Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 13.03.12

The 13th of March is the earliest day in the year that the Ronde van Vlaanderen has ever been held, falling on this date in 1921 and 1932. 1921 was the fifth edition of the race, which had started in 1913 but was not held during the First World War, and the winner was René Vermandel who also became Belgian Cyclo Cross Champion that year (and would be National Road Race Champion in 1922 and 1924). Vermandel was an early example of what we now term a Classics specialist - in addition to this victory, he took 2nd place three years later, won Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 1923 and 1924, 2nd at Paris-Roubaix in 1923 and 3rd at the semi-Classis Paris-Brussels in 1920 and 1922.

In 1932, the winner was Romain Gijssels - he'd also won in 1931 and therefore became the second rider to have won twice (the first was Gerard Debaets in 1927) and the first to have won in two consecutive years.

Paris-Nice began on this day in 1951 and 1956. 1951 was the first edition since 1946 and was organised after encouragement from Jean Medecin, the Mayor of Nice, who wanted to increase tourism in the area. This also led to a change in the race's name, and it became Paris-Côte d'Azur - however, fans and riders alike continued to refer to it as Paris-Nice and the name was officially changed back the following year. The race leader's jersey went through one of its many changes that year, becoming yellow with orange piping, and the winner was Roger Decock, who won the Ronde van Vlaanderen one year later. The 1956 winner was Fred de Bruyne, who also won the Ronde van Vlaanderen a year afterwards (and Paris-Roubaix, and Paris-Tours).

Tom Danielson
(image credit: Coda2 CC BY-SA 2.0)
Tom Danielson
Tom Danielson, born in East Lyme, Connecticut on this day in 1978, won the Collegiate Mountain Bike Championships in 2001 before becoming a professional road racer with the Mercury team in 2002 - the year he won the Tour of Qinghai Lake. A year later he won the Malaysian Tour de Langkawi, the Tour de Toona and the Redlands Classis, results good enough to get him a contract with Fassa Bortolo where he rode with Alessandro Petacchi and then with Discovery for two three seasons from 2005. That year, he rode his first Grand Tours, abandoning the Giro d'Italia after Stage 8 and later managing a very respectable 7th overall at the Vuelta a Espana.

He abandoned the Giro after Stage 19 in 2006 but won the Tour of Austria and improved his Vuelta result to 6th overall - to date, his best Grand Tour finish. The following years were quieter with fewer victories and in less prestigious events, until 2011 when he was easily the strongest American rider at the Tour de France and finished in 9th place - evidence that, aged 33 at the time of writing, he may prove to be a late bloomer.

Though primarily known as an all-rounder, Danielson excels in the mountains - at this moment, he holds the roecord for the fastest ever ascents of Mount Washington (set during the Race to the Clouds in 2002) and the Mount Evans Hillclimb in 2004. His time in the Mount Evans race, which uses the highest surfaced road in North America at 4,307m, was 1h41'20".

Louison Bobet
Louison Bobet, the first rider to win three consecutive Tours de France (but not the first to win three - that was Philippe Thys in 1913, 1914 and 1920), died on this day in 1983 - one day after his 58th birthday. Bobet was unpopular with other riders during his time and was accused of winning an easy race in 1953 - his 1954 and 1955 wins, however, were hard-fought victories over strong rivals. He was often accused of snobbery, but at least some of his peculiar habits can be viewed as ahead of their time from a modern standpoint.

However, he was more popular with fans - at the height of his fame, he traveled from France with the British rider Vic Jenner and a journalist named Jock Wadley from Sporting Cyclist to give an award at the Royal Albert Hall in London, flying over the channel in an aeroplane chartered for the occasion by Jenner. When they arrived at French Customs, it turned out that neither  Jenner nor Wadley had remembered to bring their passports with them. Fortunately, the customs officials were so busy trying to chat to Bobet and get his autograph that they completely forgot to ask for documents.

On this day in 1906, human rights advocate, suffragist and proto-feminist Susan B. Antony died in New York at the age of 86. Anthony is of interest to cyclists for her efforts to get women riding bikes and for what has become her most famous quote:
"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."
Olivier Asmaker
One of Asmaker's rare wins
(image credit: Antoine Blondin CC BY-SA 3.0)
Olivier Asmaker, born in Savigny-sur-Orge on this day in 1973, had a rather undistinguished career with his only major win being the UCI 2.2 Tour de Picardie in 2001. Yet, time and time again, there he was on the start line of some of the most prestigious races in cycling, none of which he came close to winning - the Grand Prix du Midi Libre, the Grand Prix de Wallonie, the Grand Prix de Sabinanigo, even the Critérium du Dauphiné. In fact, having signed with CSC in 2001, he almost certainly would have ridden the Tour de France that year had he not broken a collar bone earlier in the season.

Finally, at some point during the 2002 season, a team official began to wonder about the rider they'd been paying for all these years and who was so often seen in the shadow of his close friend Laurent Jalabert. He wasn't selected for the Tour that year and, as the season came to a close, he was informed that his contract would not be renewed - and despite a desperate search, nobody else wanted him either so he returned to amateur racing. Two years later, he retired from cycling and became a policeman.

Marta Vilajosana
(image credit: Ciclismo Femenino)
Marta Vilajosana, born in Barcelona in this day in 1975 (some sources say the 13th of April) won four bronze medals in the National Time Trial Championships (1998, 1999, 2002 and 2006), then silver medals for both the National Time Trial and Road Race in 2007. Finally, in 2009, she won the gold for the Road Race. She also won Stage 5 at the Giro Donne in 2006.

Wing Kam-po is a Chinese cyclist born in Hong Kong on this day in 1973 and has won several of the Far Eastls most important races, including the Tour of the South China Sea (1999 and 2001) and the Tour of the Philippines (1997) as well as several World Championship races. During the 2009 Chinese National Games, Wong and his Hong Kong team arrived at the stadium ten minutes early and were not permitted to enter by security guards. An argument broke out, culminating in the guards attacking the cyclists - coach Zhang Pak-min was badly beaten and Wong was pushed to the ground, injuring his leg. When the guards threatened to smash up a team car the police were called and the team was finally allowed into the stadium.

Lars Michaelsen, born in Copenhagen on this day in 1969, won the first stage at the 1997 Vuelta a Espana and wore the race leader's yellow jersey (since changed to gold and then red) for three days. He also achieved consistently good results at Paris-Roubaix but gave up his chances of a win to assist team captains, most notably Fabian Cancellara in 2006. The next year he finished in 11th place despite mechanical issues.

Other births: Simon Geschke (Germany, 1986); Joseph Rosemeyer (Germany, 1872, died 1919); Eduardo Graciano (Mexico, 1967); Hideki Miwa (Japan, 1969); Charles Leodo (Togo, 1953); Akbar Poudeh (Iran, 1932); Roman Saprykin (USSR, 1974); Lars Michaelsen (Denmark, 1969); Denys Kostiuk (Ukraine, 1982).

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