the podium in numerous other races, though not at the Tours de France he rode in 1960 and 1961.

Donike's influence on professional cycling has been far greater than his race results suggest, however: after retiring from competition at the end of 1962, he was offered a place at the University of Cologne where he studied chemistry and graduated in 1965 - and then dedicated his life to the fight against doping. In 1972, he perfected the gas chromatography and mass spectrometry method of detecting traces of performance-enhancing drugs and masking agents in samples of riders' urine; it remains the most accurate method available today. Five years later, he became the director of the German Sports University's Institute of Biochemistry.

Donike died of a heart attack aboard an aeroplane traveling between Frankfurt and Johannesburg in 1995, whilst on his way to act as chief of the anti-doping program at a race in Zimbabwe, and the Manfred Donike Institute of Doping Analysis at the German Sports University was named in his honour a short while later. His oldest son, also named Manfred and a successful cyclist in his own right had died of a heart attack two years earlier; his younger son Alexander also enjoyed race success and subsequently worked for the UCI.

Eddie Smart, born in Cardiff on this day in 1946, rode for Wales at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in the kilo, pursuit, scratch, sprint and road races - his best result was 15th, in the kilo. Later, he became co-ordinator for the Welsh federation's track team and assisted annually in the organisation of the Junior Tour of Wales. Smart was killed on the 6th of February in an accident on the M4 motorway; a memorial fund was set up to raise money for the restoration of the Maindy track in Cardiff and a shield commissioned in his honour and named after him is awarded to the most successful Welsh rider each year.

Hennie Top, born in Wekerom on this day in 1956, was Dutch Road Race Champion in 1980, 1981 and 1982 and, in 1985, won Stages 1 and 16 at the Tour de France Féminin. She later became coach to the US National Women's team.

Russell Downing
Russell Downing, born in Rotherham, Great Britain on this day in 1978, won numerous races between 2002 and 2009, then found fame by winning the Tour of Ireland. In 2010, he joined the new Team Sky and became their first victorious British rider when he won Stage 2 at the Critérium International that same year. He went on to win the General Classification at the Tour de la Région Wallonne later that summer and had his contract extended to cover 2011, when he rode his only Grand Tour - the Giro d'Italia, where he finished Stage 18 in eighth place before coming 140th overall. In 2012 he joined Continental team Endura Racing and, so far, has achieved six victories over the season including the prestigious Lincoln International. He also won a silver medal at the National Criterium Championships. Downing is the younger brother of Dean, who is also a successful cyclist; the both rode for NFTO in 2014 - the year that Russell came fourth in the road race at the Commonwealth Games.

Other cyclists born on this day: Kemal Küçükbay (Turkey, 1982); Enrico Poitschke (Germany, 1969); Mike Gambrill (GB, 1935); Janildes Fernandes (Brazil, 1980); Hubert Seiz (Switzerland, 1960); Tulus Widodo Kalimanto (Indonesia, 1965); George Van Meter (USA, 1932, died 2007); Majid Naseri (Iran, 1968); Anatoly Stepanenko (USSR, 1949); Edwin Mena (Ecuador, 1958); Andrea Faccini (Italy, 1966); Cristóbal Pérez (Colombia, 1952); Manu Snellinx (Belgium, 1948); Werner Weckert (Switzerland, 1938); Mouhcine Lahsaini (Morocco, 1985).

Friday, 22 August 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 22.08.2014

Tatiana Guderzo
Guderzo at the 2012 Olympics
Born in Marostica, Italy on this day in 1984, Tatiana Guderzo came second at the World Junior Independent Time Trial Championhips in 2002, then became famous in the cycling world with overall General Classification victory at the Eko Tour Dookola Polski, a gold medal at the European Under-23 Independent Time Trial Championship and a silver in the World Elite Road Race Championship in 2004. She turned professional with Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Hausbrandt Caffé for the 2005 season, and her name has been a regular inclusion among the top results of many of the most prestigious women's races in the world ever since.

In 2005, Guderzo became Elite National ITT Champion but missed out on another gold at the European U-23 ITT Championships, taking the silver instead; in 2006 she won Stage 2 at the Emakumeen Bira - one of the most important races on the women's calendar, was third in the National ITT Championship and the European U-23 Pursuit Championship and second at the European U-23 Road Race and ITT Championships, then in 2007 she won the Elite National Pursuit Championship. In 2008, she won a bronze medal at the Olympics when she came third in the road race, and one year later she became World Road Race Champion when she beat three of the most legendary riders in the history of the sport - Marianne Vos, Noemi Cantele and Kristin Armstrong - by 19 seconds at Mendrisio, Switzerland. She won the National ITT Championship again and was third in the Giro Donne (the last women's Grand Tour, equal in importance to the Tour de France) in 2010; then in 2011 she was fourth at the Giro Donne and won the pursuit race at the National Track Championships. She won the National ITT Championship again in 2012, then returned to the Giro with her MCipollini-Giordana team in 2012 and came seventh overall.

Guderzo remained with MCipollini for 2013 and got her season off to a good start with another National Time Trial Championship victory and second place overall at the Giro del Trentino Alto Adige-Südtirol, then took four top ten stage finishes and second place overall at the Giro Rosa (the new name for the Giro Donne), a stage win (7) at the Thuringen Rundfahrt and fourth overall at the Route de France. She is with the same team, now called Ale-Cipollini, in 2014.

Theo Bos
Bos takes on Chris Hoy, World
Track Championships 2008
Born in Hierden, Netherlands on this day in 1983, Theo Bos is one of the few sprinters active today able to take on - and beat - Mark Cavendish. He has become, therefore, one of the most popular riders in the modern professional peloton. His older brother Jan has also had some success in cycling, but is better known as a speed skater.

Bos was enormously successful as an amateur, winning the Junior World Track Championship 1km in 2002, then the 1km and Sprint at the European Under-23 Track Championships and at the National Championships, where he competed at Elite level, in 2003; a year after that he became World Elite Sprint Champion, then successfully defended his Sprint title and added the National Keirin title at the Nationals. In 2005 he won the 1km at the World Championships, in 2006 the Sprint and Keirin events at both the Worlds and the Nationals; at the Moscow round of the World Cup that year he also broke the 200m world record, which had stood for eleven years (a faulty computer originally gave him a time of 9.086", which would have been superhuman, his actual time of 9.772" was still enough). He would keep the World Sprint Champion and both National titles in 2007 and won the European Omnium Championship in 2008.

Bos at the 2008 Olympics
In February 2009, having joined the Rabobank ProContinental team, Bos won the 160km Prémio de Abertura road race - his first major success away from the track. He followed it with victory at the Ronde van Noord-Holland and the Omloop van Kempen, then won Stages 1, 2 and 4 at the Olympia's Tour (now very much a sprint specialist, his results on the other stages were far lower and as a result he didn't place in the overall top ten, despite the team also winning the Prologue) - the year brought controversy as well as glory, however: at the Tour of Turkey, he was involved in a crash during the final sprint of the last stage. The UCI subsequently decided that Bos had caused the accident by grabbing hold of Daryl Impy, then levied a fine and banned him for one month; Bos admits that he did come into contact with Impy, but says that he did so not to try to slow him down but to push him away as the South African was forcing him into the crowd barrier alongside the road.

The following year he moved to the Cervélo Test Team and rode his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, where he twice broke into the top ten with ninth place on Stages 5 and 13. These results earned him a contract with Rabobank's top World Tour team for 2011 and, ten years after his first victory, Bos moved to the top level of road cycling. He won two stages at the Tour of Oman (beating Cavendish into second place on Stage 1) that year and took third place stage finishes at the Tours of Britain and Beijing, and to date in 2012 he has won the Dwars door Drenthe, two stages at the Tour of Turkey, one stage at the Benelux Tour and the 197km Veenendal-Veenendal road race. In 2013, Bos won Stage 2 at the Volta ao Algarve, Stages 1 and 2 at the Tour de Langkawi, Stage 1 at the Criterium International, Stage 3 at the Tour of Norway and Stage 2 at the Ster Elektrotoer; in 2014 he won the General and Points Classifications at the World Ports Classic, four stages at the Tour de Langkawi and one stage at the Tour of Poland.

Omer Huyse
Omer Huyse, born in Kortrijk, Belgium on this day in 1898, won Stage 5 at the eventful 1924 Tour de France, when he raced as a second class rider (sponsored, but deemed unlikely to win stages or overall) for the O. Lapize team. He was ninth overall that year, then returned in 1925 to come seventh and again in 1926 when he was thirteenth.

Jokin Mújika, born in Itsasondo, Euskadi on this day in 1962, won Stage 7 at the Tour de l'Avenir in 1986 and was Spanish Cyclo Cross Champion in 1994 and 1996

New Zealander Des Thomson, who was born on this day in 1942, represented his nation in the road race and the independent time trial at the Olympics in 1964, then the road race and 100km team time trial in 1968, but was unable to take home medals in either instance. He was far more successful at the Commonwealth Games of 1966, where he won the silver medal in the road race.

Erik Hoffman, born in Windhoek, Namibia on this day in 1981, won the National Road Race Championship in 2007.

Other cyclists born on this day: Marcelo Arriagada (Chile, 1973); Richard Trinkler (Switzerland, 1950); Gianluca Brambilla (Italy, 1987); Endrio Leoni (Italy, 1968); Haakon Sandtorp (Norway, 1911, died 1974); Oleg Bondarik (Belarus, 1976).

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 21.08.2014

Keetie van Oosten-Hage
Keetie van Oosten-Hage
Keetie van Oosten-Hage
Born in Sint-Maartensdijk, Netherlands, on this day in 1949, is one of four cycling siblings: her sisters Ciska van Velzen-Hage, Heleen Hage and Bella van de Spiegel-Hage were also successful riders (as, for that matter, is nephew Jan van Helzen) - Keetie, Heleen and Bella all rode for the Beck's Bier team in 1977.

1966 was her first really good year with nine criterium wins and her first National Championship title, in Individual Pursuit, plus a silver medal at the National Road Race Championship; and the year after that she won fourteen crits and successfully defended her title. Then in 1968 she won ten crits, defended the Pursuit again - and won the World Road Race Championships. She kept the Pursuit title until 1978, when she took the silver, and was World Pursuit Champion in 1975, 1976, 1978 and 1979; she also won the National Road Race Championship form 1969 to 1976 and the National Omnium Championship in 1979.

Van Oosten-Hage retired in 1979, not because she was tired but because of the lack of races available to her - women's cycling didn't feature in the Olympics at that time and women's Grand Tours the Giro Donne, Tour de l'Aude and Tour de France Féminine did not yet exist (she said later that she'd have loved to have ridden the latter event). "I had won all the races there were," she explained.  "They included six world championships and several Dutch championships and a big race in America. There comes a point when it makes your ambitions less. I was still winning, but I had done it all." It is very easy to make a comparison here with that other Dutch superstar Marianne Vos, who has won so many races that her Rabobank team reportedly considered entering her into men's races simply to prevent her becoming bored.

Also like Vos, van Oosten-Hage faced accusations that she was too good, that her vast number of races wins left other riders feeling they could never beat her; fortunately most people are now agreed that a rider of such calibre is good for cycling because her success encourages other riders to strive harder, but in time van Oosten-Hage came to agree with her detractors: "Usually I won. A lot of people said at least now you have gone it will give other people a chance and we can use different tactics and so on. I can understand the other girls getting disillusioned because I usually won, and I suppose in retrospect that is not necessarily so good for the sport." It is a very great shame that she has been made to feel regretful about a great career during which she must have inspired many other women to start cycling.

The world was beginning to wake up to the existence of women's cycling by the early 1980s and, as they so often are, the Dutch KNWU national federation was at the vanguard; they gave her a job  running a program designed to ensure younger women would take her place and continue bringing trophies back to the Netherlands. However, the national team coaches - in some cases with good intentions and in others, no doubt, out of resentment that a woman had been given a responsible position in "their" sport - would frequently undo her hard work. She found this frustrating and, by 1985 considered becoming a coach herself but ultimately decided that at the age of 36 the training and examinations were more than she was willing to take on (some contemporary reports also claimed that the KNWU took steps to block her - they hadn't progressed quite that far, it seems).

In the years after her professional career, van Oosten-Hage gave away all her National and Worlds jerseys. "At the time they are nice to have, but then they are not so important and they mean more to other people," she says. "Now, of course, I regret it, but it is too late."

Erik Dekker
Erik Dekker at the Tour, 2005
Born in Hoogeveen, Netherkands in this day in 1970, Hendrik "Erik" Dekker entered his first race when he was eight. He didn't win that one, but it wasn't long before he started winning others; when he turned 15 he was selected for the National Juniors Track Team, and two years later he won a silver medal at the World Juniors Championships.

By the time he won a silver at the National Amateur Championships in 1992, Dekker had already won stages at the important Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda and Olympia's Tour races - this promising track record, combined with two stage wins at the Österreich-Rundfahrt, a prologue victory at the GP William Tell, Stage 10 at the Tour de l'Avenir and first place at the Rund um Köln in the wake of his Nationals medal made him an obvious choice for the Olympic team and entered for the road race. He, together with Fabio Casartelli and a third rider managed to break away from the peloton during the event and could not be caught - Casartelli won, but Dekker's exuberance as he crossed the line earned him many new fans. He had begun riding for the Buckler team at the start of the year (managed by Joop Zoetemelk and Jan Raas, no less) and at the end he was given a full professional contract.

Dekker in 2011
1993 passed quietly, as tends to be the case when a rider first begins to compete at the top level, then in 1994 he won the Postgirot Open and a stage at the Tour of the Basque Country. He was also picked for the team's Tour de France squad and survived the race; he was 101st overall, but two 20th place stage finishes and one in 15th are respectable for a debutant. He won the Postgirot again the following year and managed to improve his Tour finish to 70th place, then slipped a few places in 1996 with 74th, racing that year in red, white and blue as National Independent Time Trial Champion. He performed less well again in 1997 with 81st, but got into the top ten on three stages, including coming near to the podium with fifth place for Stages 17 and 20. 1998 had to be written off due to injuries suffered in a crash, which may also account for 107th place in the 1999 Tour (it might have inspired him to seek a little chemical assistance towards proving he still had the ability to win too, because he got into a spot of bother with a suspiciously high haematocrit reading - indicating possible EPO use and/or a blood transfusion - and as barred from competition until his red blood cells had returned to an acceptable level); but he found better form than ever before in 2000 - after riding his first Giro d'Italia (and coming 121st), he went back to the Tour, won Stages 8 and 17, came 51st in the General Classification and fifth overall in the Points competition.

2001 was, overall, every bit as good: his Tour result slipped to 91st with victory in Stage 8, but he won the Road World Cup, the Vuelta a Andalucia, the Amstel Gold Race, the Profronde van Surhuisterveen and the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt. In 2002 he won Tirreno-Adriatico and another National Time Trial Championship, but 136th at the Tour seemed to be show that any chance he might once have had of breaking into the top ten overall or even winning the Points competition were now gone; also, new injuries badly affected his performance towards the end of the year and throughout the next. Nevertheless, after winning the National Road Race title in 2004 he was back in France and riding faithfully for the team, settling for 133rd place for himself and then cheering himself up with overall victory at the Ronde van Nederland; then he rode the Tour again in 2005 and for a final time in 2006.

Faithfulness to the team is very much the keyword when describing Dekker's career. Buckler picked up a new sponsor in Dekker's second year, becoming WordPerfect for two seasons; then became Novell for 1995. In 1996, it changed to Rabobank and is still known as such, the Dutch bank being one of the few sponsors who got involved in cycling and stuck with it (they also back women's cycling and other sports, being that very rare thing - a company that sponsors sports not only for advertising, but because it actually cares). Dekker stayed with them throughout, for his entire career, and since retiring from competition he has continued to serve them as a team manager.

Jessica Allen, born in Brecon, Wales on this day in 1989, earned a place on British Cycling's Olympic Development Programme in 2006 after being discovered by the Welsh Talent Team; that year she also won the Junior National Time Trial Championships for the first of two  consecutive years and came second at the Welsh National Road Race Championships, then in 2007 she won the Points race at the National Track Championships. In 2008 Allen competed in both the Under-23 and Elite National Road Race Championships, taking second place in the former and fourth in the latter as well as coming third in the National Individual Time Trial Championship.

Maria Blower, born in Leicester, Great Britain on this day in 1964, was third in the National Road Race Championship of 1982; second at the Nationals, third at the Tour of Norway and 29th at the Olympics of 1984; third at the Nationals and eighth at the Olympics of 1988 and third at the Nationals in 1989.

Settino "Timo" Sabbadini, born in Monsempron-Limos, France on this day in 1928, turned professional with Terrot-Wolber in 1950 and retired in 1964 after nine years with Mercier. He won numerous criterium races, but occasionally showed up on the podium in stage races too, sometimes in the most prestigious ones: in 1956 he won Stage 4 at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and in 1958 Stage 5 at the Tour de France.

Businessman Manfred Neun,who was born Heidenheim, West Germany on this day in 1950, and began his career  working in a bank and managing two businesses, one of them a horticultural firm and the other a bike manufacturer. A keen cyclist himself, he currently serves as President of the European Cycling Federation, where his knowledge of cycling and politics has allowed him to act as an effective bridge between cyclists and government. Under his leadership, the ECF has taken an increasingly scientific approach in its mission to promote cycling as sport and as a method of transport, allowing it to back up programs designed to improve cycling infrastructure with accurate studies and facts.
"Cycling means happiness, cycling is community building and as everyone can have a bicycle, cycling is democracy. We can be an example for the whole world. So let us all live like examples." - Manfred Neun
Other cyclists born on this day: Ross Reid (Great Britain, 1987); Preeda Chullamondhol (Thailand, 1945); Koji Fukushima (Japan, 1973); Rodolfo Guaves (Philippines, 1953); Ferenc Stámusz (Hungary, 1934); Carlos Mesa (Colombia, 1955); Samuel Hunter (Great Britain, 1894); Bernhard Eckstein (Germany, 1935); Carlos Alcantara (Uruguay, 1948); Daniel Steiger (Switzerland, 1966).

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 20.08.2014

On this day in 2013, managers of Euskaltel-Euskadi announced that they had begun the "orderly shut-down" of the team. Euskaltel, though not one of the most successful ProTour teams for much of its existence, had enjoyed enormous popularity since formation in 1994 - at least partially due to the infectious passion of their Basque fans.

Enrico Toti
Enrico Toti, who was posthumously
awarded the Medaglia d'oro
al Valore Militare
Enrico Toti, who was born in Rome on this day in 1882, worked on the railways until he lost his left leg in an accident when he was 24. He then took up cycling and, a year later, rode from Rome to Paris and via Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Lapland, Russia, Poland and back home again. Five years later, Toti set out on a new journey into Africa and rode through Egypt to Sudan, where the British colonial governors said he was putting himself in too much danger and made him return home. A year later, when the First World War broke out and Italy and the Austrian Empire became enemies, he tried to enlist in the army but was refused after being declared physically unfit.

So, he got on his bike and rode to the front line, became attached to several military units and served as an unofficial, unpaid civilian volunteer until he was forced to go back to Italy - and once he was home, he got back on his bike and rode back to the war again. This time he was unofficially enlisted in the 3rd Bersaglieri Bicycle Battalion and served with them until the 6th of August 1916, when he was fatally injured. Before dying, however, he summoned up the strength to sit upright and hurl his crutches at the enemy soldiers.

Daniel Martin
Daniel Martin
Daniel Martin, who was born in Tamworth, Great Britain on this day in 1986, may well have chain lubricant following in his veins rather than blood - he's the son of Olympic cyclist Neil Martin and Maria Roche (the sister of Stephen Roche). His first major success came in 2004 when he won the British Junior Championship, but he would later choose to represent Ireland. In 2006 he won a stage at the Tour de Grandview and another at the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, also taking second place overall at the latter, which earned him a traineeship with Slipstream for 2007; overall victory at the Tour des Pays de Savoie and other good results that year brought him his first full professional contract with the same team for the following year and he has repaid their faith by riding for them ever since.

In 2008, Martin won the Route du Sud and the Irish National Championships at Under-23 and Elite levels; in 2009 he was third at the Tour Méditerranéen, then completed his first Grand Tour (the Vuelta a Espana) and came a very impressive eighth at the Giro di Lombardia. He rode the Giro in 2010 and then, a year later, won his first Grand Tour stage - Stage 9 at the Vuelta, where was 13th overall and fourth in the King of the Mountains; he finished the season with second place at the Giro di Lombardia (cousin Nicolas Roche was 16th).

In 2012, he achieved fourth overall at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, sixth at theWaalse Pijl, fifth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and took three top ten stage finishes plus 35th place overall at the Tour, which prompted me to write on this blog "He is a rider who seems destined for great things; perhaps even a Grand Tour victory" - that victory came the following season, when he won Stage 9 at the Tour de France. Earlier in the year he had also won the Volta a Catalunya and Liège–Bastogne–Liège, later he would come second overall at the Tour of Beijing.

Samuel Dumoulin
Born at Vénissieux, France on this day in 1980, Samuel Dumoulin won the Under-23 Paris-Tours in 2001. Having won a National Novices Championship as far back as 1996, he joined La Française des Jeux as a trainee in September 2001, then signed his first professional contract with Jean Delatour for the following season. He stayed there for two years, winning three stages at the Tour de l'Avenir and the General Classification at the Tour de Normandie as well as competing in a Tour de France.

The next four years were spent with AG2r Prévoyance and he began getting his first good Tour results with them (though his 2004 attempt ended in disaster when he collided with a dog that had been allowed to run onto the road, crashing badly and having to sit out of racing for four months), finishing stages in the top ten on a number of occasions before switching in 2008 to Cofidis. That year, he won Stage 3 at the Tour, his only stage win in the race to date; in the following years he would win the Points competition at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (2009), the General Classification at Etoile de Bessèges (2010), Paris-Corrèze (2011) and the GP d'Overture in 2012.

In 2013, Dumoulin returned to AG2R (by then known as AG2R La Mondiale) with a two-year contract and won Stage 5a at the Etoile de Bessèges Alès, overall at Plumelec-Morbihan and picked up numerous other good results. He was second overall at the Tour du Haut Var and 90th at the Tour de France in 2014.

Ralf Hütter
Ralf Hütter
Born in Krefeld, West Germany on this day in 1946, Ralf Hütter has been an amateur cyclist since the 1970s and was placed in an induced coma following a serious crash in 1983. He is better known as the synthesizer-player, lead singer, sole original member and - so far as they have one - leader of Kraftwerk.

According to legend, when on tour Ralf would have the band's bus stop approximately 160km from every venue and would then cycle the rest of the way. It's also rumoured that his first words when he awoke from his coma were "Where is my bike?", though he himself claims this is not true.

Meifang Li, born in China on this day in 1978, won the road race at the Tour of Chongming Island in 2007 and 2008. 2007 was the first year that the race was held, 2008 was the last time that it was won by a Chinese rider.

Ned Overend
Edmund "Ned" Overend was born in Taipei but - as the son of a United States diplomat, holds US nationality. Over the course of his career, he has won a large number and great variety of different events including the World Mountain Bike Championship, six National MTB Championships, two editions of the XTERRA World MTB Championships, two editions of the Mount Evans Hill Climb and a large number of other races. At the time of writing, he is the captain of the Specialized Cross Country MTB team - but what's truly remarkable is that as he was born in 1955, is 57 years old.

Danielys Garcia, born in Valera on this day in 1986, was Venezuelan National Road Race Champion in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and National Time Trial Champion in 2008 and 2009. She took part in the road race at the 2008 Olympics, finishing in 54th place, and again in 2012 when she didn't finish.

Other cyclists born on this day: Damien Gaudin (France, 1986); Ashlee Ankudinoff (Australia, 1990); Casper Jørgensen (Denmark, 1985); Jon Unzaga (Spain, 1962); Boris Shpilevsky (USSR, 1982); Martin Santos (Guam, 1962); Kohei Yamamoto (Japan, 1983); Robert Vehe (USA, 1953); Josip Pokupec (Yugoslavia, 1913); Earl Godfrey (Bermuda, 1961); Andoni Ituarte (Venezuela, 1919); Stanley Smith (Barbados, 1952); Juan Moral (Spain, 1951); Carlos Espinoza (Peru, 1951); Otto Lehner (Switzerland, 1898, died 1977); Bernardo Arias (Peru, 1942).

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 18.08.2014

Ruby Miller
Ruby Miller
(© Joolze Dymond)
(Used here with very kind permission - to see more of
Dymond's excellent photos, click here.)
Born in Llantwit Major on this day in 1992, Welsh cyclist Ruby Miller began her athletic career as a triathlete at the unusually early age of ten, encouraged by her mother - a coach at Cardiff's Maindy Triathlon Club. She soon found that the bike race was her favourite part of the events she entered, joined the Maindy Flyers CC, began competing in cyclo cross and was spotted by a British Cycling scout who recruited her to the BC Wales Talent Team.

In 2007, Miller took first place in the National Youth Cyclo Cross Series, then won it again the following year before also winning the National Youth MTB Cross Country Championship, then three silver medals and one bronze in the Under-16 class at the National Track Championships.

Miller signed up to Horizon Fitness RT (now Matrix Racing Academy) in 2011, a team well-known for taking talented young riders and turning them into world-class athletes, where she was tipped for the top by directeur sportif and manager Stef Wyman. "Ruby is a great prospect and we know that we can help Ruby develop her potential," he said. "She’s always been impressive off road, but some her road results at the end of last season really caught my eye.  The younger riders on the team are a great squad in their own right.  It’ll be interesting how far they can push things in 2011." Wyman knows a thing or two about cycling, which is why his team has become one of the most successful British women's teams of all time - and Miller soon proved he was right: she won two rounds of the Welsh MTB Series; came third at the Tywyn Criteriums; second at the Jif Summer Criterium, Round 4 of the British MTB Cross Country Series and won Race 11 of the Cornish series. In 2012, Miller acted as a torch bearer during the Olympic Torch relay.

Miller at the Dalby Forest round of the British Cross-Country Series, 2012

Jimmy Michael
Jimmy Michael
Another great Welsh cyclist was born - in Aberaman, about 30km from Llantwit Major - on this day, but 115 years before Miller in 1877. He was Jimmy Michael and, because he was only 1.56m tall people laughed at him when they first saw him step out onto the track with his tall and lanky rivals. They shut up when they saw him race, though - because Michael was very, very fast indeed.

Michael started racing when he was 12 and won a number of local events, then entered bigger ones in Cardiff and won those too. In 1894 he went to London to race the Surrey 100 at the Herne Hill Velodrome, where Sporting Cyclist's Mal Rees was present to see him in action. He later recalled,
"Cycling chroniclers of the day, reporting on the event, were astounded as the Welsh boy matched every attack in the hectic early stages. 'Who was this youth who dared to hang on to London's speediest riders?', they wrote. In the first hour, 24 miles 475 yards had been covered and 'the little hero' Jimmy Michael dogged the heels of the leaders until he succeeded in breaking away himself to lap the field at 46 miles.
At two hours, with 48 miles 377 yards covered, he was just outside the record, but at the 50-mile mark was inside with 2h 4m 42s. There seems to have been no serious threat during the second fifty for Michael consolidated his lead and went on to win in 4h 19m 39s with a seven-minute margin from the runner-up. This was a new record."
L-R: Arthur Linton, Choppy Warburton, Jimmy Michael
and Tom Linton
In 1895, Michael received a professional contract with Gladiator, where he rode alongside Arthur Linton who was also from Aberaman; both men were trained by the notorious coach and soigneur Choppy Warburton. Linton had a bad season and became resentful, seemingly blaming Michael for his bad luck and publicly venting his anger in the South Welsh newspapers until Michael finally decided enough was enough and challenged his rival to a duel, to take place at either the Buffalo or Winter velodrome in Paris, whichever Linton preferred - he even put down a payment of £20 to cover Linton's costs. The race never happened: Linton won Bordeaux-Paris that year, then died six weeks later aged only 24. Officially, his death was blamed on typhoid; however, it's also possible that it was due to the strychnine (a stimulant in small doses) that Warburton administered to his riders and, while nothing was ever proved, Linton is often claimed to have been the first cyclist to die as a result of doping.

Charley Barden
Later that same year the Gladiator team was hired by William Spears Simpson, who had invented the Simpson Lever Chain (a rather strange apparatus made up of triangular links, the chainrings engaged with the flat bottom of each triangle and the rear cog with the pointed tops). Renamed after the chain, they were then entered into specially-organised "chain races" at which Simpson offered 10:1 odds against riders on machines fitted with normal chains beating those with his chains. It's not known if Simpson truly believed his chains offered any sort of mechanical advantage - and for anyone with any sort of engineering knowledge, it's difficult to see why he would - but the races were a brilliant way to advertise the product: Michael, Tom Linton (Arthur's brother, who also died young and whose body was also found to contain high levels of strychnine, though his death too was recorded as being due to typhoid), Constant Huret and the legendary track cyclist, stunt rider, aviator, racing car driver and hospital director Hélène Dutrieu (the world's first female cycling star) were all accustomed to racing at the big track meets in Paris, Brussels and Berlin; they were, therefore, much stronger than the provincial heroes that took them on at the chain races. At one event (most accounts say that it was in Catford, but it might actually have been in Germany), Michael was scheduled to compete against Charley Barden in a five-mile race. This was a major draw: Michael was by now extremely famous, Barden - who was born in Canterbury in 1974 (the exact date is not known, nor are many things about Barden's life) - was even more so and was said to have been so good-looking that he was mobbed by women wherever he went. Just before the race, Michael was handed a drink by Warburton. Nobody knows what it was, but almost as soon as he'd swallowed it, the rider became disorientated and began shaking; then rode badly once the race began, fell off, got back up and started riding in the wrong direction. The crowd began chanting "Dope!"

Michael and Choppy Warburton (with greatcoat and hat)
depicted by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Note also the
distinctive Simpson Lever Chain
There is a great deal of speculation as to what actually happened. One possibility is that Warburton was entirely innocent and Michael had been taken ill (it's also possible that the Linton brothers did in fact die of typhoid, though the strychnine in their corpses takes some explaining). The most obvious is that Warburton gave Michael something that he believed would help him win the race, perhaps a drug with pain-killing properties such as laudanum, which can cause similar symptoms to those the rider exhibited. A third, backed up by an unconfirmed contemporary report, is that Warburton wanted to take advantage of those 10:1 odds and had placed a bet against his own rider, then took steps to ensure he wouldn't win; a fourth suggests Warburton had heard that an agent from a wealthy American team was at the race to scout out new talent and was planning to headhunt Michael, so he drugged the rider in an attempt to disguise his talent. Whatever the truth, Michael believed that he had been deliberately drugged and accused Warburton of such; Warburton responded with a libel suit, though it was settled amicably.

In 1896, Michael went to America where a successful track cyclist could live in considerable style. His contract promised him $2,500 for each of nine races, whatever the outcome, guaranteeing him an income of $22,500 that year - this being a time when the average annual salary in the USA was around $411; in addition to which he planned to earn another $30,000 by taking payments from manufacturers in exchange for using their products and then praising them during interviews in the cycling press. Yet, by 1899, he was almost broke, having lost the majority of his fortune through gambling and the purchase of a race horse (which he rode); he then returned to Europe to make a fresh start but, in 1903, fractured his skull in a 97kph crash at a track in Berlin. While recovering, he became friends with a rider named Jean Gougloz. According to Victor Breyer, one of Henri Desgrange's assistants at the Tour de France, Gougolz was "a weak-minded, yet lovable fellow when sober, but was bad under the influence of drink." He added that "Jimmy kept sliding down the toboggan" after meeting him.

Michael behind one of the monstrous pacer motorcycles
used in track racing in his era
Michael's final races were farcical - he didn't even show up to one prestigious event near the Buffalo in 1903. Breyer, who was race organiser, recalled that Gougolz (who seems not to have been an alcoholic, despite his apparent love of getting drunk) thought he might know where the rider was and so they set off to a bar near the Arc de Triomphe, where they found Michael in a state of serious intoxication. In this day and age, he wouldn't have been allowed to race; in those days he was persuaded to honour his contract and the race was postponed by an hour to give him a chance to sober up. The crowd, therefore, were not in the best of moods when he eventually staggered out onto the track; when he trailed in in last place, a big gap between him and the second-to-last rider, they turned on him and he was booed and hissed out of the building. He decided to try again in America the following year, where he hoped that people might have forgotten the bad days and welcome him as a hero; but he died of delirium tremens aboard the Savoie on the 21st of Novermber whilst it was still at sea. He was 27.

Sarah Hammer
Born in Temecula, California on this day in 1983, Sarah Hammer has amassed a palmares since 2005 that would be the envy of any cyclist - she has won no fewer than twenty National titles, four World Track Championship titles, 18 World TrackCycling Cup races and a number of road races. She also competed in the Olympics in 2008 and 2012, and holds the current World Individual Pursuit record. Yet her professional career very nearly ended before really getting started.

Sarah Hammer's website: click here
Hammer has been cycling since she was eight, encouraged to take up the sport by her father, who realised very soon that she was good at it - and in 1995, she won a National Junior title. By 2002 she was good enough to become a professional, riding for the US Diet Rite alongside the young Joanne Kiesanowski and Tina Pic (who was not so young, but was still going to remain a force in American cycling for the next seven years - and 59 victories - until she retired at the age of 43 in 2009); in 2003 she joined Amber Neben, Kristin Armstrong and Dotsie Bausch at the legendary T-Mobile. Then, at the end of the year, she gave it all up. Professional cycling was harder than she had ever imagined and she sold all her equipment, went to college and made ends meet with a succession of uninspiring jobs.

In 2004, Hammer went to the Olympics to watch her former team mates and realised she'd made the wrong decision. Now aware that cycling was to be her life, she made her comeback with a renewed sense of devotion and determination, winning the Pursuit and Points races at the Nationals in 2005, then the Pursuit, Points and Scratch races at the 2006 Nationals and the Pursuit at the Worlds. She successfully defended her World Championship in 2007 and was selected for the Olympics team in 2008 but went home without a medal, which appears to have encouraged her to try her luck on the road instead - in 2009, she won the Red Trolley criterium and the North End Classic and Tour of Murrieta stage races, but then returned to the track in 2010 and took back her World Pursuit title, then won the Elimination, Points, Flying Lap and Pursuit in the Omnium at the Cali round of the World Cup. The next year, at the Manchester round, she won the Elimination, Flying Lap, Pursuit and Scratch; then the Pursuit at the Nationals. With results like these, she was an obvious selection to compete at the London Olympics and didn't disappoint - this time around, she went home with two silver medals won in the Team Pursuit and the Omnium. Her long winning streak continued into 2013 - having won the Pursuit and the Omnium at the World Championships in Belarus, she returned to her home soil and won the Omnium and the Points at the US Grand Prix of Sprinting in July.

Cédric Vasseur
Cédric Vasseur
Cédric Vasseur, born in Hazebrouck, France on this day in 1970, won a large number of races and stages over the years; but he will forever be remembered for Stage 5 at the 1997 Tour de France and his 147km solo break, which won him the stage and kept him in the maillot jaune for five days. Four years later, riding for US Postal, he was left out of the team's Tour de France squad. This may have been due to his poor results that year - he was third in the Calais criterium, his only podium finish of the season - but it was widely suspected that the real reason was "personal differences" with Lance Armstrong, as he himself claimed and was widely reported by the French media. He left the team and went to Cofidis.

Vasseur was arrested as part of the investigation into doping at Cofidis that also led to the arrest and subsequent ban of David Millar in 2004; he was cleared after his B-sample tested negative but too late for the Tour, and claimed in court that parts of his witness statement were forgeries.

Vasseur's father Alain rode professionally for Bic between 1969 and 1974 and had won Stage 8 at the 1970 Tour with his own solo break; an uncle, Sylvaine, rode with Alain for Bic during the same period, then with Super Ser in 1975 and Gitane-Campagnolo in 1976 and 1977. Younger brother Loïc rode for Home Market-Ville de Charleroi in the late 1990s, but seems not to have received his full share of Vasseur talent.

Jürgen Kissner
Jürgen Kissner was born in Germany in 1942 and, after the war was over, became a citizen of the new "Communist" state of East Germany - where he wasn't permitted to become a sports instructor because his family was deemed as being bourgeois. He was a sufficiently talented rider, however, to be selected for the team sent to the All-Germany Championships held in Cologne, in West Germany, in 1964.

Had he have won a race there, he'd have stood a good chance of being selected for the East German Olympic team, but he had other ideas: on the 15th of September, he climbed into a service elevator at the team's hotel and fled, officially defecting to the West a short while later. The East German authorities tried to claim he'd been abducted, but news that he had left of his own free will soon reached the public. His parents were interrogated by the Stasi and his mother was sent to Cologne to beg him to return, but she told him to stay where he was even if it meant they would never see one another again.

In 1968, Kissner went to the Olympics with the West German team; but a mistake on his part in the team sprint led to disqualification. Newspapers printed stories claiming that he was a "ringer," a secret agent sent by the East Germans specifically to sabotage the West German team's chances; however, one year later the race was re-examined and the team was reinstated, then awarded a silver medal.

Lisa Brambani, who was born in Bradford, Great Britain on this day in 1967, won the National Road Race Championship in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989. She was also 11th in the road race at the Olympics in 1988, won the Women's Challenge in 1989 (when the UCI refused to have anything to do with the race, claiming that "excessive climbing, stage distances, number of stages, and duration of event" made it too difficult), and in 1990 she won a silver medal in the road race at the Commonwealth Games. She should be a household name, among cycling households at any rate; had she have been a man and thus able to compete in events to which the media pay attention, she probably would be.

Gordon "Tiny" Thomas, born in Shipley, Great Britain on this day in 1921, competed in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London where he - along with Ian Scott and Bob Maitland - came second on the team road race. In 1952 he won Stage 13 at the Tour of Britain, then won it overall a year later. At the time of writing, he is 91 years old.

Loretto Petrucci, born in Capostrada, Italy on this day in 1929, won Milan-San Remo in 1951, 1952 and 1953.

George Atkins, born in Leicester, Great Britain on this day in 1991, won the National Junior Road Race, Pursuit and - with Dan McClay - Madison championships in 2009. In 2010, he won the Points race at the National Track Championships and came second on Stage 1 at the Under-23 Tour of Berlin, then in 2011 he won the Scottish Hill Climb Championships and was second at the National Under-23 Individual Time Trial Championships and in 2012 he won the Jock Wadley Memorial.

Serge Baguet, born in Opbrakel, Belgium on this day in 1969, won Stage 2 at the 1993 Tour of Britain, Stage 17 at the 2003 Tour de France and the National Road Race Championship in 2005.

Paul Egli
Jeff Williams, who was born on this day in 1958, won the British National Hill Climb Championship in 1979 on the Bovey Tracey-Haytor road in Devon. His time, 12'44", remains the record at the time of writing. In 1982 he won the National Hill Climb and Road Race Championships, the only man to have ever done so.

Paul Egli, born on this day in 1911, was Swiss Amateur Cycle Cross Champion and won a silver medal at the World Amateur Road Race Championship in 1932, the took the gold at the latter event the following year. In 1935 he became the professional National Road Race Champion, a title he defended in 1936, when he also won Stage 1 and wore the maillot jaune at the Tour de France. Racing in the professional World Road Race Championships a year later he won bronze, then silver in 1938.

Other cyclists born on this day: Thomas Kvist (Denmark, 1987); Boontom Prasongquamdee (Thailand, 1946); Alges Maasikmets (Estonia, 1968); John Lieswyn (USA, 1968); Alan McCormack (Ireland, 1956); Gianni Giacomini (Italy, 1958); Theo Nikkessen (Netherlands, 1941).

Daily Cycling Facts 19.08.2014

Iban Mayo at the 2007 Giro d'Italia
Iban Mayo
The French, at one time, elevated cycling to the level of a religion, as did the Italians. The Belgians are still obsessed with it, and the British are becoming so with every year (and every Tour victory) that passes. The Dutch adore the sport too - but no other people have cycling in their blood in quite the same way that the Basques do, and nowhere else is cycling an expression of national identity. There are 2.1 million Basques in their country, Euskadi; according to author Daniel Coyle, 70 of them were riding among the 400 ProTour athletes in 2004, and rider Haimar Zubeldia says that cycling is "an emanation of our people." Iban Mayo, born in Igorre on this day in 1977, was the best of them all during the first five years of the 21st Century.

A few years after leaving school, Mayo became an ambulance driver. One day, the tyres on his ambulance lost their grip and the vehicle smashed headlong into a stone wall, leaving him with two shattered legs that put him in a wheelchair for eight weeks. When he recovered he decided to train as an electrician, because people told him it wouldn't put much strain in his legs and the pay was good. Within a year, he'd surprised doctors by getting on his bike and developing a new style that didn't make his knees hurt quite so much.

Mayo turned professional with Euskaltel-Euskadi in 2000, a team funded partly by commercial sponsorship, partly by public subscription and partly by the Basque government; it is unique in that it functions both as a trade team and as a national team. In his second year with them, he won the GP du Midi-Libre, the Classique des Alpes and a stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné; in his third year he completed the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, coming fifth overall at the latter.

In 2003, Mayo went back to the Tour and won Stage 8 on the Alpe d'Huez, right then and there becoming the biggest threat to Lance Armstrong since Marco Pantani in 1999 (it was also in 2003 that Joseba Beloki, another Basque and one who once claimed that Mayo was a "simple shooting star" who would never complete a Grand Tour, came to the end of his career with a high-speed crash on the Col de la Rochette). He knew, meanwhile, that he wasn't ready to take Armstrong on just yet, so instead he spent the rest of the Tour waging a peculiar reverse-war of attrition against his enemy - which, alongside cycling, is something else that the Basques are very good at doing; because they've been fighting large and powerful foes ever since Roman times, and have outlasted all of them. Without ever letting up, he would allow himself to drift to the back of the peloton and then power up through the ranks, cruising alongside Armstrong for a short while before suddenly thrusting forward - then when the Texan responded and caught him, he'd do it again, and then again and again. Armstrong had no idea what to make of it and spent much of the race looking rather confused, though he won in the end and Mayo was sixth.

Mayo in the unmistakable orange of Eukaltel-Euskadi
The following year, Mayo won the  Dauphiné for a second time, beating both Armstrong and the record on the ascent of Mont Ventoux, and for the first time in half a decade Armstrong' victory did not seem guaranteed before the race even got under way. Unfortunately, Fate had other ideas: Mayo lost a lot of time in a crash early on in the race, then lost even more when the injuries he sustained in the crash prevented him riding to his full ability in the Pyrenees. He then developed glandular fever and didn't start Stage 15.

Almost all riders have one bad year at some point in their career. For Mayo, it was 2005 when he finished the Tour in 60th place and abandoned the Vuelta. He won Stage 6 at Dauphiné in 2006, but the year wasn't to be much of an improvement over the last and he abandoned the Tour before coming 35th at the Vuelta. Nobody - except for Mayo himself - knows when he started doping, but his fans prefer to think that it was at the end of this period and that he frightened Armstrong without needing to cheat (we may, in 2012, be about to find out if Armstrong was himself a cheat, of course); he certainly wouldn't be the first cyclist to resort to the syringe when he found he wasn't living up to earlier promises and dreams. After riding his first Giro d'Italia and winning Stage 19 in 2007 he went to the Tour, which was where he was caught: the UCI revealed on the 30th of July, the day after the final stage, that a sample Mayo provided earlier in the race had tested positive for EPO. He appealed and, on the 22nd of October was cleared by the Spanish Federation when the court heard that the test on his B-sample (tested to confirm or disprove the results of an A-sample if requested by a rider) had been negative; but the UCI insisted that the B-sample had not yet been analysed, refusing to support the Spanish decision. When it was, it was found to be positive; Mayo was banned from competition for two years.

Sun-Geun Gu
Sun-Geun Gu
South Korean Sun-Geun Gu, born on this day in 1984 in Daegu City, won silver medals for the Points and Scratch races at the 2002 World Junior Track Championships and a gold for the Points race at the 2005 Asian Championships. In 2007, after coming second in the time trial and third in the road race at the World B Championships, she qualified for the national team at the 2008 Olympics. During the road race at the Games she became famous around the world for losing control of her bike in the treacherously wet conditions and falling into a shallow concrete drainage channel. After picking herself up and despite obvious pain, she got back on her bike and finished in 59th place.

After winning the silver medal for the road race at the Asian Championships in 2011 (she did so again the following year), Sung-Eun was offered a contract with the Australian Orica-AIS team and thus became South Korea's first professional female cyclist. The move up to world-class road racing has not phased her at all and she has become an integral part of the team - and with results such as second place on Stage 5 at the Energiewacht Tour, statistics seem to show she has a great future ahead.

Ewald Hasler, Alois Lampert and Rolf Graf
Liechtenstein has produced a very small number of professional cyclists. This isn't especially surprising as it's a very small nation, just 160 square kilometres with a population of around 35,000 - and many people there are put off cycling by the mountains, which will always limit the number of people taking up a sport in what is the only nation to lie entirely within the Alps. It is, therefore, curious that two of the most famous, Ewald Hasler and Alois Lampert, were both born in Eschen (which, with a population of a little over 4,000 people, is the nation's fourth-largest city) on this day in 1932. Hasler finished the road race at the 1952 Olympics in 43rd place and turned professional for Gitane-Hutchinson team in 1954 (when he rode with Jean Stablinski, Rik van Looy and Gilbert Bauvin) but switched that same year to the Swiss Cilo team, then retired in 1957 when he rode for König. Lampert became a professional two years later with the German Altenburger team, by which point he had already won Stage 4 at the 1951 Österreich-Rundfahrt and been 30th at the same Olympics Hasler rode, but also rode for the Swiss team Mondia with whom he remained for three years. In 1958 he rode for three teams - Mondia, Allegro and Tigra - then retired at the end of the year.

Rolf Graf was born in Unterentfelden, Switzerland, also on this day in 1932 - and rode with Lampert for Tigra and Allegro on 1958. He began his professional career with Tebag in 1952 when he was 17th in the Olympic road race; then switched to Guerra, Fiorelli and La Française-Dunlop in 1954, the year that he won Gent-Wevelgem. He continued riding for Fiorelli in 1955 but also represented Tebag, where 1950 Tour de France winner and 1951 World Champion Ferdinand Kübler rode as his domestique, then began to ride for Splendid-d'Alessandro as well the next year, 1956, when he took the first of his three National Championships (the others were in 1959 and 1962) and won the Tour de Suisse.

In 1959, Graf went to the Giro d'Italia and won Stage 22, then to the Tour de France where he won Stages 12 and 19; in 1960, he returned to the Tour and won Stage 19. Nine victories in the next two years suggest that his career had at least a few more years to run, but it was cruelly ended by a serious car accident in 1963 from which he never fully recovered. He officially announced his retirement in 1964.

Hasler, Lampert and Graf (and Kübler, for that matter) are all still alive.

Ezio Cecchi finished the Giro d'Italia in second place twice; first in 1938 behind Giovanni Valetti and then in 1948 behind Fiorenzi Magni. The gap between first and second place in 1948, 11 seconds, the the smallest winning margin in the history of the race.

Alphonse Antoine was born on this day in 1915 in the French village of Corny, but later took Belgian nationality and won the Belgian National Championship in 1935. In 1937, he won Stage 12a at the Tour de France.

As a Paris-Roubaix winner, Paul Maye is commemorated
on the Chemin des Géants.
Paul Maye, who was born in Bayonne on this day in 1913, won the French Amateur Championship in 1934 and the French Military Championship a year later. In 1936, having left the Army, he joined the Armor-Dunlop (and spent most of his career riding either for them or for Alcyon-Dunlop) and won Stages 10 and 19c at the Tour de France. In 1938, he won the National Championships, this time at Elite Professional level; he would win it again five years later. Maye won Paris-Tours in 1941, then again in 1942 and 1942 - he thus shares the record with Gustave Danneels (1934, 1936, 1937), Guido Reybrouck (1964, 1966, 1968) and Erik Zabel (1994, 2003, 2005). In 1945, he also won Paris-Roubaix, the race considered by many to be the hardest of them all.

Lucien Vlaemynck, born in Izenberge, Belgium on this day in 1914, became a professional rider with Alcyon-Dunlop in 1935 and stayed with them until his retirement in 1949 - he would, therefore, have known Paul Maye. Vlaemynck specialised in shorter stage races and criteriums; however, he rode the Tour de France once - in 1939, when he came third overall

A Wright Cycle Co. racing machine
Orville Wright, a bicycle builder, was born in the USA on this day in 1871. He's better known - alongside brother Wilbur - as the inventor of the first working heavier-then-air aircraft, and as the brothers never made bikes in any great quantity they probably wouldn't be any better-remembered  than any other small-scale turn-of-the-last-century manufacturers had it not have been for their aircraft. However, we owe them thanks for one innovation: they were the first to come up with the idea of machining the threads of the left-hand side of the bottom bracket and crank in an anti-clockwise direction, thus preventing the crank from loosening in use.

Other cyclists born on this day: Kazimierz Jasiński (Poland, 1946); Ján Valach (Czechoslovakia, now Slovakia, 1973); Hernán Medina (Colombia, 1937); Miklós Somogyi (Hungary, 1962); Andrzej Bławdzin (Poland, 1938); Gerard Veldscholten (Belgium, 1959); Jiří Prchal (Czechoslovakia, now Czech Republic, 1948).