1968 was a year in which two of the most feared aspects in the history of the race made their first appearance: the first was Eddy Merckx, who achieved the first of the three Paris-Roubaix victories that would become some of the most impressive wins in a career that saw him widely recognised as the best cyclist of all time. The second was the Trouée d'Arenberg, the fast 2.4km cobbled section that had become known as the most challenging part of the race - and which has claimed several victims. Arenberg, roughly cobbled with uneven stones, was built to serve as a track along which equipment and material could be transported to and from the mines that lie deep below the surrounding forest and was first suggested for inclusion by 1958 Vuelta a Espana winner and 1962 World Road Race Champion Jean Stablinski, who had worked in the mines before he became a professional cyclist. Stablinski would later say, "Paris–Roubaix is not won in Arenberg, but from there the group with the winners is selected."
|Arenberg: 2,400m of suffering|
(image credit: Deruneinholbare CC BY-NC 2.0)
The Ronde van Vlaanderen was raced on this day in 1985, 1991, 1996 and 2002. 1985 was held in some of the worst weather ever seen at the event with a storm that raged for most of the second half of the event and temperatures described by riders as "Siberian." Just 24 riders out of the 173 to start reached the finish line, enabling Eric Vanderaerden to claw his way to the front of the peloton after apparently exhausting himself when he rode at the front for 20km and he beat Australia's Phil Anderson by 41".
1991 brought further success for 1989 winner Edwig van Hooydonck when he beat Joan Museeuw by 45". Van Hooydonck retired a few years later when EPO was becoming the doping product of choice in cycling, saying that he couldn't remain competitive unless he too was to dope - which he refused to do.
(image credit: Thomas Ducroquet CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Elite race was won in 2002 by Andrea Tafi; Italians in the last two generations seemingly doing increasingly well in the French and Flemmish Classics where, traditionally, they have suffered - two years previously, he won Paris-Tours and a year before that Paris-Roubaix. The Under-23 winner was Nick Nuyens, who would win at Elite level in 2011, and the Dorp van de Ronde was Aarsele.
La Flèche Wallonne started on this day - the earliest in its 76-year history - in 1977. The parcours was 223km long, nearly identical to that of the last three years and would be used again with few alterations the following year. Francesco Moser won, beginning his long run of success in the Classics (he won Paris-Roubaix for the next three years in a row); finally laying to rest the belief that Italian riders rode well only in Italy - a belief that had existed since the early days of cycling, despite the fact that Fermo Carmellini had one this race in 1948 and Jules Rossi had won Paris-Roubaix in 1937.
Shirus Andrew "Ernie" Hamsten, born in Columbus, Ohio on this day in 1962, came to widespread acclaim in 1985 when - as a virtual unknown - he won Stage 20 at the Giro d'Italia, which earned him a full professional contract with Bernard Hinault's La Vie Claire team for 1986. That year, he won the Tour de Suisse and came fourth overall in the General Classification at the Tour de France, also winning the Youth Category as he supported team leader Greg Lemond to his first Tour victory - the first time it had ever been won by a non-European rider.
|Andy Hampsten at the Tour de France, 1993|
(image credit: Eric Houde CC BY-SA 3.0)
In 1992, Hampsten won Stage 14 on the Alpe d'Huez at the Tour de France, beating Claudio Chiappucci who was then at the height of his powers and would go on to become the overall King of the Mountains that year. In the same season, he won the Tour de Romandie and came 5th in the Giro, then he won the Tour of Galicia in 1993 before retiring at the end on 1994. With his brother Steve, he now owns and runs Hampsten Cycles of Seattle and operates Cinghiale Cycling Tours in Italy.
|Hampsten's nickname Ernie may be due to a resemblance to actor Barry Livingstone, but|
we've heard otherwise. What do you think, folks?
*Yes, guilty as charged. Name-dropping with intent..
Jack Bauer, who was born in New Zealand on this day in 1985, became National Road Race Champion in 2010 after spending his early cycling career riding mountain bikes, He switched to road cycling in 2007, later spending time in Belgium where he learned techniques from more experienced riders and began to won numerous races. Bauer holds a degree in physical education, is a born-again Christian and played bass guitar in the locally-successful rock band Dream Farm.
Ernest Chambers, a track cyclist and winner of a silver medal in the 2000m Tandem races at the 1928 and 1932 Olympics, was born in Hackney, East London on this day in 1907. He died on the 29th of January in 1985.
|Jobie Dajka, 1981-2009|
The four men French implicated - Dajka, Graeme Brown, Sean Eadie and Shane Kelly - were eventually cleared when the investigation found no evidence to connect them in any way to the drugs. French was found guilty of supplying doping products to other athletes and banned from competition for two years, but an appeal later decided that there was no evidence to link him to the drugs either and he too was cleared. However, Dajka was found to have deliberately misled the investigation by lying when giving evidence; a charge he insisted was false, saying that he had failed to be specific rather than lied, and he was suspended from competition for two years.
An appeal was not successful and the rider entered a deep depression, dealing with his disillusionment by drinking heavily. His weight increased dramatically and he began suffering further emotional problems that led to him carrying out a physical assault on Australian Track Team coach Mike Barras, for which he was banned for another three years. After an arrest for vandalising his parent's home he was placed under a restraining order and sought treatment, spending time in hospital in Adelaide.
On the 22nd of December 2006, the two-year ban came to an end and, as he had strictly complied with the conditions of the restraining order and made efforts to retrieve his life, the three-year ban was ended early. Gradually, his health improved and he began to consider a return to racing; but on the 7th of April 2009 he was found dead at his home by police. He was 27.
Dajka is believed to have died three days before he was found and, though his death is not thought to have been suspicious, a cause has never been established.
(image credit: Those City Nights)
Other births: Giairo Ermeti (Italy, 1981); Jos De Beukelaere (Belgium, 1925, died 1969); Berndt Carlsson (Sweden, 1907, died 1991); Erny Kirchen (Luxembourg, 1949); Panagiotis Voukelatos (Greece, 1983); Waldemar Pedrazzi (Uruguay, 1955); Liu Fu (China, 1957); Andrzej Michalak (Poland, 1959); Yuichiro Kamiyama (Japan, 1968); Valdir Lermen (Brazil, 1977); Jaroslav Cihlář (Czechoslovakia, 1924); Aleksandr Krasnov (USSR, 1960); Carlos Gennero (Argentina, 1979); Michael McBeath (Zimbabwe, 1950); Yevgeny Sobol (Belarus, 1981); John Magri (Malta, 1941); Jesús Chousal (Chile, 1911); Henri Kellen (Luxembourg, 1927, died 1950).