Wednesday 14 March 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 14.03.12

Alphonse Schepers
The very first edition of Paris-Nice began on this day in 1933, the only time it has started on this date. The race had been organised by Albert Lucas who, as was commonly the case with cycling races before the Second World War, used it to publicise his newspapers - Le Petit Journal in Paris and Le Petit Nice in Nice. The race leader's jersey was blue and gold to represent the Mediterranean and it was won by Alphonse Schepers, who also won the first stage.

Firmin Lambot
Firmin Lambot, Belgian winner of two Tours de France (1919 and 1922), was born in Florennes, Belgium on this day in 1886.  When he was 17, Lambot found work as a saddler and rode 50km each day to work, which gave him the fitness he required to win his first race - for which he was awarded the princely sun of five francs, the money going towards the purchase his first racing bike so he could enter more races. By 1908 he had turned professional and won the Tours of Belgium and Flanders, then entered the Tour for the first time in 1911 and came 11th overall. He was 18th the next year, 4th in 1913 and 8th in 1914, the final Tour before the First World War.

Firmin Lambot, the man who
won two Tours through luck.
After the conflict had ended, Lambot returned to racing and entered a 24-hour event at the Veldrome Buffalo (so-called because the original velodrome on the spot had hosted Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. It was also the site of the first official Hour Record on the 11th of May 1893, set by none other than Henri Desgrange who would go on to become the Tour's first director) in Paris, 1919. Once the race was over, he was approached by Globe Cycles who invited him to join their team for that year's Tour.

Lambot looked set for second place, trailing behind Eugène Christophe for most of the race. However, the 1919 race featured one of Christophe's several, famous, broken forks, which allowed the Belgian to take the lead. Spectators did not take kindly to the Tour being won as a result of another rider's misfortune (especially when the lucky rider was a Belgian and the unlucky one a Frenchman) and so organisers decided to award him the same prize money as Lambot. Then, after the race, a collection was started to gather money that would be given to Christophe in consolation. In the end, the fund reached 13,310 francs - many times more than Lambot made from winning the race, though he may have taken some comfort from being subsequently offered a new contract with Peugeot with a salary of 300 francs a month.

He finished 3rd in 1920 behind Philippe Thys and Hector Heusghem (both Belgians, as were the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th riders which must have really irked the French fans), the 9th in 1921 before winning for a second time in 1922. This victory, like the first, was controversial and for the same reason: this time, Hector Heusghem had broken his bike and, as the rules of the day stated, was given a one hour penalty for swapping it for a new machine which allowed Lambot to take over the race leadership. Without the penalty, Heusghem would have beaten him by as much as sixteen minutes and 2nd place Jean Alvoine by three. Nevertheless, Lambot had become the first man to win a Tour without winning any of its stages and, at 36, the oldest man to ever win a Tour. He died in the 19th of January 1964, aged 77.

Sarah Ulmer
(image credit: James F.Perry CC BY-SA 3.0)
Road and track cyclist Sarah Ulmer, born on this day in Auckland, became the first New Zealand cyclist to win an Olympic gold medal when she won the Pursuit event at the 2004 Games - and set new Olympic and World Record times for the event. She also won the World Pursuit Championship that year and, two years earlier in 2002, she had set Commonwealth Games and World Record times in the 3000m Individual Pursuit. In 2005, she became National Road Race Champion, then won the Tour of New Zealand the following year before announcing her retirement on the 24th of November 2007.

Pierre Cloarec, winner of Stages 3 and 14 at the 1939 Tour de France, was born in Playben, France on this day in 1909.

Other births: Pierangelo Bincoletto (Italy, 1959); Anésio Argenton (Brazil, 1931); Josef Lošek (Czechoslovakia, 1912); Fernando Jiménez (Argentina, 1949); Pasqualino Moretti (Italy, 1947); Leo Wellens (Belgium, 1959); Tage Møller (Denmark, 1914); Izaskun Bengoa (Spain, 1975); Josef Pohnetal (Austria, 1925); Arsen Ghazaryan (Armenia, 1975); Rajmund Lehnert (Germany, 1965); Henry Raabe (Costa Rica, 1983); Colin Abrams (Guyana, 1956).

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