Saturday, 4 February 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 04.02.12

(image credit: Outematic CC BY-SA 2.5)
Viatcheslav Ekimov
On this day in 1966, Viatcheslav Vladimirovich Ekimov was born in Vyborg, USSR. Ekimov's life since he was 12 has been all about riding bikes as fast as possible - picked out at that age, he was sent to a specialist cycling academy associated with of the Soviet Sports schools created to mold young people into iron-hard athletes who would one day excel in their field, ready to be sent into battle against the West and bring back glory. When it was time to leave school, he moved on to an Armed Forces sports society and trained even more.

Eki was never been a Grand Tour General Classification contender but was more than capable of picking up stages and smaller races, adding valuable points to his team's total. His only Tour de France stage win came in 1991 when he won Stage 20, but he would others at the Tour de Suisse (1993 and 1995), Prudential Tour (1998 - then the name for the Tour of Britain), the Ronde van Nederland (2003) and numerous others in addition to forming part of two winning time trial teams at the Tour. He also won two Olympic gold medals and may yet be awarded another, as he came 2nd behind Tyler Hamilton during the 2004 Time Trial - the American rider has subsequently given the medal back to the IOC after admitting to having doped.

Despite his success, Ekimov became known for his rather peculiar riding style - which, according to US Postal directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel, "always looks shit." Shortly after his retirement it was announced that he would become assistant directeur sportif to Bruyneel at RadioShack, then in 2011 he revealed that he would be leaving the team at the end of the season prior to the merger with Leopard Trek and taking up a new position as an adviser at the Russian Global Cycling Project.

Johan van Summeren
Johan van Summeren
(image credit: Thomas Ducroquet CC BY-SA 3.0
Johan van Summeren, at 1.97m one of the tallest professional cyclists of all time, was born on this day in 1981 in the Belgian town of Lommel. Van Summeren is well known for his ability to ride in support of General Classification contenders, leading Cadel Evans to nominate him as the "number one team mate of the Tour" in 2007 for his work in a race that had seen him praised in almost every stage by commentator and race expert Paul Sherwen.

His first major win was the Under-23 Liège–Bastogne–Liège in 2003, the same year he took a silver medal in the Under-23 Road Race World Championship. He first demonstrated the depth of his stage race potential in 2005 when he came 4th overall at the Tour Down Under, then won the Points Classification at the Tour of Britain the following season and the General Classification at the Tour of Poland a year after that. In 2008, he finished 8th overall at Paris-Roubaix, the world'd toughest one-day race. A year later, he improved to 5th place before a quiet year in 2010. In 2011, he broke away from the peloton with 15km to go and won the race by 19".

John Tanner is a Yorkshire-born cyclist who came into the world on this day in 1968. He competed in two Olympic Games (1996 and 2000) but has primarily concentrated on the British racing scene, becoming National Road Race Champion twice 1999 and 2000) and winning two Archer GPs (1997, 2005), two Tours of the Cotswolds (1997, 2001) and the Manx Trophy (1998), the latter having been the most prestigious British race for many years and able to attract names such as Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil and Fausto Coppi in addition to the cream of British cycling including Robert Millar, Brian Robinson, David Millar and Tommy Simpson. His greatest achievement has been winning the Premier Calendar, a competition decided by points accrued in a series of races throughout the season, a record five times (1994, 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2002).

Peter Dawson, born in this day in 1982 in Pinjarra, Australia, is a multiple track world champion with five Team Pursuit titles to his name. He has also won stages at the Tour of Tamania, the Tour de Perth, the Tour of the Murray River and the International Cycling Classic.

Fred de Bruyne (born Belgium, 21.10.1930), who died on this day in 1994, was one of the greatest Classics riders of all time. During his professional career, he won Milan-San Remo (1956), Liège–Bastogne–Liège (1956, 1958 and 1959),  the Tour of Flanders (1957), Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (1961) and Paris-Roubaix (1957). He also performed well in stage races, winning Paris-Nice twice (1956 and 1958) and a total of six Tour de France stages in 1954 and 1956.

Tomas Vaitkus was born on this day in Klaipėda, now Lithuania, in 1982. He began his professional career with Landbouwkrediet-Colnago. He would later move to AG2R, then Discovery and in 2008 to Astana. He remained there for two seasons before leaving for RadioShack, the returned to Astana for 2011. At the end of the 2011 season, it was announced that he would race with the new Australian GreenEDGE team in 2012. Vaitkus became Under-23 World Time Trial Champion in 2002, later becoming National Elite Time Trial champ (2003 and 2004) and National Elite Road Race champ (2004 and 2008).

Sheldon Brown
Sheldon Brown, who died from a heart attack on this day in 2008 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis the previous August, was born on the 14th of July 1944, was parts manager at the Harris Cyclery bike shop in Massachusetts. Whilst there, his superb memory and eye for detail allowed him to build up a vast  knowledge of bike components which he would use to create an encyclopedic website in conjunction with his employer. The website grew until it included technical information, workshop advice and tips on modification for (probably) almost every bike and bike component ever manufactured. Brown himself became a world-recognised expert on the subject and wrote several books. His writing on hub gears, especially Sturmey-Archer models, is considered authoritative.

Sheldon Brown, 1944-2008
His greatest contribution to the world of racing was probably his work on developing a method of comparing gear ratios, at its time the only method to take crank length into account. Brown and his colleagues Galen Evans and Osman Isvan  produced a formula that used wheel radius (a), crank length (b), size of front gear ring measured conventionally in teeth (c) and the size of the rear gear also measured conventionally in teeth (d). a over b then gives the radius ratio, which can be termed r. r multiplied by c over d gives a final figure that Brown termed the gain ratio. As an example, Brown uses a fairly standard road bike which, with modern tyres, will have a wheel diameter of 680mm and crank length of 170mm. Therefore, a/b=340/170=2. If the biggest chain ring has 53 teeth and the biggest cassette ring has 19, r a/b=2 x (53/19)=5.58. The advantages of this formula are three-fold. Firstly, it's considerably more simple than some earlier attempts to provide a method able to achieve the same result; secondly, the gain ratio is a pure ratio and as such requires no units to be given - the result will remain the same provided a and b have been measured using the same units and thirdly, it only needs to be done once for any bike unless the chain rings, cassette, wheels or tyres are changed as the gear the bike is in at any one point is irrelevant. If the figures used in the example are accurate, each unit through which the pedals move (eg 20cm) will result in the bike moving that distance x 5.58 forward (111.6cm).

In the final years of his life, Brown suffered serious nerve deterioration as a result of his illness, going back some time before MS was diagnosed and gradually destroying his balance so that he could no longer ride a conventional bike. he continued cycling on a recumbent tricycle until, eventually, he lost the use of his lower limbs.

Brown was universally liked by all who met him, cyclists and the general public, his cheery personality proving infectious. As he neared the end of his life, he wrote:
"Multiple Sclerosis is a nasty, rare, incurable disease, but there are lots of nasty rare incurable diseases out there. As nasty, rare, incurable diseases go, it's one of the better ones. If you must acquire a nasty, rare, incurable disease, MS is one of the best things going!... I think of it as not so much a "tragedy" as a Really Major Inconvenience... Another great thing about MS is that it's guilt free and blame free! Since nobody knows what causes it, nobody thinks it's because you didn't eat your vegtables, or had sex with the wrong person, or took inappropriate drugs, or lived in a place you shouldn't have, or didn't go to the gym as often as you should have!"

Other births: Robert Lelangue (Belgium, 1940); Ronald Cassidy (Trinidad and Tobago, 1939); Kurt Innes (Canada, 1971); Bruno Castanheira (Portugal, 1977); Choijiljavyn Samand (Mongolia, 1937); Fernando Vera (Chile, 1954); Francisco Pérez (Uruguay, 1934); Josef Genschieder (Austria, 1915, died 1943); Aleksandra Dawidowicz (Poland, 1987); Roberto Breppe (Argentina, 1941); Janka Števková (Slovakia, 1976); Juan Esteban Curuchet (Argentina, 1965); Toshiaki Fushimi (Japan, 1976); Yvonne Brunen (Netherlands, 1971); Eduard Gritsun (USSR, 1976); Peter Brotherton (Great Britain, 1931); Neil Hoban (Great Britain, 1966); Masahiro Yasuhara (Japan, 1963).

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