Friday 6 April 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 06.04.12

Paris-Roubaix was held on this day in 1924 and 1947. The winner in 1924 was Jules Vanhevel (frequently - and incorrectly - spelled van Hevel), who also won numerous other races over his long career during and after the First World War. He served as a cycle messenger in the 1st Artillery Regiment until he was injured while on active service, then spent time in England while he recovered. Despite his success, Vanhevel is almost forgotten today - except, that is, by the owners and patrons of the De Engel pub in Ichtegem, West Flanders, where there is a small museum to him that features a fascinating selection of artifacts. In 1947, the race was won for the second consecutive year by Georges Claes.

Briek Schotte
The Ronde van Vlaanderen took place on this day in 1942, 1952, 1975, 1986, 1997, 2003 and 2008. Briek Schotte, the very embodiment and the last of the true Flandriens won in 1942 after beating Georges Claes (who won Paris-Roubaix twice after the War) and four other riders by 5". The Ronde was the only Classic held in an Occupied nation to be held throughout the duration of the Second World War, yet despite Belgium falling quickly to the Nazi and thus being subject to relatively limited German bombing the race suffered as materials and money were taken for the Nazi war effort. As such, the prize fund - which had risen to 12,500 francs seven years earlier - was slashed and, instead of receiving money, winners were awarded anything of value that the organisers could obtain. Among prizes handed out during the period were stoves, bottles of wine, razors and bike gear; all of them items that had become hard to find and for which riders considered it very much worth competing. After the war, organisers were criticised for continuing with the event and, in the case of Karel Van Wijnendaele, even accused of collaboration - however, it is important to realise that the Ronde had by this time become a symbol of Flemmish nationhood and, as such, it formed a valuable icon; enabling Flanders to retain its character until Liberation in 1944. Briek was still racing - and often winning - ten years later when the race again fell on the 6th of April in 1952, but this time came 3rd behind winner Roger Decock, for whom the win was the greatest of his career. Decock, incidentally, probably made more money from his work as a hat model for Derby Sport that he did from cycling sport - he became so associated with the brand that he was known as "Cap" Decock ("Petje" in Flemmish) for years after he retired.

1975 saw Eddy Merckx win for a second time, but provided evidence that this race was punishing even by his standards - his first victory had been six years earlier and, despite riding hard in between, he had been roundly defeated (and would be again, by Walter Planckaert in 1976). This time, though, he won by 30" - but it was his last Ronde victory. When the race was next run on this date, in 1986, it was won by Adrie van der Poel; son-in-law to France's favourite rider Raymond Poulidor. It was another difficult race with just 40 finishers from 195 starters. Ireland's Seán Kelly was second, having finished in the same position two years earlier. 1997 brought the first win by a Danish rider, Rolf Sørensen. Sørensen is now a sports manager and, among others, has Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha on his books - a rider whom many (including us) expect to see win the Ronde, Paris-Roubaix or both within the next few years. The Tenbosse made its first appearance that year: climbing from 45m to 73m, it reaches a maximum gradient of 14%.

Judith Arndt
(image credit: James F. Perry CC BY-SA 3.0)
The 2003 edition was the second to be won by Peter van Petegem when he beat Frank Vandenbroucke in a final sprint after a thrilling race that had been characterised by ongoing battles between a Franco-Belgian group and one made up of eight powerful Italian riders including Luca Paolini and Paolo Bettini. Both groups were absorbed by the peloton with 30km to go, leaving van Petegem and Johan Museeuw out in front. Museeuw got the upper hand for a while before they were joined by a new group of eleven riders, among them Vandenbroucke who proved the only man capable of staying with van Petegem on the Muur van Geraardsbergen. They approached the finish line together before van Petegem edged fractionally ahead and won by 2". Van Petegem also won Paris-Roubaix that year and as such is one of only ten men to have won both races in a single season.

Stijn Devolder won in 2008, the first of two victories to date with the second coming the following year. The winner of the Ronde voor Vrouwen in 2008 was Germany's Judith Arndt.

Vera Carrara, who was born in Alzano Lombardo, Italy on this day in 1980, began her competitive cycling career with the amateur G.S. Valoti Arredamenti club when she was seven years old and won the World Points Race Championship in 1998. She became European Under-23 Pursuit Champion four years later, then World Points Champion at Elite level in both 2005 and 2006. Since then, she has also performed well on road; winning Stage 5 at the 2006 Holland Ladies' Tour, the National Time Trial title in 2007, 1st place at the GP Rund um Visp criterium in 2008 and 2nd place in the Prologue at the 2008 Giro Donne.

Robin Seymour, a former motorcycle racer born in Wicklow, Ireland on this day in 1971, turned to cycling in  the early 1990s and soon began to excel. In 1991, he won the National Cyclo Cross Championship - and retained the title until 2003, then won it back in 2005, 2006 and 2011. He has also dominated Irish mountain biking, winning the National Championship an incredible eighteen consecutive times between 1993 and 2010. It is largely due to Seymour and the points he amassed that the Irish National Team was able to compete at the Olympics in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

Other births: Mads Christensen (Denmark, 1984); Mohd Sayuti Mohd Zahit (Malaysia, 1984); Catherine Cheatley (New Zealand, 1983); Víctor Niño (Colombia, 1973); Bianco Bianchi (Italy, 1917, died 1997); Aivaras Baranauskas (Lithuania, 1980); Dag Hopen (Norway, 1961); Javier Aldanondo (Spain, 1967); Richard Rozendaal (Netherlands, 1972); Herbert Spindler (Austria, 1954); Bill Bailey (Great Britain, 1888, died 1971);

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