Thursday 19 April 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 19.04.12

Fischer's facial hair was said to be
"thick and elaborate"
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Paris-Roubaix fell on this date in 1896, 1908 and 1964. 1896 was the first time the race was ever held; originally scheduled for Easter Sunday, the 4th of April, but postponed two weeks after strong opposition from the Roman Catholic Church which pointed out that riders wouldn't have time to attend Mass before setting out. Only half of those who had entered showed up on the day with Maurice Garin the favourite and also enjoying massive popular support due to the bike shop he owned with his two brothers in Roubaix; but in the end he finished in third place - he looked set for second, but was involved in a crash between two tandems - one of which was his pace vehicle. 2nd place was taken by the Danish rider Charles Meyer with a three minute advantage over Garin and a 25 minute disadvantage behind Josef Fischer who finished in 9h17' and, to date, remains the only German rider to have ever won the event. In 1900, Fischer finished 2nd but that same year he won Bordeaux-Paris and, three years later, was 15th in the first ever Tour de France.

Georges Passerieu, the closest to a
British Paris-Roubaix winner
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1908 winner Georges Passerieu was French, but he was born in London - so we Brits can at least claim a British-born rider has won Paris-Roubaix, even if a British rider never has. Later that year, Passerieu won Stages 1 (which, coincidentally, was run between Paris and Roubaix), 5 and 13, third place overall and was the only man to make it over the Ballon d'Alsace and Chartreuse mountains without pushing his bike at the Tour de France in the year it was made especially memorable by the sight of organisers arriving at the finish of one stage in a horse-drawn carriage after Henri Desgrange's car broke down.

Peter Post became the first Dutch rider to win Paris-Roubaix in 1964 and, in doing so, also won the Ruban Jaune for setting the fastest average speed in a race more than 200km long that year (45.131kph - which, by the way, has yet to be bettered in this race, though it has been beaten in several other events). Post was primarily a track rider who won 65 Six Day events, including Brussels in 1965 when he paired up with Tom Simpson, but he performed well on the roads too; winning the Ronde van Nederland in 1960, a National Road Race Championship in 1963 and 2nd place behind Eddy Merckx in the 1967 Flèche Wallonne.

Achiel Buysse
The Ronde van Vlaanderen fell on this day in 1943. 90 riders - from 127 starters - failed to finish while Achiel Buysse became the first man to win three times.

La Flèche Wallonne has taken place on this day, too - three times, in fact. The first to do so was the 34th edition in 1970, won for a second time by Eddy Merckx. The route ran between Liège and Marcinelle for a sixth consecutive year and was 225km in length. The trend since the early days of La Flèche hasbeen for shorter and shorter races, with modern events covering some 80km less than the second and third editions - however, when the race was next held on this date three years later in 1973, it covered 249km between Verviers and Marcinelle. With the exception of 1972, which had been half a kilometre longer, this made it the longest for more than a quarter of a century. It was won by André Dierickx, who would take a second victory two years later. The last time it was held on this date was the 70th edition, which took place in 2006. That year, it covered 202km between Charleroi and Huy and it was won by Alejandro Valverde, who then won Liège-Bastogne-Liège four days later to become the sixth rider to win the Ardennes Double.

The ninth edition of La Flèche Wallonne Féminine took place on this day in 2006, covering 106km - until 2010, the longest in race history - on a loop beginning and ending at Huy. The winner was Nicole Cooke, equalling the men's record of three victories. Since 1999, the race had formed a round of the UCI Women's Road World Cup - which Cooke would also win, as she had done once before in 2003.

The Vuelta a Espana started on this day in 1983 and covered 3,398km in 19 stages. Bernard Hinault was widely considered the favourite to win. Giuseppe Saronni was expected to give him a hard time but, having won Stages 9 and 10, abandoned after Stage 15. Hinault didn't get it all his own way, however, with the hard-fought battle between him and an alliance of tough Spanish riders making for a race that many consider the finest in Vuelta history. In the end, Hinault's strength was sufficient to triumph; but he paid the price after riding so hard he developed tendinitis and missed that year's Tour de France.

Kevin van Impe was born in Aalse, Belgium on this day in 1981 and is the nephew of 1976 Tour de France winner Lucien van Impe - Kevin's father, Frank, was also a professional cyclist who won races in the 1970s and 1980s. In March 2008, when van Impe was at a crematorium in Lochristi making arrangements for the funeral of his baby son Jayden, who had died shortly after birth, he was approached by anti-doping officials who demanded he supplied a sample. The rider asked them to come back later but was told that failure to comply immediately would constitute a refusal, for which he would be sanctioned. Paris–Nice and Tirreno–Adriatico were disrupted by protests that year as riders displayed support for van Impe and their disgust at the testers.

Rosane Kirch, born in Bacabal, Brazil on this day in 1976 is a retired professional cyclist who came 2nd in the overall General Classification at the 2008 Route de France Féminine.

Bicycle Day
Today is Bicycle Day, marking the anniversary of an event in 1943 when Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann rode his bike home from his laboratory. Nothing remarkable there, surely?

Dr. Albert Hofmann
It was a bike ride with a difference. Five years previously, Dr. Hofmann had synthesised a compound he named LSD-25, to which he at first paid little further attention thinking it to be of little use. However, in time he came to realise that if the substance held the properties he suspected it might, then it could prove a powerful medical tool permitting psychiatrists a door into the subconscious minds of mentally ill patients. While creating a new batch, he accidentally absorbed some and gained his first experience of LSD's effects, which encouraged him to continue his experiment. Hofmann greatly under-estimated the threshold dose of his invention and dosed himself with 250 micrograms - the actual threshold for humans is 20 micrograms. Needless to say, he began to feel a little odd a short while later and decided he'd better go home; and since the Second World War meant that motor vehicle use was restricted due to fuel shortage, that meant cycling. An assistant who accompanied him remembered that during their journey the doctor became increasingly agitated due to worry that he was going insane, with the insanity probably caused by his neighbour whom he feared was a witch.

Later, at home when the drug began to wear off a little, Hofmann settled down and relaxed. He described the experience: "...little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux..."

Bicycle Day is not celebrated in the mainstream cycling world, but has a big following among counter-culture bicycle advocates and underground cycling clubs around the world and is a celebration of LSD's illicit uses  rather than a celebration of the bicycle. Hofmann despaired at this, believing that the drug should only be used under medical supervision in clinical surroundings and remaining a vehement opponent of its recreational use until the day he died, ten days after Bicycle Day in 2008.

Other births: Daniele Colli (Italy, 1982); Eduardo Manrique (Spain, 1965); Venelin Khubenov (Bulgaria, 1959); Daniele Cesaretti (San Marino, 1954); Paul Leitch (New Zealand, 1963).

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