Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 08.05.12

Germain Derycke
The eighteenth edition of La Flèche Wallonne was held on this day in 1954, following the same 220km parcours between Charleroi and Liège that it had used for the last three years and would use again the next. The winner was Germain Derycke, a rider who had won Paris-Roubaix the year before and would add the Dwars door Vlaanderen, Milan-San Remo, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the Ronde van Vlaanderen over the remainder of his career.

The Giro d'Italia started on this date three times, in 1937, 2004 and 2010. 1937 brought the second of two consecutive victories for the legendary Gino Bartali, who would win for a third time nine years later when the race started up again after the Second World War. The 2004 edition was won by Damiano Cunego, the race having an especially international flavour that year as it ventured into Switzerland, Croatia and Slovenia. 2010 started in Amsterdam and spent three stages in the Netherlands, then moved on to Italy where riders were faced with one of the most fearsome series of climbs in many years: Zoncalan, Kronplatz (Corones), Mortirolo and the Passo di Gavia. The winner was Ivan Basso after a number of riders were prevented from starting due to doping investigations and the controversial non-selection of Dutch ProContinental teams Vacansoleil and Skil-Shimano.

Beryl Burton, one of the greatest British athletes of all time
(unknown copyright)
Beryl Burton
On this day in 1996, Great Britain lost its greatest ever athlete with the death of Beryl Burton, winner of seven World Championships and more than 90 National titles. Burton was born on the 12th of May 1937 in Leeds and remained in that area for the remainder of her life. Medical problems during childhood kept her away from sports and she didn't discover cycling until introduced to it by her future husband Charlie - two years after first taking it up, the won a silver medal in the National 100 Mile Time Trial. (More on Burton in four days' time, the anniversary of her birth. If you can't wait, here's Ian Street.)

Ciarán Power, born in Waterford on this day in 1976, turned professional in 2000 with the ill-fated Linda McCartney Team and rode the Giro d'Italia with them - the first Irishman in a Grand Tour since Stephen Roche in 1993. He retired in 2008.

Polish climbing specialist Marek Rutkiewicz was born in Olsztyn on this day in 1981. In 2009, he won the Mountains Classification at the Tour of Poland and in 2010 he became National Hill Climb Champion.

Harry Hill
Harry Hill, a record-breaking British cyclist and bronze-winning Olympian, was born on this day in 1916. Hill's Olympic appearance came at the infamous 1936 Games, held in Nazi Germany, and he may have won silver or even gold were it not for the fact to get to Germany, he needed to first get from his home near Sheffield to London. He had no money, and nor did his mother who had raised him alone after his father was killed while fighting in Africa in the First World War. So, he rode the 200 miles (322km) on the bike with which he planned to enter.

Once back in Britain, he faced the same problem - but this time it was worse. On the way there he'd had just enough money to buy food and had carefully saved enough to do the same on the way there, but whilst in Germany temptation had got the better of him and he'd spent it all on a souvenir jacket. There was no alternative: he'd have to do it without eating. He couldn't, of course, and "only" managed 170 miles before he cracked and had to thumb a lift.

The following year, Hill set a new Hour Record for an outdoor track in Milan, covering 25 miles (40.23km). In 1976, when he was 60 years old, he cycled across North America. He claimed to have never smoked or consumed alcohol in his life. He rode his bike every day from the age of 13 until 2004, when he fractured his hip. He was Britain's oldest winner of an Olympic medal when he died aged  92 of pneumonia on the 31st of January 2009.

Other births: Han Song-Hui (South Korea, 1983); Boris Shukhov (USSR, 1947); Miguel Droguett (Chile, 1961); Raido Kodanipork (Estonia, 1969); Igor Sláma (Czechoslovakia, 1959); Châu Phươc Vình (South Vietnam, 1927); Silvia Fürst (Switzerland, 1961); Law Siu On (Hong Kong, 1964).

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