Monday, 5 December 2011

Daily Cycling Facts 05.12.11

On this day in 1967 Eddy Merckx - World Champion but yet to win a Grand Tour - married Claudine Acou, the daughter of the nation team coach Lucien Acou who had himself been a professional cyclist during the 1940s and 1950s. During the service - which was conducted in French at the request of Merckx's mother, causing controversy in Belgium as Merckx is a Fleming - the priest told the couple, "You are now started on a tandem race; believe me, it will not be easy."

Sylvère Maes
Maes, with tyre around shoulders
On this day in 1966, Belgian cyclist Sylvère Maes died; the winner of the 1936 (with four stage wins) and 1939 (two stage wins) Tours de France (the latter being the last one until 1947, despite Nazi attempts to resurrect the race during their occupation of the country). He won the King of the Mountains alongside the second victory and, in 1933, Paris-Roubaix. He was 57, having been born on the 27th of August 1909 in Zevekote. People commonly make the mistake of assuming Romain Maes, who won the Tour in 1935, was Sylvère's brother; but they were not related - nevertheless, 1935/6 are the only consecutive years in Tour history won by riders with the same surname.

1937 became known as one of the most miserable, unpleasant-to-ride Tours in history. The old rivalries between French and Belgian spectators turn ugly and threaten to flare up into real violence - Maes and his fellow Belgian, the independent Gustaaf Deloor looked to be in real danger of a beating when aggressive  fans surrounded them at the end of Stage 16 in Bordeaux, angered that the two men had ducked under a level crossing barrier and ran across the tracks before continuing, while Belgian fans (and some riders) claimed that the barrier had been deliberately lowered to hold them up and prevent another Belgian win. The Belgians also complained that French fans had stoned them and thrown pepper in their eyes. In disgust, Maes pulled the team out and they returned home. Also, the swastika of Nazi Germany had appeared in the peloton, worn on the jersey of the German team.

In 1939, Sylvère had the honour of winning the first mountain time trial ever featured in the Tour (Stage 16b). Earlier in the race, he'd had some problems with his domestique Edward Vissers when he decided to attack during Stage 9 rather than ride support and went on to win the stage. Maes, however, was still able to climb to 2nd place in the General Classification, but was two minutes behind race leader René Vietto at the start of Stage 15 when they entered the Alps. Vietto was known as a superb climber, but Maes felt that he was the stronger man and turned up the heat on the way into Briançon, breaking away and finishing the stage an astonishing 17 minutes before his rival. When he completed the time trial, which ran over 64km from Bonneval to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, 10 minutes faster his victory was as good as set in stone provided he kept up a decent pace over the final stages and avoided accidents. In the end, he added more time and rode into Paris with an advantage of 30'38". He'd also won the Mountains Classification.

Joanna Rowsell, 23 today
Happy birthday to Joanna Rowsell, the Team GB track and road cyclist who added two first place wins at the British Track Championships and one at the European Track Championships in 2011 to her already extensive palmares. She rides for (Cyclopunk favourite!) Horizon Fitness and was born in 1988 in the Surrey town of Sutton.

Retired Australian track rider Martin Vinnicombe was born  today in Melbourne, 1964. In 1991, Vinnicombe received a two-year ban after testing positive for steroids - however, the ban was subsequently overturned as he had been given the medicine by his doctor to treat tendon damage.

Bernard Sulzberger, born on this day in Beaconsfield, Tasmania has won several stage victories at Australian, Asian and American races and became National Criterium Champion in 2008.

On this day in 1935, Hubert Opperman set a new 24-hour road record in Melbourne, Australia when he covered 813.93km. Opperman rode his bike every day from the age of 8 until he was 90 when his wife Mavys made him give it up because she was worried for his safety.

Gianni Meersman, born in Tielt, Belgium on this day in 1985, won both the General Classification and the Points competition at the 2011 Circuit des Ardennes.

Bruno Cenghialta, born on this day in Montecchio Maggiore in 1962, was an Italian professional who won Stage 14 of the 1991 Tour de France, the Coppa Bernocchi in 1994 and Stage 3 at the Tour in 1995. In retirement, he became a directeur sportif for Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo.

Bicycle Victoria, the largest membership cycling organisation in Australia and one of the largest in the world, was officially incorporated and renamed on this day in 2005; having started 30 years previously as the Bicycle Institute of Victoria.

Other births: Lionel Cox (Australia, 1930, died 2010); Craig Percival (Great Britain, 1972); Leen Buis (Netherlands, 1906, died 1986); Rosman Alwi (Malaysia, 1961); Pinit Koeykorpkeo (Thailand, 1951); Nicolas Reidtler (Venezuela, 1947); Heath Blackgrove (New Zealand, 1980); Valery Likhachov (USSR, 1947); Cor Heeren (Netherlands, 1900, died 1976); Antal Megyerdi (Hungary, 1939); Robert Fowler (South Africa, 1931, died 2001); Valentin Mikhaylov (USSR, 1929); Brad Huff (USA, 1979).

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