Thursday, 12 April 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 12.04.12

Crupelandt in 1912
Paris-Roubaix was held on this date in 1914, 1925, 1936, 1953, 1959, 1970, 1981, 1987, 1992, 1998 and 2009. Charles Crupelandt won for the second time in 1914, having previously done so two years earlier, and thus became the last man to win before the race was suspended during the First World War, and the start was moved to Suresnes where it would remain until 1928. Crupelandt  was injured in the war but survived and was awarded the Croix de Guerre, one of France's greatest honours and a medal reserved for those who have demonstrated heroic courage in combat.

However, at some point after being demobilised - there is a lack of clarity concerning the dates which vary from 1914 to 1917 to three years after the war ended - he was charged with a crime and sentenced to two years in prison. In response, the Union Vélocipédique handed him a lifetime ban, almost certainly after being pressured into doing so by Crupelandt's rivals. He was able to continue racing under the aegis of another organisation and won the unofficial National Championships in 1922 and 1923, but it spelled the end of what had been a very promising career - one that Henri Desgrange once predicted would lead to victory in the Tour de France - and which led to the eventual destruction of his life and health. When he died in 1955 - at Roubaix - both his legs had been amputated and he was blind. To mark the centenary of the race  in 1996, the commune of Roubaix laid a 300m stretch of cobbles along the centre of the Avenue Alfred Motte on the final approach to the velodrome that hosts the finish line. Set among the cobbles are inscribed stones commemorating all of the winners int he first 100 years of the race, which has led to the section's unofficial name Chemin des Géants, Road of Giants. The official name is Espace Charles Crupelandt.

1925 winner Félix Sellier had won Stage 13 at the 1921 Tour de France after Henri Desgrange, who was angry that riders had refused to attack the eventual overall winner Léon Scieur and even more angry that as a first class cyclist he'd been assisted earlier in the race by riders in the second class, decided he'd punish the peloton by splitting two groups up and allowing the second class to set out two hours ahead of the first class. The first class, not wanting to be beaten by a bunch of amateurs, rode hard and fast to catch them up. They did catch most of them, but a few - including Sellier - stayed out in front and beat them to the finish line (the next year, Sellier was back as fully-sponsored professional. That time, he won Stage 14 and 3rd place in the General Classification entirely in his own merit, this proving that he didn't need a head start in order to win).

For a while in 1936, nobody was quite sure who had won. The Belgian rider Romain Maes was very clearly seen to be first over the finish line (which was located for the second and final time at the Flandres horse racing track), but the judges then declared Georges Speicher - who, completely coincidentally, happened to be French - the winner. The crowd were not impressed, with many of the French fans seemingly every bit as angry as the Belgians. Things began to look ugly but, suddenly and for no obvious  reason, they settled down and accepted the result. The Belgians may have been cheated out of a win, but they were apparently content in the knowledge that their men had taken 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th place.

Germain Derycke turned professional in 1950 and, just a year later, took 2nd place at Liège–Bastogne–Liège - a sure sign of a Classics specialist if ever there was one. He won Paris-Roubaix in 1953 and would have taken 1st place at the World Championships that year too had it not been for Fausto Coppi, then at the height of his powers and near unbeatable. One year later he won La Flèche Wallonne and the Dwars door Vlaanderen, then added Milan-San Remo in 1955, 1st place at Liège–Bastogne–Liège in 1957 and the Ronde van Vlaandered in 1958. The Giro di Lombardia was the only Monument that remained out of his grasp.

Noël Foré won Paris-Roubaix in 1959, a year his victory in the Tour of Belgium and two years after he won the Dwars door Vlaanderen. Four years later, he added Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne and the Ronde van Vlaanderen to  palmares that totalled 53 professional wins. 1970 brought the second of Eddy Merckx's three Paris-Roubaix victories and his winning margin over Roger De Vlaeminck - 5'21" - remains the largest in the history of the race. De Vlaeminck got his revenge, however: seven years later he topped Eddy's three wins when he became the first and to date the only man to have won the race four times.

Even The Badger suffered at Paris-Roubaix
(public domain image)
1981 was the year that Bernard Hinault - perhaps the second greatest cyclist of all time after Merckx - won his one and only Paris-Roubaix after an epic battle with De Vlaeminck's team mate Hennie Kuiper, who had defeated Hinault's attempted attack 8km from the finish. Kuiper was first into the velodrome, but when Hinault attacked one last time on the track he simply couldn't keep up and the Breton became the first French winner for a quarter of a century. After the race, Hinault told reporters: "Paris-Roubaix est une connerie!" - "Paris-Roubaix is bullshit!" He had crashed seven times, including once when a little black dog named Gruson ran out from the crowd and got between the Breton's wheels. Hinault, despite winning, was in a characteristically foul mood and, after returning the next year as defending champion when he came ninth, refused to have anything to do with the race from that point onwards. Gruson, by all accounts, was fine. That year also saw the first use of two cobbled sections, the 0.7km Mérignies to Pont à Marcq and the initial 1.1km of Cysoing to Bourghelles, an extra 0.3km being added to the latter section in 2006.

Eric Vanderaerden won in 1987, but sadly his victory did him few favours as, when taken into consideration alongside his earlier success in the other Classics and the Grand Tours, it served to confirm the belief among Belgian fans that he was destined to be the successor to their hero Eddy Merckx. Unfortunately, though an enormously talented cyclist, Vanderaerden was only a man; Merckx had seemed something greater. Knowing that he could never live up to their expectations, his career went into a decline in the following years and although his subsequent results were impressive (three editions of the Three Days of De Panne, a Tour of Ireland, the Dwars van Vlaanderen and Stage 17 at the 1992 Vuelta a Espana are pretty good by anyone's standards) it' generally agreed that he could have achieved much more. That year saw the first appearance of the 2.2km cobbled section from Troisvilles to Inchy, often one of the hardest sections as the road is frequently covered in mud that runs off the surrounding fields, despite the planting of a hedge in an attempt to keep it back. After the race, 1984 and 1986 winner Sean Kelly told the press: "A Paris–Roubaix without rain is not a true Paris–Roubaix. Throw in a little snow as well, it's not serious."

1992 brought the first of Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle's two wins - almost ten years after he'd formed a part of a breakaway that included Hennie Kuiper and Francesco Moser and which led to Kuiper's 1983 victory. Templeuve - Le Moulin de Vertain Pt 1 "Templeuve L", a 0.2km cobbled section was used for the first time and a 1.1km section from Bourghelles to Wannehain was added to the Cysoing to Bourghelles section that had first been used when Hinault won eleven years earlier, thus creating the Cysoing to Bourghelles to Wannehain stretch that, since the addition of an extra 0.km of cobbled leading to Bourghelles in 2006, is now cobbled for the full 2.5km length. Bourghelles to Wannehain had been discovered previously, but was not used in the race due to poor condition - however, it had been repaired using serviceable pavé taken from the old Péronne-en-Mélantois section that had featured in the race during the 1950s before falling into a state of irretrievable disrepair.

Franco Ballerini
(image credit: Eric Houdas CC BY-SA 3.0)
Franco Ballerini won for the second time in 1998. The race was marked by a horrific crash on the Trouée d'Arenberg in which Johan Museeuw shattered his knee. The injury later became gangrenous and he very nearly had to have his leg amputated, yet in time he made a full recovery and won the race two years later. Before retiring in 2004, Museeuw acted as mentor to Tom Boonen, who would go on to win Paris-Roubaix three times - his third win being on this date in 2009. That year, the 1.2km Auchy-lez-Orchies to Bersee cobbles were returned to use for the first time since 2006 following repair work. Chris Boardman, commentating for the Eurosport television channel, was asked live on air why he'd always refused to take part in Paris-Roubaix. "It's a circus," he replied, "and I don't want to be one of the clowns."

La Flèche Wallonne fell on this day in 1984, 1989, 1995 and 2000. 1984 was the 48th edition and it began at Charleroi and ended at Huy, as all editions have done 1998, covering 246km in between. The winner, Kim Andersen, was the first Dane to achieve victory in this event. 1989 was the 53rd edition, covering a 253km between Spa and Huy - the longest since 1947. It was won for a second time by Claude Criquielion, who had also won four years earlier. 1995 brought the 59th edition, which covered 205.5km between Spa and Huy - there has not been a longer parcours since. Laurent Jalabert won the first of his two victories, in the same year that he would win Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. The 64th edition, which took place in 2000, started in Charleroi and ended in Huy and covered 198km. The winner was the Italian Francesco Casagrande.

2000 also brought the third edition of La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, won that year by the Canadian rider Genevieve Jeanson. Jeanson's victory is probably undeserved - on the 25th of July 2005, she failed a test for EPO. Initially, she denied having ever doped and retired early in 2006 before being served a back-dated two-year suspension from the date of her failed test. In 2007, she admitted to a journalist that she had used the notorious blood-boosting drug "more or less continuously" since she was 16. As she was 19 when he won La Flèche, it seems likely that she did so with illegal chemical assistance.


Arsène Alancourt
English mountain biker Liam Killeen was born in Malvern on this day in 1982. His first major success was the Under-23 National Championship of 2002, which he repeated in 2004 before adding the Elite Championship in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. He won the Cross Country race at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and continues to win races at home, in Europe and in North America. In 2004, Killeen was Under-23 National Cyclo Cross Champion.

Arsène Alancourt, born in Clichy on this day in 1904, was a French professional cyclist who rode in the Tour de France in 1922, 1923 and 1924. He won Stage 13 in 1924, with help from a dog that ran under the wheels of Ottavia Bottechia who led the General Classification throughout the entirety of the race and caused him to crash, and finished in 7th place overall. He'd done better the previous year when he was 5th.

Christophe Moreau
Christophe Moreau, who was born in Vervins on this day in 1971, was a rider who spent much of his career with a very great weight upon his shoulders - he was France's greatest hope for a Tour de France win, which they had not had since Bernard Hinault's final victory in 1985.

Christophe Moreau
(image credit: Eric Houdas CC BY-SA 3.0) 
Beginning his career as a time trial specialist with Festina, Moreau was 2nd at the 1995 Tour de l'Avenir and won the prologue the following year before beginning to add stage wins in races such as the Route du Sud and 1st place overall at the 1999 Tour Poitou-Charentes. He rode his first Tour de France in 1995 and didn't finish, then managed a couple of finishes just outside the top ten in 1996 but was 75th overall. In 1997, he was 6th in Stage 20 and 66th overall, then 5th in the 1998 prologue but again didn't finish. In 1999 he was 4th in the prologue and 10th in Stage 2, this time finishing in 27th place overall,

In 2000, he managed 4th place overall and fans began to wonder if he was the man who would bring them the glory they hadn't felt for fifteen years. He won the prologue a year later and was in the top ten for Stages 10 and 11 but abandoned soon afterwards, then abandoned again in 2002 after disappointing results. 2003 saw a return to form and he was 8th overall, then 12th in 2004 and 11th in 2005. In 2006, he finished the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2nd place and won the Mountains Classification - a sure sign that a rider has the potential to win the Tour, as was confirmed that same year with 7th place.

Unfortunately, he was now 35 - beyond the age at which most cycling careers begin to trail off. He rode again in 2007 and was 37th, then again in 2008 and once more abandoned, again in 2009 and was 29th (in fact, a respectable result all things considered) and for a final time in 2010. That last year, when he was 39 years old, he was 22nd overall and 2nd in the King of the Mountains; leaving no doubt that, a decade before, he could  have won a Tour had it not have been for one unfortunate factor: his date of birth. He'd simply had the misfortune to have been born at a time that meant his best years coincided with those of Lance Armstrong. If they had come five years earlier or five years later, when Armstrong wasn't around and the other riders were not driving themselves beyond the limits in order to keep up, the French would in all likelihood have had the winner they've wanted for so long.

Moreau tested positive for anabolic steroids at the Critérium International. However, team manager Bruno Roussel supported him, telling the team's lawyers that the rider had been tricked into taking the drugs by a member of the support staff (a not-unknown occurrence, support staff having sometimes been paid by rival teams to "nobble" riders over the years). The court found in favor, and Moreau was not suspended - which would almost certainly have been the end of that story had in not have been 1998, the year that Festina soigneur was caught as he tried to cross the French-Belgian border in a car filled with enough drugs to open a small pharmacy. Investigators discovered a massive, organised doping regime in the team and began looking again at the history of Festina riders during the Tour; which led Moreau, Armin Meier and Laurent Brouchard to confess they had used EPO and, in response, they were disqualified from continuing the race. He received a six-month suspension.

Other births: Mauricio Mata (Mexico, 1939); Eric Vermeulen (France, 1954); Peter Jonsson (Sweden, 1958); Pavel Soukup (Czechoslovakia, 1965); Henning L. Larsen (Denmark, 1955); András Mészáros (Hungary, 1941); Jim Rossi (USA, 1936, died 2005); Michael Lynch (Australia, 1963).

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