Friday, 3 February 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 03.02.12

Hennie Kuiper
(image credit: Poortugaalse Polleke CC BY-SA 3.0)
Hennie Kuiper
Prior to the current growing interest in the sport, Hennie Kuiper - who was born in this day in Denekamp, Netherlands in 1949 - was one of the very few cyclists to become a household name in Britain and almost certainly the only foreign rider to achieve such a claim without winning a Tour de France. He owed it to two factors - winning the Milk Race (which would become the Tour of Britain) in 1972, and his piercing blue eyes which many women, including this author's mother, apparently found mesmerising. Winning gold at the 1972 Olympics had little to do with it, because only cyclists watched the cycling events on the television in Britain in those days.

In Europe, where the general population are a little more aware that the Tour is not the only race that matters than are the British public, his palmares was enough. After all, while he never stood on the top step of the podium after the Tour, he was on the second step twice and picked up a handful of stage wins at the Tour and Vuelta too. He also won the World Road Race Champion title in 1975 (and the National), becoming one of only four riders to have won gold the professional Worlds race and the Olympics. In 1976 he won the Tour de Suisse and was then selected as Dutch Sportsman of the Year in 1977, the same year he finished the Tour in 2nd place. He won a Tour stage the year after that and came second in the Tour de Romandie, then came 4th on the Tour and 3rd at Paris-Roubaix the following season, then 2nd again in the Tour a year later. In 1981 he won both the Tour of Flanders and the Giro di Lombardia, the Grand Prix de Wallonie in 1982 and Paris-Roubaix in 1983. 1984 was a little less successful and he had to settle for 9th in Paris-Roubaix, then he added his last major win in 1985 with Milan-San Remo. All in all, he won 74 races during his professional career.

Who cares about some summer jaunt around France?

Ernest J. Clements
Falcon Cycles - designed by
Ernie Clements
(image credit: Andrew Dressell
CC BY-SA 3.0)
Ernest J. Clements - known as Ernie - was a cyclist who rose to prominence during the first official road races to take place in Britain since the late 19th Century. Having been born on the 28th of February 1922 in Hadley, Shropshire, he came of cycling age just as the British League of Racing Cyclists gained sufficient strength to organise races independently of the National Cycling Union that had banned road racing for fear that police disapproval would lead to a blanket ban on all bikes on public roads (in fact, when the BLRC organised its first race, the police supported them). He won the BLRC National Road Race championship in 1943, came second the following year and then won again in 1945, before finding a way round the NCU's rules preventing BLRC members from taking part in their races and won their National Championship as well in 1946. Now that he was an NCU member, he could be selected to ride in the Olympics and did so in 1948, where he won silver.

In 1947, the NCU and other organisations began to consider the possibility of sending a British team to the Tour de France and approached Clements, inviting him to turn professional and form part of the team. However, mindful of the fact that the rules of the day prevented any cyclist who had been professional from competing in amateur events after retirement, he refused - and the Tour idea fizzled out anyway. Instead, he opened and ran a cycling shop to support himself, learning the art of frame building and becoming highly reputed for it. He would later become managing director of Falcon Cycles which, as older veteran cyclists can tell you, was once the producer of some of the best bikes in the world, rather than a name on the down tube of Far Eastern £50 supermarket specials. He held the position until the 1970s.

After retiring from Falcon, Clements opened another bike shop in 1990 so that he'd be able to keep in tough with the sport and young people taking it up for the first time. In later life, he developed Parkinson's Disease which led to his death on this day in 2009, when he was 83.

Florian Rousseau should by all rights be famous for winning three gold and one silver medals at the Olympics (1996 and 2000) and a long list of World and National titles on the track. However, he achieved cycling immortality through the faces he pulled whilst riding, which ranged from crowd-pleasing, cartoon-like  weirdness to frankly terrifying, gargoyle-like grotesqueness. Off the bike, he's about the most normal-looking bloke you could imagine.

Other births: Manfred Klieme (Germany, 1936); Sergey Renev (Kazakhstan, 1985); David Handley (Great Britain, 1930); José Antonio Villanueva (Spain, 1979); Valery Batura (USSR, 1970); Jennifer Hohl (Switzerland, 1986); Roz Reekie-May (New Zealand, 1972); Jonas Carney (USA, 1971); Michael Stoute (Barbados, 1948); Luboš Lom (Czechoslovakia, 1965); Georges Schiltz (Luxembourg, 1901).

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