Saturday, 21 April 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 21.04.12

Gaston Rebry
Paris-Roubaix fell on this date in 1935 and 1946. Belgian Gaston Rebry won for a third time in 1935, the second man to do so - he'd won the year before too but as his first win had been in 1931 he couldn't equal Octave Lapize's 1911 record of three consecutive records (and nobody would until Francesco Moser in 1980). The finish in 1935 was moved to the Flandres horse racing track at Marcq, where it would remain the following year. 1946 brought the first of two consecutive victories for another Belgian rider, Georges Claes.

The twelfth edition of La Flèche Wallonne was held on this date in 1948, returning to April for the first time since it began in 1936. It ran, as it would for the next twelve years, between Charleroi and Liège; covering a distance of 234km. The winner was Fermo Carmellini, the first Italian to achieve victory in this race - in Carmellini's day, Italians were commonly supposed to be unsucessful riders unless racing in their homeland and completely useless in the often cold, always gruelling North European Classics. However, he was just the first of many: as of 2011, La Flèche Wallonne has been won by an Italian eighteen times - the second highest number after the 38 Belgian victories. The race was held on this day again in 1951: the fifteenth edition and the first to be won by a Swiss, Ferdy Kübler - when he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège the following day, he became the first man to win the Ardennes Double. It ran once again between Charleroi and Liège but followed a different route that was 14km shorter. The 32nd edition, held in 1968, also fell on this date and was 222.5km running between Liège and Marcinelle, as it had been for the last three years and would be for three more. The winner was Rik Van Looy, the King of the Classics and the first man to win all five Monuments. In 2004, the 68th edition also took place on this day - it took a 199.5km route between Charleroi and Huy and was won by Davide Rebellin who, as he then won Liège-Bastogne-Liège four days later, became the fifth man to win the Ardennes Double. The last time the race was held on this date was the 74th edition in 2010. That year, it covered 198km, once again between Charleroi and Huy and was won for the first time by an Australian, Cadel Evans.

The seventh and thirteenth editions of La Flèche Wallonne Féminine fell on this day in 2004 and 2010. 2004 was won by Sonia Huguet. 2010, which took place on a 109km loop beginning and finishing at Huy rather than running between Charleroi and Huy as the men's race did, was won by the British rider Emma Pooley. As the Welsh rider Nicole Cooke had won three editions, Pooley's victory tied Great Britain with the Netherlands as the most successful nation in this race. (For comparison, no British man has ever won the men's event - but guess which race gets the most coverage in the British cycling press?)

Giovanni Battaglin
(unknown copyright)
The Vuelta a Espana began on this day in 1981 and covered 3,446km in 19 stages. Frenchman Régis Clère won the prologue and then unexpectedly led the race all the way to Stage 8b, an individual on the Sierra Nevada where Giovanni Battaglin took over and, despite the admirable efforts of Pedro Muñoz, remained leader for the rest of the race. Just three days after the Vuelta ended, the Giro d'Italia started - and Battaglin won that too, becoming the second man to win both races in a single season. Some people have called winning two Grand Tours with only three days of recovery between them the greatest feat ever achieved in professional cycling. (The first rider to win both in a season, incidentally, was Eddy Merckx in 1973 - however, he had a luxurious five days between in which to recover.)

James Starley
English inventor James Starley was born in Albourne on this day in 1831 and, working on his father's farm in childhood, invented a new type of rat trap made from part of an old umbrella and a willow branch. During his teenage years he left home and went to London where he was employed as a gardener and developed a  mechanism that permitted ducks to pass through a door in a fence but prevented rats from following, also repairing watches to earn extra money. His employer purchased a sewing machine and, when it broke down, asked Starley if he could repair it - not only did he do so, he improved it with modifications As a result the machine's owner recommended him to the manufacturer, Josiah Turner, who gave him a job in 1859. Two years later, Turner and Starley went into partnership and opened a new factory in Coventry.

Starley aboard one of his own
"Salvo" tricycles
At that time, Coventry was the world centre of bicycle manufacturing and, inspired by a French bike belonging to a nephew of Turner's, the two men decided they would start producing their own, as designed by Starley. Not content with the bikes of the day, he soon set about making improvements and is credited a being the man who perfected chain drive. Towards the end of his life, Starley rode a "sociable" tricycle - a bike which seats two riders side-by-side - with his son, also named James. Early sociables had independently-driven wheels, with the rider on the right powering the right rear wheel and the rider on the left powering the other rear wheel, which meant that unless the riders were of equal strength the bike was impossible to ride for any great distance. One day, whilst he was struggling to pedal at the same rate as the younger man, Starley suddenly exclaimed "I have it!" and got off the bike. Then he sat down and sketched out the world's first differential gear system - as now found on the powered axle of every motor vehicle.

Starley was an inspiration to his nephew John Kemp Starley, who designed the Rover Safety Bicycle as an alternative to the penny-farthing and the first example of a modern bike. The Rover sold so well that, for a while, the name was used to refer to all bikes rather as we now refer to all vacuum cleaners as "Hoovers."

Monika Schachl became National Cross Country Mountain Bike Champion of her native Austria in 2005. Having made the move into road cycling, she won Stage 5 at the Krasna Lipa Tour Féminine in 2006 and 2007, then in 2008 took the National Championship titles for the Road Race and Individual Time Trial as well as second place in the National Hill Climb Championship.

Sergey Yakovlev, who was born in Temirtau, Kazakhstan on this day in 1976, won the Tour de l'Ain and his National Championship in 2000 and Stage 7 at the Tour de Suisse in 2003.

On this day in 2000, French mountain biker Eric Barone set a new downhill speed record at Les Arcs. Riding downhill on snow and using a prototype bike created for the attempt, he reached 222kph - a speed that at the time of writing hasn't been bettered. Barone, who was born on the 4th of November in 1960, also holds a record for highest speed on gravel at 172kph.

Today is the anniversary of The Great Jarrow Bicycle Match, which took place in 1888 and which saw the five-time American champion W.A. Rowe pitting his skills against local rider W. Wood. The race was a straightforward affair with the men racing over 20 miles on an earthen track and the winner was awarded the fantastic sum of £175 - £100 of which had been put up by Rowe. Some 4000 people (including a few ladies, according to news reports) turned up to watch and were delighted when the British rider won after 66 minutes.

Other births: Tomaž Nose (Slovenia, 1982); Vladimir Isaychev (Russia, 1986); Arnaud Geyre (France, 1935); Louis Weintz (USA, 1885, died 1969); Karl Magnussen (Denmark, 1915, died 1966); Jean Goujon (France, 1914, died 1991); Vincenzo Ceci (Italy, 1964); Marcel Roy (Canada, 1942); Vítor Gamito (Portugal, 1970); Salvatore Palmucci (San Marino, 1940).

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