Sunday 27 May 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 27.05.12

Michele Bartoli
Michele Bartoli
Michele Bartoli, born in Pisa on this day in 1970, turned professional with Mercatone Uno-Medeghini-Zucchini in 1992 and developed into one one of the greatest Classics specialists of the late 1990s and first five years of the 21st Century.

His first Classics win was the Brabantse Pijl of 1994, the year he also won Stage 14 at the Giro d'Italia. In 1997 and 1998 he won the World Cup, earning him an invite to join Mapei for 1999 - his time there being marked by a clash with Paolo Bettini who had won Liège-Bastogne-Liège as team aleader after Bartoli was injured at the Tour of Germany. By 2001, the year that Bartoli departed for Fassa Bortolo, the feud has escalated to such a point that the two men refused to work together during the World Championships and allowed Oscar Freire to take the title.

Bartoli won Liège-Bastogne-Liège twice (1997, 1998), the Giro di Lombardia twice (2002, 2003), the Brabantse Pijl twice (1994, 1999), La Flèche Wallonne (1999), the Omloop Het Nieuwesblad (2001), the Amstel Gold Race (2002) and numerous other one-day races, stages and stage races. He may have won many more had he not have become disillusioned with cycling following injury in 2004: "I just wasn't motivated to continue...I can't be a top level rider any more and that was a major influence on my decision, rather than my recent physical problems," he told Cycling News.

In 2007, Bartoli was connected to Operacion Puerto by La Gazzetta dello Sport who claimed that the code name "Sansone" - the name found on an IV bag of blood in the laboratory of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes - referred to him, saying that it was the name of his dog.

Freddie Grubb
Freddie Grubb, who was born on Kingston in Surrey on this day in 1887, was called "the most talked-of cyclist in Great Britain" in 1910 after he set a new 100 mile time trial record, covering the distance in under five hours - on road, riding a fixed-wheel bike without normal brakes. One year later he entered a 12-hour competition on a 210 mile course near Liverpool, that distance being judged impossible by the event's organisers. They had to extend it by 10.5 miles because Grubb ran out of road.

Review of an F.H. Grubb bike, 1920
Grubb could be seen as one of the forefathers of the Straight Edge movement that has many followers among BMX and mountain bike riders - he never smoked, refused to consume alcohol and was strictly vegetarian at a time when few had even heard of such a concept and the general wisdom was that cyclists should consume vast amounts of meat before a race (Maurice Garin famously got through 45 cutlets of meat during a 24-hour race 17 years earlier).

In 1912, he competed in the Olympics and won two silver medals, then turned professional in 1914. Cycling wrote, "He is 25 years of age, and scales 12st stripped, and when he gets accustomed to the Continental methods there is no reason he should not shine as a star of the very first order in the professional ranks." However, his professional racing career (which - who knows? - might have led to the first British success in the Tour de France) didn't last long - not, as was the case with so many riders of the day, due to war; but because he found European ways not at all to his liking - he said that the Continental riders would "stick an inflator [pump] in your spokes as quick as look at you" - and hankered to return home. He must really have hated it, because the National Cycling Union had banned road racing in Britain and the rules of the time stated that once a rider had competed as a professional, he or she could not downgrade to amateur status nor compete against amateurs. Thus, a return to Britain effectively spelled the end of his competitive career, yet he did it anyway.

Perhaps that made him bitter. After the First World War (during which he abandoned a bike shop he'd set up in 1914 and had to give up his vegetarianism or starve while serving in the Royal Navy), he went into business with a man named Ching Allin and, supported by funds from a member of his cycling club, the two men set themselves up as Allin & Grubb, a bike manufacturer based at 132 Whitehorse Road in Croydon, South London (the building, much altered, is still there and is now occupied by a firm of safe engineers. According to historian Mick Butler, Grubb was an intensely dislikable man who, among other things, demanded to be given sole credit for the quick release system they'd invented since he was the firm's chief designer and despite the fact that the system appears to have actually been invented by Charley Davey, the man who had provided the funds to start the business (incidentally, the quick release was the first example of its kind, predating better-known systems by several years). Customers found Grubb hard to deal with, so before long Allin was handling sales and relations while his partner concentrated on design.

Advert for Grubb bikes (£12!) from
Cycling, 22.05.1925
Nevertheless, the pair fell out: by 1920 Allin & Grubb had changed its name to A. H. Allin and was selling bikes under the Davey brand. Grubb, meanwhile, set up a new business based at 250 London Road in West Croydon (an advert in Cycling, 04.03.1920, lists F.H. Grubb at the address as having "no connection to any other company," suggesting that the split had been far less than amicable and that the two men were keen to distance themselves from one another - the very imposing building is still there, but is now an ice cream shop), moving to Twickenham in 1926, and by 1924 had a shop in Brixton. That company produced what is believed to be the first British recumbent bike and lasted until 1934 when it went into liquidation - not only had it lasted fourteen years, it must also have been financially successful because when Grubb set up a new company under the name FHG, he re-employed 20 of his old staff at a new premises located at 147a Haydon's Road in Wimbledon, South-West London (that building is long gone, replaced by ugly low-rose flats). His family kept the business going after his death, then sold it in 1952 to Holdsworth, one of the most famous British bike manufacturers of the times. Holdsworth continued to produce Freddie Grubb-branded bikes right up until 1978 (Holdsworth, incidentally, are still in operation and can be found at 132 Lower Richmond Road in Putney), 29 years after his death on the 6th of March 1949.

Heather Albert, born in Sandy, Utah on this day in 1968, was a cross-country runner in high school before taking up duathlon whilst at Brigham Young University, where she earned a PhD in microbiology. She was inspired to take up cycling by her brother and entered her first race in 1994 - two years later, she won silver in the National Road Race Championships. Albert was involved in a serious crash at Houston's Alkek Velodrome in 2004, breaking her collar bone and dislocating her thumb; several other riders at the meeting claimed that the crash had been caused intentionally by Rebecca Quinn. She made a full recovery and, in 2007, won silver in the Points race at the National Track Championships.

Other cyclists born on this day: Ingmar De Poortere (Belgium, 1984); Lode Wouters (Belgium, 1929); Maryan Hary (France, 1980); Rogelio Arango (Colombia, 1959); Yang Hsiu-Chen (Taipei, 1968); Joseph De Bakker (Belgium, 1934); Karl Köther (Germany, 1905, died 1986); Jan Blomme (Belgium, 1959); David Rhoads (USA, 1932); Michael Glöckner (Germany, 1969); Gregorio Caloggero (Peru, 1917, died 1995); Nataliya Kyshchuk (Ukraine, 1968).

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