Saturday, 14 July 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 14.07.12

Octave Lapize in 1910
The Tour de France ended on this day in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966 - the four earliest end dates in the history of the race. 1963 and 1964 were won by Jacques Anquetil and 1966 by Lucien Aimar, which caused much rejoicing in France as today is also Bastille Day.

Octave Lapize - winner of the 1910 Tour de France and the man who famously screamed "Vous êtes des assassins! Oui, des assassins!" at route officials when he reached the summit of Tourmalet when it was climbed for the first time in the race that year - died on this day in 1917, aged 29. Like so many (their names still known if they won a Tour and long-forgotten if they didn't) his cycling career came to an end in the First World War: his fighter plane was shot down over Flirey in Meurthe-et-Moselle, a village that was completely destroyed during the conflict and he died in hospital shortly afterwards.

Sheldon Brown
Sheldon Brown, born in Boston, Massachusetts on this day in 1944, was parts manager at the Harris Cyclery bike shop in his home state. Whilst there, his superb memory and eye for detail allowed him to build up a vast  knowledge of bike components which he would use to create an encyclopedic website for his employer. The website grew until it included technical information, workshop advice and tips on modification for (probably) almost every bike and bike component ever manufactured, while Brown himself became a world-recognised expert on the subject and wrote several books. His writing on hub gears, especially Sturmey-Archer models, is considered authoritative.

Sheldon Brown
In the final years of his life, Brown suffered serious nerve deterioration as a result of his illness, going back some time before MS was diagnosed and gradually destroying his balance so that he could no longer ride a conventional bike. He continued cycling on a recumbent tricycle until, eventually, he lost the use of his lower limbs.

Brown was universally liked by all who met him, cyclists and the general public, his cheery personality proving infectious. As he neared the end of his life, he wrote:
"Multiple Sclerosis is a nasty, rare, incurable disease, but there are lots of nasty rare incurable diseases out there. As nasty, rare, incurable diseases go, it's one of the better ones. If you must acquire a nasty, rare, incurable disease, MS is one of the best things going!... I think of it as not so much a "tragedy" as a Really Major Inconvenience... Another great thing about MS is that it's guilt free and blame free! Since nobody knows what causes it, nobody thinks it's because you didn't eat your vegtables, or had sex with the wrong person, or took inappropriate drugs, or lived in a place you shouldn't have, or didn't go to the gym as often as you should have!"

Odile Defraye (Odiel Defraeye)
Odile Defraye
Born in Rumbeke, Belgium on this day in 1888, Odile Defraye was invited at the last moment to join the French bike manufacturer Alcyon's team for the 1912 Tour de France - the team, previously made up entirely of French riders, was initially reluctant to take him on. However, the company's Belgian representative, in charge of sales in the lucrative Belgian market, applied pressure and Defraye was taken on; his job being to help 1911 winner Gustave Garrigou take another victory.

Despite immediately proving to be the stronger rider, Defraye performed his task faithfully and, when Garrigou punctured on nails spread across the road by spectators, the Belgian was the only rider to stop and wait, then try to help him back to the peloton. Garrigou then showed an admirable lack of selfishness: realising that the Belgian had a better chance of catching them without him, he told him to go on alone. Defraye won the stage; while Garrigou did manage to catch up and took second place, the team managers decided that Defraye should become team leader (Garrigou, again proving himself to be free of prima donna tendencies, accepted this). That put him in a very good position indeed - he had the strong Alcyon team riding for him and, since he was the first Belgian with a good chance of winning, all the other Belgian riders too.

Defraye with spare tyres around
his shoulders
A series of punctures and knee problems later in the race nearly put him out of contention and Octave Lapize (who would die on Defraye's birthday five years later, see above) came very close to taking over the lead, but Defraye recovered and launched an attack on the Col de Portet d'Aspet that left Lapize far behind - he abandoned that day, complaining that he couldn't win due to the Belgians all riding for Defraye. Marcel Godivier and Charles Crupelandt, the remaining members of his La Française team, left in solidarity with him the following day.

Once Lapize had gone, Eugène Christophe became Defraye's greatest rival. Christophe was a superbly talented climber but, like most climbers, couldn't sprint; his preferred technique was to mount enormously long solo breaks on the mountain stages (this would have been even more successful when the Tour returned to the accumulated time format the following year, rather than deciding the winner by points, had Christophe not have experienced perhaps the most infuriating and long-running period of bad luck in Tour history) - including, this year, one of 315km, which remains the longest solo break in the history of the race. However, with no mountain stages left and a whole army of helpers willing to chase down an attack, his opportunities had all be used up. Had the race have been decided according to accumulated time, Christophe would in fact have been in the lead; this remained the case until the final time when he eventually gave up, accepted he was beaten and allowed Defraye to become the first ever Belgian winner of the Tour without further challenge.

Mauro Simonetti, who was born in Livorno on this day in 1948, won a bronze medal in the team road race at the 1968 Olympics and Stage 6b at the 1971 Tour de France.

Paul Choque, born in Viroflay on this day in 1910, won a silver medal for the Team Pursuit at the 1932 Olympics. He later twice became French Cyclo Cross Champion (1933 and 1938), won the Critérium International twice (1933 and 1936) and won two stages (16 and 18b) at the 1937 Tour de France, when he was also seventh overall.

On this day in 2012, at the Tour de France, Frank Schleck provided a sample to doping control that tested positive for Xipamide, a diuretic also known as Aquaphor or Aquaphoril. The drug is a diuretic, working by reducing the kidneys' ability to absorb water and thus diluting the urine; this has no performance-enhancing effect but can be used to mask the presence of other substances. As it is not on the UCI's list of banned drugs the rider would not face a suspension, nevertheless his beleaguered RadioShack-Nissan team (caught up in a legal case surrounding retired seven-time Tou winner Lance Armstrong and team manager Johan Bruyneel) withdrew him from the race.

Other cyclists born on this day: Iryna Yanovych (USSR, 1976); Joby Ingram-Dodd (Great Britain, 1980); Gunnar Göransson (Sweden, 1933); Teddy Billington (USA, 1882, died 1966); Mannie Heymans (Namibia, 1971); Tadesse Mekonnen (Ethiopia, 1958); Hipólito Pozo (Ecuador, 1941); Dirk Jan van Hameren (Netherlands, 1965); Jazy Garcia (Guam, 1967); Mark Kingsland (Australia, 1970); Ion Ioniţă (Romania, 1928); Stefan Brykt (Sweden, 1964); Fritz Joost (Switzerland, 1954).

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