Saturday 14 April 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 14.04.12

Paris-Roubaix winner (1985 and 1991)
later became directeur sportif at FDJ
(image credit: Julius Kusuma CC BY-SA 3.0
Paris-Roubaix was held on this day in 1985, 1991, 1996 and 2002. Curiously, 1985 and 1991 were won by Marc Madiot and 1996 and 2002 by Johan Museeuw. Francesco Moser was a favourite in 1985 and, had he won, would have been the second man to achieve four wins (the first - and to date, only - being Roger De Vlaeminck in 1977) as well as having become the second man to win in three consecutive years as he had been in 1980; but he crashed in a pothole among the cobbles, his support crew taking so long to reach him that he lost all hopes of victory. Madiot then joined an eight-man break some 15km from the finish before out-sprinting them, entering the velodrome alone to win by 1'57". In 1991, he won by 1'07".

After the 1985 race, Dutchman Theo de Rooij spoke to reporters. "It's bollocks, this race," he told them. "You're working like an animal, you don't have time to piss, you wet your pants. You're riding in mud like this, you're slipping ... it’s a pile of shit!" One of the reporters asked rhetorically if he would be entering again. De Rooij looked at him for a moment, then replied: "Sure. It's the most most beautiful race in the world." That year, the 1.9km Vertain to Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon cobbles were used for the first time.

Johan Museeuw
(public domain image)
1996, the year Museeuw won the first of his three victories, saw the first use of the 2.5km Quérénaing to Maing cobbled section, which has been a feature of every Paris-Roubaix since. It was also the first year that the newly-laid Espace Charles Crupelandt - a 300m length of cobbles leading to the velodrome and named after the 1914 winner, who would recieve an unfair lifetime ban and die blind with both legs amputated - was used, having been created to commemorate the centenary of the race. The cobbles are interspersed with inscribed stones detailing all the winner of the first hundred years, which had to the section becoming known locally as the Chemin des Géants, the Road of Giants.

2002 brought Museeuw's third and final victory (he's won in 2000, too). The weather that year was band with heavy rain and strong wind, but Museeuw found reserves of strength when his opponents had been ground down; attacking the peloton with 40km still to go and crossing the finish line with an advantage of more than three minutes. For the first time that year, an extra 0.5km was added to the Templeuve - Le Moulin de Vertain cobbles and would become known as Templeuve - Le Moulin de Vertain Pt. 2, making the section 0.7km in total. The first 0.2km had been in use since 1992, the final 0.5km being discovered completely buried at about the same point. It was dug out by Les Amis de Paris–Roubaix - an organisation fans dedicated to finding new cobbled sections and maintaining them in a usuable state - to mark the one hundredth edition of the race.

Rik van Steenbergen
The Ronde van Vlaanderen has also been held on this date, in 1935 and 1946. The 1935 edition was won by Louis Duerloo who collected a newly-increased prize of 2,500 francs - the total prize fund having been upped to 12,500 francs to reflect the growing popularity of the event which, two years later, would attract half a million spectators.

In 1946, victory went to Rik van Steenbergen who had become the youngest man to ever win this race two years previously. It became apparent early in the race that van Steenbergen was going to win - as soon as the riders set off, it was obvious to all that not only was he on perfect form, he was having the sort of day that all cyclists dream about in which his body worked in perfect unison with his machine. He remembered years later that it had been the best ride of his life: "I could do whatever I liked, ride better than anyone. In the end I was with Briek Schotte and Enkel Thiétard. They were happy just to follow me. We made an agreement. I said that they could stay with me until we got to Kwatrecht. I wouldn't drop them provided they'd do their best to work with me. They were happy with that. They didn't have a choice. Under the bridge at Kwatrecht I just got rid of them."

La Flèche Wallonne has fallen on this date, too - the 47th edition in 1983, the 57th in 1993 and the 63rd in 1999. 1983 brought a second win for The Badger Bernard Hinault, the same year that he won his second Vuelta a Espana. The race began at Charleroi and ended at Huy, as it has done every year since 1998, and covered 248km. In 1993 it ran 206km from Spa to Huy and was won by Maurizio Fondriest who would also win Milan-San Remo and a second World Championship that year. In 1999, it started in Charleroi and ended in Huy for a second year and covered 200km, won by Michele Bartoli who would win three of the five Monuments during his career.

1999 also saw the second edition of La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, held on the same date as the men's race but on a shorter course. The winner was Hanka Kupfernagel, and for the first time the race became part of the UCI Women's Road World Cup.

The Union Cycliste Internationale, known (and not necessarily loved) by cyclists worldwide as the UCI, came into being in Paris on this day in 1900, with the intention of creating a new international governing body in opposition of the British-controlled International Cycling Association after a heated row over whether Great Britain should be permitted one team at the World Championships rather than four to represent England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The ICA had existed since 1892 but, with France, Italy, the USA, Switzerland and Belgium all opting for UCI membership, it was quickly superceded. Britain was barred from membership until 1903, by which time the organisation had completely replaced its predecessor.

The UCI controlled cycling as a single entity until 1965 when, pressured by the International Olympic Committee, it split into three branches - the Fédération Internationale Amateur de Cyclisme (FIAC) in Rome,  the Fédération Internationale de Cyclisme Professionnel (FICP) in Luxembourg and the UCI (now based in Geneva) acting as a central authority. As Eastern Bloc cyclists were almost invariably amateur at the time, in effect the FIAC became almost a separate organisation devoted to developing the sport beyond the Iron Curtain and grew to be far larger than the FICP with some 127 federations under its aegis. FIAC riders rarely competed with FICP riders, despite the best Eastern Bloc amateurs being esaily the equal of Western professionals; as would prove to be the case following Perestroika when East European and ex-Soviet cyclists were freed to seek professional contracts and made a massive impact on the European racing scene. In 1992, the two subsidiary bodies were reabsorbed into the UCI as it relocated to Aigle, also in Switzerland, where it is still based.

Emile De Beukelaer, first president
of the UCI
The organisation has had nine presidents during its history, all men. The first, serving between 1900 and 1922,  was Emile De Beukelaer, who had been one of Belgium's most successful cyclists during the 1880s and attended the formation of the UCI as the representative for the Ligue Velocipédique Belge Belgian federation. The second, Frenchman Léon Breton, served from 1922 to 1936, the third was the Swiss Max Burgi between 1936 and 1939.

The position was then taken by Alban Collignon, another Belgian,  between 1939 and 1947, followed by Frenchman Achille Joinard who came close to losing his position in 1955 when he was accused of having personally received five million francs in return for ensuring the World Championships would be held in France rather than in Italy. Joinard was largely responsible for the popularisation of the Peace Race, an event that took place in East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia during the Cold War and which he termed "the Tour de France of the East." It was also Joinard who coined the term "la bicyclette est la fille de Bretagne" - "the bicycle is the daughter of Brittany" - to reflect the enormous love the Bretons still hold for the sport.

His replacement was Adriano Rodoni, the first Italian to serve, who held the position between 1958 and 1981 - Rodoni too courted controversy in 1964 when he prevented the Italian cyclist Giovanni Pettenella from having to undergo an anti-doping test ordered by the IOC at the 1964 Olympics. The Spaniard Luis Puig took over from 1981 to 1990 who, unusually, had not been a professional cyclist himself; becoming a cycling coach after an athletic career in baseball, swimming and hockey.

Hein Verbruggen
(image credit: SpeakLouder)
Puig's replacement was Hein Verbruggen, whose background offered a sign of the times - never an athelete, his career had been in business management before an interest in cycling led to the presidency of the Dutch Federation, then to the UCI. In 2008, investigative journalists from the BBC uncovered documents apparently showing that under Verbruggen, the UCI had received payments equal to approximately US$5 million from Japanese race organisers, which the broadcaster claimed was a bribe or reward for backing the inclusion of keirin in the Olympics. Verbruggen continues to deny the claims, and the UCI ignored the BBC's requests for an explanation. In 2010, Floyd Landis - then undergoing a doping investigation - claimed that Verbruggen had  accepted a bribe worth US$100,000 from Lance Armstrong to submerge a failed anti-doping test said to have occurred in 2002, also saying that there would be no documentary evidence of the payment. However, the UCI - now under Verbruggen's successor Pat McQuaid - was able to produce documents showing that they had in fact received two payments, one to the tune of US$25,000 from Armstrong personally which was used to develop new anti-doping controls for junior races and one of US$100,000 paid by Armstrong's management company that had been used to purchase a Sysmex blood testing machine. That the UCI was so open in admitting that it had in fact received the payment Landis alleged, provided evidence proving it had and then also proved a second payment that had not been previously been mentioned in the case is considered by most to be indication that nothing dishonest had taken place; though McQuaid is on record as stating that in his opinion Verbruggen's decision to accept the payments was a mistake.

Pat McQuaid
(image credit: Oblongo CC BY-SA 2.0)
Pat McQuaid took over when Verbruggen retired in 2005 and at the time of writing remains president. He, his father, his two brothers, one cousin, one uncle have all been professional cyclists. His career was not without controversy as he and Sean Kelly broke the boycott on athletes competing in apartheid-era South Africa. After retiring from racing, McQuaid worked as a teacher before becoming director of the Irish National Team from 1983 to 1986 and then president from 1996 to 1999. In between, he served as director of a number of major races including the Tours of China and Langkawi and afterwards served as chairman of the UCI's road racing commission. Compared to that if his predecessor, McQuaid's presidency has been relatively free of controversy, though he has come under increasing attack for his attitude towards women's cycling which many athletes, managers and fans believe he doesn't take as seriously as the sport deserves; especially since the 2011 World Championships when he said that in his opinion, women's racing is insufficiently developed for athletes to deserve a guaranteed minimum wage (as their male counterparts get) nor equal prize money to that on offer in men's races.

Russell Williams, who was born in London on this day in 1961, won the British Junior Road Race Championship in 1978 and added a number of track titles before retiring from competition in 1999. Today, he is better known a a cycling commentator on the British Eurosport television channel.

On this day in 1931, the first edition of the British Highway Code was published and went on sale at one old penny (1d) - equivalent to less than one half of a modern penny (1p). The Code, then as now, outlined the rules of the road for drivers, motorcyclists, those in control of animals and cyclists.

Francesco de Bonis, born in Isola del Liri on this day in 1982, won the GP Folignano and Trofeo Internazionale Bastianelli in 2007, then Stage 4 and the overall Mountains Classification at the Tour de Romandie one year later. In 2010, the UCI announced that it had discovered discrepancies in the tests recorded on his biological passport and requested that his National Federation ban him from competition for two years - the ban was subsequently put into place and began on the 27th of May that year.

British rider Ian Wilkinson, who was born in Barnoldswick on this day in 1979, won the National Under-23 Mountain Bike Championship in 2000 and the National MTB Marathon at Elite level in 2008. He also competes in cyclo cross, track and road racing and has achieved good results in all three disciplines.

Roger Rammer was born in Vienna on this day in 1890 and took part in the Olympics of 1912. He rode in the Team Trial event, where the Austrians came 7th, and in the Individual Time Trial where he was 23rd. Like many cyclists, Rammer disappeared after his time in the spotlight came to an end and it's not known what he did for the rest of his life nor when and where he died.

Martín Emilio Rodríguez
Martín Emilio Rodríguez, born in Medellín on this day in 1942, is one of the most successful Colombian cyclists of all time. Nicknamed Cochise, after his Apache chief hero, he entered the Vuelta a Colombia for the first time in 1961 and won it two years later - as he would again in 1965, 1966 and 1967. He also won the National Championship in 1965 and the 4km Pursuit at the 1962 Central American Games, 1965 Bolivarian Games, the 1966 and 1967 American Games and 1967 PanAmerican Games and set an unofficial Hour Record in 1970 before going on to compete in 1975 Tour de France, which he finished in 27th place.

Rodriguez teamed up with Felice Gimondi during the early 1970s and they won the Baracchi Trophy and  Verona Grand Prix together in 1973. After his Tour de France, he retired from professional racing but won a stage at the 1980 Vuelta a Colombia as an amateur. He maintained close links with cycling in retirement and is  currently employed by the UCI Continental team Gobernacion De Antioquia-Indeportes Antioquia.

Other births: Jeffrey Spencer (USA, 1951); Juraj Miklušica (Czechoslovakia, 1938); Ulises Váldez (Cuba, 1948); Robert Raymond (Belgium, 1930); Pierre Gouws (Zimbabwe, 1960); Geoff Kabush (Canada, 1977); Francesco Zucchetti (Italy, 1902, died 1980); Vilho Oskari Tilkanen (Finland, 1885, died 1945); Steven Maaranen (USA, 1947); Oleksandr Honchenkov (Ukraine, 1970).

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