Monday, 9 April 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 09.04.12

Emile Masson jnr., depicted on a 1939
poster for Alcyon
Paris-Roubaix took place on this date in 1939, 1944, 1945, 1950, 1961, 1962, 1967, 1989, 1995, 2000 and 2006. 1939 was the last edition before the start of the Second World War brought it to a halt for four years, the next one being in 1943 when it was organised and held despite the Nazi Occupation. The start was moved back to Porte Maillot after having been relocated to Argenteuil for a year and the winner was Émile Masson jnr., who would twice win the Belgian National Road Race Championship after the war - his father, Émile Masson snr., had also been a successful Classics cyclist and was the winner of Bordeaux-Paris in 1923 (and, the year before that, Stages 11 and 12 at the Tour de France).

1944 was won by another Belgian, Maurice Desimpelaere, who also won the Dwaars door Vlaanderen in 1946 and Gent-Wevelgem in 1947. In 1945 it was the turn of Paul Maye who won Stages 10 and 19c at the 1936 Tour de France, had been National Champion in 1938 and 1943 and won Paris-Tours three times in 1941, 1942 and 1945. Fausto Coppi won in 1950 - he may have won the Giro di Lombardia Monument five times, but he could manage just the one Sunday in Hell.

Rik van Looy
(image credit: Dave's Bike Blog)
1961 and 1962 were won by Rik van Looy, who would go on to win again in 1965 and become one of only seven men to win the race three times in its long history. In 1967, Jan Janssen was the winner. Since film cameras had begun following the race some years previously, local mayors had begun to order their local roads to be resurfaced with tarmac the moment they heard the race would be passing through their locale and the cobbled roads that give Paris-Roubaix its character - and make it the cruel, vicious, unforgiving  and beautiful spectacle that it is - were becoming few and far between. In the early days of the race, organisers had not sought out the challenging, traditional cobbled roads - that's simply how roads were in those days; but realising that their race was in serious danger of losing the one thing that made it stand out as the hardest Classic of them all, they began to do so. Today, if a long-forgotten cobbled road is discovered anywhere near Paris-Roubaix's route, the local mayor doesn't have it resurfaced a soon as possible: he or she will be on the phone to the Amaury Sports Organisation begging them to direct the revered race through the area he or she controls. The finish line was at the Roubaix Velodrome for the first time in 1989, where it has remained ever since - Jean-Marie Wampers was the first to cross it. Franco Ballerini won in 1995, the first of his two wins; then in 2000 Johan Museeuw won the second of his three.

In 2006 Fabian Cancellara beat favourite Tom Boonen to take the first win by a Swiss rider since Henri Suter more than eight decades before in 1923. Cancellara's solo assault on the Carrefour de l'Arbre is among the most iconic footage of Paris-Roubaix; as it that of George Hincapie, dragging himself away from the road in agony with a smashed collar bone after the cobbles of the Mons-en-Pévèle caused his steerer tube to snap some 25km earlier in the race.

The Ronde van Vlaanderen has also fallen on this date, in 1966, 1972 and 1978. 1966 was won by Ward Sels, who was assisted by a crash roughly halfway through the race and which took down Walter Godefroot and Eddy Merckx before a final sprint proved him to be the fastest of a group of fourteen riders who escaped the peloton on the Muur van Geraardsbergen.

1972 brought the second of three victories for Eric Leman, who had spent much of a race - characterised by appalling weather and freezing temperatures that year - working with Merckx to escape the peloton. They were caught by five others with 10km to go and the new group approached the line together, then began to sprint. Leman was fastest - Merckx, who never did as well in this race as he did in most others, was 7th. The 1978 edition was won by Merckx's great rival Walter Godefroot - ten years after his first win. 47 finished out of 174 starters that year.

Charles Terront
Charles Terront
(public domain)
Charles Terront certainly started a trend - he was the first French cycling star. Born in Saint-Ouen on this day in 1857, he won 54 races during his 15 year career and due to the rather ambiguous nature of competition rules at the time achieved the unique honour of being both French and British Champion on two occasions.

Having taken up cycling in 1876 -with his brother Jules, he immediately began winning races and set numerous speed and endurance records, including with Jules aboard a tandem. In 1879, he set a new 24 Hour record at 546km and in 1883 he cycled the 3,000km between St. Petersburg in Russia and the new Vélodrome Buffalo (named after the Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show it once hosted) in Porte Maillot, Paris; a ride that took him 14 days and 7 hours. 

In 1891, he won the inaugural Paris–Brest–Paris, then called the Paris-Brest et retour. Rules by that time were strictly enforced and tended to be far more strict than today, so all riders were required to be entirely self-sufficient and carry all their own spare parts, food and clothing as well as sticking to one bike for the duration of the event. However, the race proved to be so popular that more than 300 would-be entrants showed up and, having already told seven women that they could not take part, organisers had to demand a five franc fee to whittle them down. Five francs was quite a lot of money in 1891, but they were still left with 207 or 280 (records disagree) riders, of whom 97 finished. Among the bikes they rode were several tricycles, tandems and a penny-farthing.

Charles Terront
Terront won, completing the 1,196km in 71 hours and 22 minutes on his British-built Humber; a bike fitted with the brand new Michelin pneumatic tyres that had been patented that very year. His rival Jacques Jiel-Laval, riding for Dunlop who had patented his own pneumatic tyres three years earlier (and was believed to be the inventor until it turned out that another Scottish inventor had patented his own version in 1846), was on a similar bike - both men had to stop and fix several punctures along the way, but the advantages offered by their tyres far outweighed the advantages of solid tyres. Jiel-Laval had a lead of almost an hour by the time they reached Brest, but then took a sleeping break. Spies recruited by Terront's manager, a man named Duncan, passed on the news and Terront rode hard to catch up, eventually overtaking and keeping the lead for the remainder of the race. He was met by a crowd of more than 10,000 fans in Paris, many of whom had stayed up all night to make sure they caught a glimpse of their hero.

Two years later, a collection of his memoirs as told to and written by journalist Louis Baudry de Saunier went on sale - making Terront the very first athlete to have a biography published within his lifetime. He died in Sainte-Marguerite-lès-Marseille on the 31st of October 1932, aged 75.

Yvonne McGregor, born in Wibsey, England on this day in 1961, won the National Pursuit Championship in 1994, 1998, 1999 and 2000 - when she also took the World Pursuit Championship title. In 2001, she added the National Time Trial Championship.

Nikolas Maes, born in Kortrijk, Belgium on this day in 1986, won Stage 3 at the Vuelta a Burgos in 2009 and the Youth Category at the Tour of Qatar in 2011. He is not related to Sylvère, Romain nor any of the other 38 Belgian cyclists to have shared his surname (nor to Paul Maes, winner of 2nd place for Stage 2 at the 1966 Tour de l'Avenir, who is French).

Australian Luke Durbridge, born in Greenmount on this day in 1991, became World Under-23 Time Trial Champion in 2011.

Robert Alban, born in Saint-André-d'Huiriat on this day in 1952, is a retired French cyclist who took 2nd place in the National Cyclo Cross Championships of 1977 and 1980; 19th in the 1979 Tour de France; 11th in the 1980 Tour de France; 3rd in the 1981 Tour de France when he also won Stage 18; 11th in the 1982 Tour de France and 38th in the 1984 Tour de France. He also won Stage 5 at the 1982 Critérium du 
Dauphiné and was 3rd in the same race one year later.

Ryan Cox, 1979-2007
(image credit: Paul Giovanni)
South African professional Ryan Cox, born on this day in 1979, won the Tour of Qinghai Lake in 2004 and the Tour de Langkawi and National Road Race Championship one year later. In July 2007, he underwent vascular lesion surgery in a knotted artery in his leg. Three weeks later, the artery burst and caused massive internal bleeding which led to heart failure. He received several blood transfusions but his condition did not improve, and he died at 05:15 on the 1st of August. He was 28 years old.

Graeme Brown
Graeme Brown, an Australian cyclist born in Darwin on this day in 1979, won numerous titles on track and on road, including several National Sprint, Pursuit and Scratch races, stages at the Tour Down Under and the Points competition at the Tour de Langkawi in 2003 and 2005. In 2004, he was implicated in a doping scandal when multiple Sprint and Keirin champion Mark French claimed that Brown, Shane Kelly, Joble Dajka and Sean Eadie were the co-owners of 13 phials of an equine growth hormone, injectable vitamins and used medical equipment that had been discovered in his room at the Australian Institute of Sport.

Linda Villumsen
(image credit: Fanny Schertzer CC BY-SA 3.0) 
Dajka was later found to have lied when giving evidence, resulting in his suspension from competition and deselection from the Olympic team. No evidence was ever found to connect the drugs or equipment to the cyclists French had accused, so ultimately only he was the only cyclist other than Dajka in the case who was prosecuted - his lifetime ban was later ended at appeal, since there was also no evidence that he had taken the drugs.

Linda Villumsen, born in Herning, Denmark on this day in 1985, won the European Under-23 Time Trial Championship and the Danish Time Trial and Road Race titles at Elite level in 2006. She took the European title for a second time a year later, then both Danish titles again in 2008. In 2009, she took New Zealand nationality and now races with a New Zealand Cycling Federation licence.

Ukrainian Nataliya Kachalka, who was born on this day in 1975, received a two-year suspension from competition in 2005 after she tested positive for Furosemide, a diuretic used to mask the presence of performance-enhancing drugs, on the 19th of June at the Giro del Trentino. Spanish Marga Fullana, three time World Mountain Bike Champion, was also born on this day three years before Kachalka. Fullana tested positive for EPO in 2010 and made a full confession, writing on her website: "I’ve done the stupidest thing of my life. I have had a very bad year, both emotionally and physically." She was handed a provisional suspension pending investigation but is unlikely to return to competition due to her age.

Other births: Bernhard Doyle (Great Britain, 1888); Henning R. Larsen (Denmark, 1931); Maria Östergren (Sweden, 1978); Jacinto Brito (Mexico, 1938); Gyula Mazur (Hungary, 1888); Miroslav Vymazal (Czechoslovakia, 1952, died 2002); Steve Bent (Great Britain, 1961); Roar Skaane (Norway, 1970); Max Jørgensen (Denmark, 1923, died 1992); Daniel McConnell (Australia, 1985); Viesturs Bērziņš (Latvia, 1974).

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