Sunday, 29 January 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 29.01.12

Henri Van Lerberghe
Henri Van Lerberghe (also spelled Leerberghe) was born on this day in 1891 in Lichtervelde, Belgium, and was one of those riders who earned his place in history with his character rather than his (not very impressive) results. He wasn't far into his professional career before he'd earned one of the best nicknames in the history of cycling - The Death Rider of Lictervelde; which came about due to his habit of telling opponents in the run-up to a race that he was going to "ride them to death," but, as he couldn't resist attacking early while they paced themselves, thus using up his energy, he didn't often carry out his threat and more often than not abandoned the race  before it was over. 

Every once in a while, though, he exercised self-restraint, and when he did he achieved results that show he might just have had the makings of a more conventionally great rider. In 1913, he entered the Tour de France as an individual, a class that set off from the start a quarter of an hour after the team riders, yet in Stage 5 he caught them, dropped the entire peloton and won the stage. 

Six years later, now a professional, he won the third edition of the tough Ronde van Vlaanderen; arriving to sign on complete with clothing, spare parts, tools and so on, in short everything he could conceivably need in a bike race with one exception: he didn't have a bike. After asking around, he managed to find someone willing to lend him one. Again, he mounted one of his customary early attacks with 120km still to go and spectators were not surprised to see him beginning to tire at an early point in the race, no doubt having a good old laugh at his expense because, on the start line, he'd told the other riders that he'd drop each and every one of them at their own front doors on the way. However, after a while he came across a Bianchi-Pirelli team official with a bag of food intended for Marcel Buysse, brother of Lucien who would win the Tour de France seven years later. He stopped and persuaded the man that since Buysse had abandoned (it's not entirely clear if he in fact had at that point), he might as well have the food instead. Having eaten it, he felt re-energised and continued his solo breakaway.

Some time later, he had to stop at a level crossing. Rather than waiting, he simply shouldered his bike like a cyclo crosser, jumped up and pulled open a train door before running through the carriage and leaping out the other side where he remounted his bike and rode off. 

Memorial to van Lerberghe's 1919 Ronde
van Vlaanderen triumph, perhaps the most
amusing in cycling history
Towards the very end of the race, just before he entered the velodrome that hosted the finish line, van Lerberghe decided he was feeling thirsty. So - as if he hadn't already guaranteed his place as possibly the coolest rider in the history of cycling - our hero stopped at a pub and had a couple of leisurely pints of beer. He might have spent the rest of the afternoon in there too had word not reached his manager who came out to find him and ask him not to throw away the race. This, apparently, seemed a reasonable enough request so he finished his pint, left the pub and rode into the velodrome to win the race and complete his victory lap. Once done and with a completely straight face, he told the packed crowd to "Go home - I'm half a day in front of the field."

Van Lerberghe died on the 10th of April in 1966, aged 75 and still living in Lichtervelde. They really don't make 'em like that any more.

Ernest Chambers, a track cyclist and winner of a silver medal in the 2000m Tandem races at the 1928 and 1932 Olympics, died on this day in 1985. He was born on the 7th of April 1907 in Hackney, East London.

Mills and Paul as depicted in Card No. 45/50 "Track Tandem
 Position" in the John Player & Sons series
Cycling 1839-1939
Bill Paul, who died in this day in 2003, was another great English tandem rider and would almost certainly have known Chambers personally. An amateur with the Addiscombe CC, he and fellow club member Ernie Mills set a number of records in the 1930s including an official British 12-hour record in 1934 and an unofficial World record two years later, establishing a new tandem Hour Record  too when the covered 30 miles (48.28km). In 1937, Cycling magazine paid for them to travel to Italy where they made an appearance at the Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan, which still stands but has been converted into an American football stadium. Whilst there, they beat their previous Hour Record by covering 31.06 miles (49.991km) - a record that remained unbroken for 63 years. In 1938, they set a new 100 Mile record, completing the distance in 3h53'12". The record still stood at the time of writing, 73 years later. Paul's date and place of birth are unknown, but are likely to have been some time in 1910 in Croydon, South London.

Karsten Kroon was born today in Dalen, Netherlands, in 1976. Having won a Ronde van Drenthe, he signed up to the Rabobank youth team and continued winning races before progressing to the professional team in 1999. He entered the Giro d'Italia the next year and wore the King of Mountains jersey for 13 days - as a talented climber, he was led the Mountains classification in all three Grand Tours, but never won the competition overall. His single Tour de France stage win to date was Stage 8 in 2002. Since 2006, he has tended to concentrate on shorter races, achieving podium finishes in several.

Ron Coe was born today in the English town of Barnsley in 1933. He turned professional in 1957 with Wilson Cycles, the joined the Belgian team Splendor the year after that, when he also won the last British League of Racing Cyclists National Road Race Championships before the organisation merged with the National Cyclists' Federation (the BLRC having been formed to promote road racing, which the NCU had banned since the late 19th Century) to form the British Cycling Federation.

Gaston Rebry, born on this day in 1905 in Rollegem-Kapelle in Belgium, became the third rider in history to win the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in a single season. He also won Paris-Nice that year and would win Paris-Roubaix on another two occasions. He rode the Tour de France four times, in 1928, 1929, 1931 and 1932, wearing the yellow jersey for a stage in 1929, coming fourth overall in 1931 and winning a total of four stages (Stage in 1928, Stage 14 in 1929, Stage 23 in 1931 and Stage 19 in 1932). He died on the 3rd of July 1953, at which point his son - also named Gaston - was also a professional cyclist.

Other births: Sergiy Matveyev (Ukraine, 1975); Peter van Doorn (Netherlands, 1946); Arnold Belgardt (USSR, 1937); Petr Benčik (Czech Republic, 1976); Phillip Richardson (Trinidad and Tobago, 1949); Ji Jianhua (China, 1982); Hans Fischer (Brazil, 1961); Rino Pucci (Italy, 1922, died 1986); Ali Hüryılmaz (Turkey, 1945); Francis Higgins (Great Britain, 1882, died 1948); Michael Blatchford (USA, 1986); Víctor González (Uruguay, 1957); Paul Bonno (France, 1954).

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