Tuesday 10 April 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 10.04.12

Maurice Garin, shortly after winning in 1898
Paris-Roubaix was held on this day in 1898, 1955, 1960, 1983, 1988, 1994, 2005 and 2011. In 1898, the winner was Maurice Garin, who had also won the second ever edition of the race the previous year and thus became the first man to win in two consecutive years. Garin is better known, of course, as the winner of the first Tour de France which was held five years later (and he won the Tour in 1904, too; but was subsequently disqualified for cheating). That year, the start was moved to Chatou where it would remain for two years and return in 1902, and motorpacing - not permitted in the first two years - was allowed for the first time before being banned in 1901 (pacing by another bicycle was permitted until 1910).

1955 winner Jean Forestier was also a successful rider in the Tour de France - in 1954 he had won Stage 16, and he would win Stage 20 in 1955 as well as Stage 16 in 1956 and Stage 8 in 1961, also taking the Points competition and coming 4th overall in 1957. Guiseppe "Pino" Cerami, winner in 1960, was Italian by birth but had taken Belgian nationality four years before the race He too had ridden in the Tour de France but was less successful, failing to finish in 1949 and 1959, coming 35th in 1957 and 1962. However, in 1963 he won Stage 9 and, as he was 41 years old at the time, he's the oldest stage winner in Tour history.

Hennie Kuiper
(image credit: Poortugaalse Polleke CC BY-SA 3.0)
1983 winner Hennie Kuiper also won three of the other four Monuments and as such is among the most successful Classics riders in the history of cycling. Francesco Moser - who had become the second man to win Paris-Roubaux in three consecutive years in 1983 - was in a breakaway with Kuiper and three other riders and attacked hard on the unforgiving cobbles of the Trouée d'Arenberg to set a blistering pace. Kuiper fell twice, but as Moser was by the strongest rider the other riders (Marc Madiot, who would win in 1985; Ronan de Meyer; Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle)  left him to deal with the Dutchman's counter-attacks alone. Moser was indeed strong, but Kuiper kept working away at him and managed to gain the upper hand, tiring out his opponent so that he was able to build up a lead of a minute and a half by the 16km to go point. Disaster very nearly struck when he had a puncture, but a team car was close enough to provide him with a replacement bike before he lost his advantage and he crossed the finish line alone.  That year was also notable for the first appearance of two cobbled sections - Hornaing to Wandignies-Hamage, though only a part of this section was used (the full 3.7km would be used for the first time in 1988), and the 2.4km Warlaing to Brillon. 1983 was also the year in which Albert Bouvet and Jean-Claude Vallaeys set up Les Amis de Paris–Roubaix, an organisation of fans who work to maintain the cobbled sections and locate new pavé roads for possible future inclusion in the race. It's entirely due to them that several famous sections are still in good enough condition to be used.

The full 3.7km Hornaing to Wandignies-Hamage cobbled section was used for the first time in 1988 (see above). The winner, Dirk Demol, had formed part of a group that broke away from the main pack after 27km and - for reasons never explained - the peloton then decided to let them get on with it, doing nothing whatsoever to reel them back in. Demol and a Swiss rider named Thomas Wegmuller then broke away from the breakaway as the finish line approached, but Wegmuller got into difficulty when a plastic carrier bag blown onto the course became entangled in his gears. His team car drew up alongside him and managed to free it, but he was unable to shift through the gears for the remainder of the race. Electing at such a late stage to continue rather than risk letting Demol blast off for an easy win while he swapped to a replacement bike proved an unwise move - the two men now had such a lead on the rest that Demol was able to take advantage of the situation by taking it easy in Wegmuller's slipstream, confident that he could make use of his working gears to print past him to victory.

Andrei Tchmil
(image credit: Eric Houdas
CC BY-SA 3.0)
In 1994, Andrei Tchmil was the first  rider from the ex-USSR to win the race. Like many of the Eastern Bloc cyclists who made it big on the European scene in the 1990s and first decade of the 21st Century (Ekimov, Vinokourov, Voigt and others), Tchmil was a product of a Soviet sports academy, facilities to which promising young athletes were sent so that they could be developed into world-beaters. A stupendously powerful rider who seemed able to only ride at full pace; Tchmil did poorly in stage races such as the Tour de France which he entered five times and finished just twice without winning any stages but proved devastatingly effective in the Flemmish Classics, winning the Dwaars door Vlaanderen, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders in the years after his Paris-Roubaix victory and before a crushed thigh sustained in the 2002 Three Days of De Panne forced him to take early retirement.

Vansummeren rides alone in the
Roubaix Velodrime, seconds away from
his 2011 victory
(image credit: Thomas Ducroquet CC BY-SA 3.0) 
2005 was another year of firsts. Not only was it the first of Tom Boonen's three wins, he won on a bike with an extended wheelbase designed specifically to offer more stability and comfort on the cobbles - the first time that such a bike had been used in the race. The 1.7km Capelle sur Ecaillon to Buat cobbles made their first appearance - after a 4% decline over the initial 0.7km, the section then climbs from 66m above sea level to 400m - creating a 7% climb that is the steepest part of the race and about as steep as hills get in that part of the world. The remainder continues to climb, but at a far gentler 2%. For the first time since 1983, the Trouée d'Arenberg was not used - the road was in such poor condition (not helped by fans who often dig up the cobbles and take them away as a souvenir) that it required repairs costing a total of a quarter of a million euros to bring it up to standard for a return in 2006.

In 2011, the race was won by Johan Vansummeren after he attacked the other members of a four-man breakaway group some 15km from the finish, crossing the line with a 19" advantage.

Edgard de Caluwé
The Ronde van Vlaanderen fell on this day in 1938 and 1949. Edgard de Caluwé won in 1938 but, as was first over the line in a group of nine, he couldn't claim the 100 franc bonus that was on offer should the victor win with an advantage of or greater than 30 minutes. For the first time, the police played a major role in the organisation of the event. Prior to 1933, their presence had not been required but as the race gradually increased in popularity it became necessary to have a few gendarmes keeping an eye on things, as had happened in 1933. However, in 1937 half a million spectators had shown up and caused chaos by driving between various points along the parcours so they could watch the peloton pass by several times - rather than face their race being closed down, organisers asked the police to provide support and the event became more like a modern race with large numbers of officers controlling the crowds, vehicles setting up rolling roadblocks and so on.

Fiorenzo Magni became the first Italian to win in 1949 and he would win again for the next two years, thus becoming the second man to have won three times and the only man to have won three consecutive times (which, the time of writing, has yet to be equaled). Magni is often described as being "a rare Italian in the Flemmish Classics," which at the time and for some years afterwards was true - riders from his country,  perhaps due to the difficulties involved until the comparatively recent advent of cheap air travel and good quality roads through the Alps and perhaps due to being accustomed to the Italian weather, rarely took part in the races of Northern Europe and when they did they tended not to perform well. This seems to be changing in recent years with a number of Italian winners in this race, Paris-Roubaix and others. In 1949, Sportwereld - the newspaper that had created the Ronde - merged with Het Nieuwsblad ato become its sports section and the last four riders to reach the finish line were given bottles of massage oil as prizes.

La Flèche Wallonne was held on this day in 1979, the 43rd edition of the race. After many years in which the distance had decreased, it was 25km longer than the previous year at 248km between Esneux and Marcinelle. The winner was the great Breton Bernard Hinault, who later on that same year would win his third Tour de France. The race has never been held on this date since.

Fumiyuki Beppu
Fumiyuki Beppu, born in Kanagawa-ken on this day in 1983, is one of Japan's most successful road cyclists and one of the very few to have made a breakthrough into the almost entirely white, Caucasian European cycling scene, where he enjoys enormous popularity among fans.

Fumiyuki Beppu
(image credit:  Josh Hallett CC BY-SA 2.0) 
Beppu received his first professional contract with Discovery in 2005 after winning the 2003 Under-23 National Road Race Championship and the King of the Mountains at the 2004 Ronde de l'Isard d'Ariege. He spent his first year with the team fulfilling his duties as a domestique, learning from the squad's more experienced riders and finding his feet after the big step-up that turning pro entails, also finding time to finish 3rd in the Youth category at the Circuit de la Sarthe that year; then in 2006 won both the National Time Trial and Road Race Championships at Elite level. 2007 wasn't a spectacular year with 2nd place for Stage 3 at the Tour de Romandie his best result, hence he experienced difficulty in securing a contract with a ProTour team at the end of the year when Discovery announced it would withdraw from cycling and the team folded. In the end, he had to settle for the ProContinental Skil-Shimano and remained with the team for two seasons.

In 2008, he finished 3rd on Stage 1 at the Tour of Qatar and won the road race at the Asian Cycling Championships which that year took place in his home nation, then in 2009 - when the team rode on a wildcard invitation - he took part in his first Tour de France; sharing with Europcar's Yukiya Arashiro the honour of being among Japanese riders to take part in the race (neither of them were the first, however, and not by a long way - Kisso Kawamura had been there more than eight decades earlier). He finished in 8th place in Stage 3, 7th in Stage 19 and won the Combativity award for Stage 21, while Arashiro managed 5th in Stage 2. Beppu was 117th overall compared to Arashiro's 129th.

He began 2010 with Skil-Shimano but left the team to join Johan Bruyneel's Radioshack in February, thus making his return to the upper echelons of the sport. The rest of the year was spent racing in Europe and achieving some good results in prestigious races including the Tour of Austria, Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, Châteauroux - Classic de l'Indre and Tour of Poland, but overall victories remained out of grasp. 2011, however, proved to be his best year to date - he scored his best Grand Tour results yet with 2nd place in Stage 1 and 67th overall at the Giro d'Italia and won the National Time Trial and Road Race titles that he had lost in 2007. At the end of the year, the new Australian GreenEDGE team announced that Beppu would be joining them for the 2012 season.

Ernie Mills and Bill Paul
Ernie Mills, who was born on this day in 1913, was a great English tandem rider who as an amateur with the Addiscombe CC set a number of records with team mate Bill Paul in the 1930s; including an official British 12-hour record in 1934 and an unofficial World record two years later, establishing a new tandem Hour Record  too when the covered 30 miles (48.28km). In 1937, Cycling magazine paid for them to travel to Italy where they made an appearance at the Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan, which still stands but has been converted into an American football stadium. Whilst there, they beat their previous Hour Record by covering 31.06 miles (49.991km) - a record that remained unbroken for 63 years. In 1938, they set a new 100 Mile record, completing the distance in 3h53'12". The record still stood at the time of writing, 73 years later. Strangely, the exact date and place of Mills' death are unknown (though it presumably wouldn't take an enormous effort to find out despite his common name) - as are the date and place of Paul's birth in 1910. The two men were honoured with a joint page in the Golden Book of Cycling in 1937, and two years later they were commemorated on Track Tandem Position, Card No.45 in the now highly-valuable John Player & Son cigarette card series Cycling 1839-1939.

Tetiana Stiazkhina
(image credit: Le Blog du Cyclisme Feminin)
Tetiana Stiazhkina (also spelled Tatiana Stiajkina and in numerous other ways) was born in Ukraine on this day in 1977. As an Under-23, she won the European Time Trial and Road Race in 1999 - and would win a National TT Championship at Elite level in 2002 and both the National TT and Road Race in 2008. Stiazkhina is one of the few riders who excels in both time trials and on climbs (though such a combinations seems to be less unusual among female riders than their male counterparts) - she has been fastest to climb the challenging El Boquerón in the Vuelta a El Salvador on one occasion and second fastest on another. She won Stage 4 and the overall General Classification at the Vuelta a El Salvador in 2008, adding to victory to a Stage 1 win in 2007, the General Classification at the Eko Tour Dookola Polski in 2003 and the Trophée d'Or Féminin in 2002.

Leonardo Duque, born on this day in 1980, was Colombian champion in Madison, Points and Scratch in 2003 - the same year he won a silver and a bronze at the PanAmerican Games. In 2006, he won the Tour du Limousin and a year later Stage 16 at the Vuelta a Espana. He was awarded the Combativity prize for Stage 19 at the 2009 Tour de France and was 12th in Stge 15, 2011.

Atle Kvålsvoll, born in Trondheim on this day in 1962, entered six Tours de France and finished four, his best result coming when he assisted Greg Lemond to victory in 1990 and took 26th place for himself making him one of the most successful Norwegian riders in the Tour after Thor Hushovd - whom he coaches. In 2011, he also took up a position as directeur sportif for the Plussbank Cervélo Continental team.

Other births: Gary Trowell (Australia, 1959); Léonard Daghelinckx (Belgium, 1900, died 1986); Wernell Reneau (Belize, 1965); Sandra Ambrosio (Argentina, 1963); Ali Sayed Darwish (United Arab Emirates, 1977); František Trkal (Czechoslovakia, 1970); Fabio Placanica (Argentina, 1970).

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