Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 28.08.12

Roger Pingeon
Roger Pingeon
Born in Hauteville, France on this day in 1940, Roger Pingeon turned professional with Peugeot-BP-Englebert in 1964 and picked up some very good results in his first three years, including three podium finishes at the 1965 Tour de France, then a stage win and second place overall at the Critérium International and eighth place in the Points competition at the Tour in 1966. However, when he started his third Tour, in 1967, he was better-known for his various eccentricities than for his racing prowess - he was notoriously hypochondriac, bathing in a strong vinegar dilution in an attempt kill the germs on his skin, and so obsessed with sleep that he blocked up keyholes and cracks around doors with cotton wool in hotel rooms to keep out the light, then remained cooped up inside during rest days while other riders made sure they kept the muscles stretched (and, as the late 1960s belong to an era of cycling that is no more, partied). Before becoming a cyclist he had been a plumber for a while, but later became a florist instead.

He was also plagued by a terrible sense of doubt, both in his own ability and that of his equipment; sometimes abandoning races simply because he believed he had no chance of winning or because he was unable to stop worrying about what would happen to him if a previously-undetected crack in his frame gave way on a fast descent, or his derailleur came loose and got tangled in his spokes, or his tyres came off the rims at speed... or any of the huge number of things that can happen to a bike, but usually don't. Yet he was, beyond doubt, a natural-born cyclist with the long, willowy legs and the slightly drawn, long-nosed look that Coppi, Anquetil and Gaul had (and Merckx didn't); a real-life Champion Souza prone also to flashes of athletic brilliance. Unfortunately, he owed his greatest achievement - winning the 1967 Tour de France - as much to questionable tactics as to sporting greatness.

He was not rated highly by the public that year, though this was perhaps more due to his strange habits eclipsing his earlier successes, but French team coach Marcel Bidot saw through that and looked instead at his excellent form in the run-up to the race; five victories and another five podium places got him his place on the Tour squad. In Stage 5a, which started at Roubaix and crossed the border to Jambes in Belgium, he correctly guessed that the Belgium riders were going to do all they could to win in front of their home, so he closely marked them all the way and then hung on to Bernard van der Kerkhove and Rik van Looy when they got away. The Belgians accelerated to ever-greater speeds in an attempt to shake him off but soon found he was better than they'd expected - and, before too long, that they had a six-minute advantage over the pack, so they settled down a bit and conserved energy ready to get rid of the Frenchman later on. Van Looy, seven years older than Pingeon, remained a devastatingly powerful sprinter at the age of 33; had it have come to it Pingeon lacked the muscle he'd have needed to take him on in a drag race to the finish line. So instead, he made his controversial move: as they were passing through a feeding zone he waited until the Belgians' attention was diverted to grabbing musettes and bidons, then attacked. It wasn't against the rules - or not the rules that have been written down, at any rate - but it was most certainly not considered the done thing. It was dangerous too, because once a rider does something like that he can expect to be attacked by the entire peloton for the remainder of a race; but it also got him the maillot jaune.

Pingeon kept the yellow jersey after Stage 5b (a team time trial, in which the Belgians got their home soil victory) and Stage 6 when Herman van Springel, too far down in the General Classification to make any difference, won. He lost it again on Stage 7, the first day in the mountains, to Raymond Riotte after the non-English-speaking Englishman Michael Wright won the stage. He wasn't expected to get it back again. For some riders, however, the maillot jaune is a bit like the One Ring; it takes control and changes them. Pingeon wanted it back, he forgot his insecurities and those qualities that Bidot detected in him came to the fore. Jan Janssen and Lucien Aimar - riders who, under normal circumstances, might have had him in fits of terror simply by chasing him - tried to finish him off for good the next day and Aimar won the stage, but Pingeon's sixteenth place, 1'33" slower, got him back into yellow with an overall advantage of 1'44", and he day after that, he added another 22". Felice Gimondi and Julio Jiminez tried the next day, both of them wearing "shouldn't send a boy to do a man's job" expressions as they worked him over on the Cols du Télégraphe and Galibier. He could not keep up and Gimondi won, but once again he was able to far exceed expectations and finished the stage - remarkably - with another 1'58" added to his advantage, bringing it up to 4'02". Nothing changed over the next two stages, then he won another 3" on Mont Ventoux in Stage 13 before Jiminez took 2'02" from him and moved into second place during Stage 16, then took another 23" in Stage 21. With two stages left, Pingeon's victory was not secure; but then he won back 2'01" in the final stage, a time trial, and finished 3'40" overall.

Pingeon could have won much more, though his chances at the Tour were probably as good as over now that Eddy Merckx was reaching his prime. He was highly talented at reading the parcours before a race even took place, setting out with a better knowledge of what lay ahead than his rivals, and he confirmed that his Tour win wasn't solely down to that feeding station attack by also winning the Vuelta a Espana two years later (when he also came second at the Tour); but time and time again, without the leader's jersey lending him confidence, his self-doubt let him down. He is, however, one of the least well-remembered Tour winners, his victory being overshadowed by the tragic events taking place as he won his extra seconds on Ventoux - it was the year that Tom Simpson died.

Dave Bedwell
Dave Bedwell
Known as the "Iron Man of Cycling," Dave Bedwell - who was born in Romford on this day in 1928 - was one of the best-known cyclists in Britain during the 1950s. He was born into a cycling family (they even had their own gym at home and practiced healthy eating at a time when such things were virtually unheard of, even among professional athletes), but during his early life he became a swimmer instead. Swimming pools were few and far between in Britain in the late 1940s and, with petrol being rationed until four and half years after the Second World War, traveling to competitions by car would have been too expensive; instead he bought a bike from a dealer named Rory O'Brien. Bedwell stood just 1.63m tall, only a little over the average height for British women at the time, but his swimming had given him a broad-shouldered and powerful physique - which O'Brien recongised immediately as being idea for a sprinter. He also knew the Bedwell family and was aware that, if Dave took up the sport, he would get the best support an amateur cyclist could ever wish for. Precisely how he talked Bedwell into taking up cycling doesn't seem to be remembered, but somehow he did.

Bedwell joined the Romford Wheelers after completing his National Service with the RAF in 1948. He was aware of the road racing that took place on the continent and wanted to try his hand at it, but the Wheelers were affiliated to the National Cycling Union which had outlawed road racing since the 19th Century for fear that police disapproval would lead to a ban on all forms of bicycle use on the roads. He soon heard about the British League of Racing Cyclists, set up by Percy Stallard during the War to act as opposition to the NCU and support road racing, but there were no NLRC-affiliate clubs nearby - so, sometime in 1949, he created his own, the Romford Road Racing Club. That same year, he won the National Amateur's Road Race Championship. This encouraged the BLRC to pick him for a team going to the GP de l'Humanité in 1950, one of the first British teams to ever compete on the Continent. Against the odds, he won.

In 1951, he turned professional for Dayton Cycles and won the Elite National Championships and four stages of the Tour of Britain, which had been created by the BLRC to promote road racing (and, right from the start, had enjoyed the full support of the police, despite that the NCU thought).  In 1953, he won three more; then in 1954 another four and third place overall. The year after that, riding for the Hercules team, he returned to France to ride the Frejus criterium and finished in second place behind Jacques Anquetil - and in front of third place Jean Stablinski - then a day later he beat Anquetil in the sprint at a race in Marseilles. Hercules were there to get some experience of French road racing before that year's Tour, in which - competing as Great Britain, since this was the era of national teams - they would be the first British team to have ever taken part (a British Empire "national" team, consisting of two Britons and a Canadian, had taken part in 1937, none of them finished. In 1955 Brian Robinson and Tony Hoar, both riders for Hercules, did). For Bedwell, though, the Tour came to an end after only three stages: following the third stage ,during which he had had two punctures, he was informed by team mate Bev Woods that he had finished outside the time limit. In fact he had not, and since a large number of riders had the time limit was waived anyway so he would have been able to continue regardless, but he left the race anyway. He later revealed that he hadn't really wanted to take part, though he'd have liked to have done in a previous year, because shortly before the race he had been diagnosed with a heart problem.

Bedwell is sometimes said to have been the inventor of interval training. Whether he was genuinely the first to invent it is highly debatable, but he did indeed independently develop a form of the technique using telephone poles along the side of roads, sprint to one, freewheeling to the next and then gradually increasing the sprint sections. He could keep going for mile after mile, say his old team mates, while they would be exhausted after the fourth or fifth sprint. He retired from racing in 1964 and, twelve years later, went to live in Paignton where he became resident wheelbuilder at the bike shop owned by Colin Lewis, who rode with Tom Simpson in the 1967 that Roger Pingeon won and during which Simpson died.

Gianluca Bortolami
The Italian rider Gianluca Bortolami, born in Locate di Triulzi on this day in 1968, won his first major races - the Juniors Giro della Lunigiana and silver and bronze medals at the Junior World Track Championships in 1986, then turned professional with Diana-Colnago in 1990 - and won a stage at the Tour of Britain. The following year, by which time the team had become Colnago-Lampre, he won another stage at the Tour of Britain and was third overall in the Youth category at the Giro d'Italia; then he won two stages at the Volta a Portugal and one at the Tour de Romandie in 1993 (when he also rode and completed his first Tour de France) before switching to Mapei-CLAS for 1994. With them, he won the World Cup and Stage 6, fourth place in the Points competition and 13th place overall at the Tour.

Bortolami stayed with Mapei through 1995, which passed with only one relatively minor victory, and 1996 when he came second at Paris-Roubaix. In 1997 he went to Festina-Lotus, at that time rated as the strongest team in the world and was still there a year later when he came second at the Omloop Het Nieuwesblad and then, a few months later, when team soigneur Willy Voet was caught with a huge stash of drugs, sparking the infamous Festina Affair. Festina were thrown out of the Tour after Stage 6 and the scandal would come close to destroying professional cycling; Bortalami was one of the riders who was not charged with wrongdoing - as a result he was free to join Vini Caldirola-Sidermec for 1999 and he won two stages at the Österreich-Rundfahrt with them. He stayed with the team for five seasons and, in 2001, won the Ronde van Vlaanderen, by far the most prestigious result in his career; in 2002 he won the Giro della Romagna, the GP Beghelli and the GP Fourmies.

Then, in 2003, a short while after he'd won Stage 1 and come second overall, the news broke that Bortolami had tested positive for cortisone at the Driedaagse van De Panne. The UCI and national federations had finally woken up to how widespread doping had become and realised they needed to act against it in the wake of the Festina Affair, but had not yet introduced the much harsher punishments that would become de rigeur following Operacion Puerto a few years later and so he got away with a relatively light six-month ban, returning to Lampre in 2004 to win a stage at the Ronde van België and his second Giro della Romagna. He continued racing though 2005 and finished three stages in the top ten at the Tour de France, then retired at the end of the year.


Edith Atkins
Edith Sharman, born on the 2nd of February 1920, became famous for setting numerous long-distance cycling records during the 1950s. She had competed at international level in gymnastics during childhood, aided by her diminutive size (even in adulthood, she was less than than 1.52m tall) but, like many female cyclists of her day, she found her way into cycling by chance when her mother gave her a bike she'd won while playing cards. Teenage girls commonly used bicycles to get around on in the 1930s but tended to do rather sedately, due in some cases to society's insistence that young ladies should conduct themselves in a ladylike manner or, in probably quite a few cases, because their heavy, upright bikes couldn't go any faster. Edith, meanwhile, liked riding fast - and she had a bike that could go fast, so before too long she was more skilled at bike-handling than almost any other woman in Britain. One day, she met a young man name Roland Atkins, a keen cyclist and sufficiently enlightened to realise Edith had potential as an athlete. He loaned her a proper racing bike and she discovered her love of competition; in the future, they would marry - though only after he admitted she was faster than him.

Atkins seems to have joined the Coventry Meteors club some time in the middle of the 1930s, then became part of the Coventry Road Club in 1938. Racing was limited by the Second World War and she didn't begin competing until 1946. Very soon, she found herself with a rival - Eileen Sheridan (hence Edith's skills being better that almost any other woman in Britain - Sheridan was a very, very good rider indeed). Sheridan was a professional rider for the same Hercules company that, nine years later, would later supply the bikes that Dave Bedwell and his team mates rode at the Tour de France.; Atkins, meanwhile, could not find a sponsor and even went so far as to remortgage her home so she could continue racing. Sheridan was sponsored to set records, so Atkins reasoned that the best way to attract a sponsor of her own was to break those records.

On the 25th of September 1952, she broke her first by riding from Land's End in Cornwall to London, a distance of 462km, in 17'13'31" - an average speed of almost 27kph. The next year, she broke the record times for Holyhead to London (425.3km, 13h31'57" = 31.4kph). Soon afterwards, she set out to beat the London-York record and did so (314km, 9h56'20" = 31.6kph) and then kept going. After 21h37' she reached Edinburgh, thus setting a new London-Edinburgh time. Still she kept going and, after having been riding for 24 hours, had covered 679km: her third record of the day. Since the previous women's distance record over 24 hours was 640km, she ended up setting four. After spending a few days in Scotland, she decided to have a go at the Edinburgh-Glasgow-Edinburgh record and beat that too, covering the 141.6km in 4h38'56". Two days later she rode between John O'Groats and Land's End (1,402km) and beat the previous record (set by a professional cyclist) by 4h48'.

Atkins continued setting records for many more years and became as acclaimed as one of the finest cyclists Britain has produced of either gender. She continued cycling for the rest of her life, still riding a minimum of 160km each week when she was 76 years old - the same year she entered 40 races. Three years later, on this day in 1999, she was hit by a car and killed as she wheeled her bike over the A45 road near Ryton-on-Dunsmore in Warwickshire.



Born in Wichita Falls, Texas on this day in 1978, Molly Cameron first came to prominence with victory at the 2004 Cross Crusade, a cyclo cross event for single-speed bikes; she has added consistently good results and a number of victories since. Cameron is a vegan and has written a series of articles advising other athletes who wish to adopt a vegan diet on how to do so safely and without experiencing negative effects on performance (and indeed, how a carefully tailored vegan diet can help some athletes improve their performance). She is also a regular and friendly Twitterer.

Pietro Caucchioli, who was born in Bovolone, Italy on this day in 1975, won Stages 8 and 17 before coming ninth overall at the 2001 Giro d'Italia, then third overall in 2002. In 2004 he was 11th at the Tour de France, then eighth at the Giro a year later. He took second place in the King of the Mountains at the 2006 Vuelta a Espana, but his results began to tail off in subsequent years - and, it seems, he started looking for chemical assistance to bring himself back up to scratch: in June 2010, he was given a two-year ban backdated to June 2009 when inconsistencies on his biological passport came to light. His ban has now expired, but there has been no indication that he plans to return to cycling.

Serge Parsani won Stage 20 at the Tour de France in 1979, though only after original winner Gerrie Knetemann was handed a 10" penalty for being towed into the sprint by a team car, and Stage 9 at the Giro d'Italia in 1981. Born in Gorcy, France on this day in 1952, he later became directeur sportif at the Katusha team.

Tony Marchant, born in Chelsea, Victoria on this day in 1937, is a retired Australian cyclist who found worldwide fame when he partnered with Ian "Joey" Browne to win gold in the 2,000m tandem race at the 1956 Olympics. He had enjoyed sports during his youth, but favoured boxing (and was highly successful at it), only taking up cycling when friends recommended he give it a go and enjoyed it sufficiently to save the money he earned from his job delivering flowers to buy a tourer fitted with drop-handlebars, apparently believing it to be a racing bike. Though it was heavier and equipped with much lower gears than a racer, his natural talent won him results worthy enough to bring him to the attention of the coach Merv Norton, who took him on and bought him a true racing bike. Two years later, he won the Juniors 500m time trial at the Victoria Championship, then the same event and the 5-mile at the Nationals. Browne noticed him early in 1956 and asked him to become his tandem partner, saying that it was the youngster's power and speed that caught his eye. They were a mismatched pair - Marchant stood 1.7m tall and weighed 65kg, Browne was 1.83m and more than 20kg heavier; yet after seeing them win the 2km tandem race at the 1956 National Track Championships, former winner Billy Guyatt approached them to ask if they needed a coach. They had, he said, potential, which came as a surprise to both riders as neither had expected to ever be anything other than a moderately successful amateur clubman. At the 1952 Olympics, they soon realised that the opposing teams had equipment much better and lighter than their own and began asking if anyone might be willing to sell them spare parts. According to legend, the German team sold them a pair of wheels and told them that they would now win the gold medal - and they did.

Rowland Greenberg, born in Oslo on this day in 1920, is chiefly remembered as Norway's greatest jazz musician- and rightly so, because he was enormously influential in the development of swing in Scandinavia and throughout Europe and because he refused to stop playing jazz when his country was occupied by the Nazis, who banned it as degenerate Negro music (and anything that annoys Nazis is worth doing). He spent three years in Grini concentration camp near Bærum when he was caught watching films about jazz in 1942. He survived the camp and, after the war, played with the biggest names in jazz including Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and even Miles Davis, eventually dying at the age of 73. Before the war, he was a successful cyclist, winning the Kilo on the track and the 20km road race at the 1937 Oslo Junior Championships and the 20km road race at the National Junior Championships a year later.

Ján Svorada
Ján Svorada, born in Trenčín on this day in 1968, won the Peace Race in 1990, Stages 9, 11 and 17 at the Giro d'Italia and Stage 7 at the Tour de France in 1994 and Stage 12 at the Giro in 1995. Trenčín is in Slovakia; Svorada was, therefore, assigned Slovakian nationality when Czechoslovakia broke up in 1993 despite having been raised in what later became known as the Czech Republic. In 1996, however, he applied for and was awarded Czech nationality, becoming National Road Race Champion later that year. He won Stages 11, 16 and 17 at the Vuelta a Espana in 1997, then the National Championship for a second time and Stage 2 at the Tour in 1998, Stage 3 at the Giro in 2000, Stage 20 at the Tour in 2001 and a third National Championship in 2005 before retiring in 2006.

Other cyclists born on this day: Jens Debusschere (Belgium, 1989); Jeff Pierce (USA, 1958); Franklin Molina (Venezuela, 1984); Pieter Mertens (Belgium, 1980); Rohan Dennis (Australia, 1990); Diana Rast (Switzerland, 1970); Robert Coull (Great Britain, 1966); Sławomir Barul (Poland, 1964); Nikola Nenov (Bulgaria, 1907); Norberto Arceo (Philippines, 1943); Lars Kristian Johnsen (Norway, 1970); Solrun Flatås (Norway, 1967); Donald Christian (Antigua and Barbuda, 1958, died 2011); Agustín Juárez (Mexico, 1943).

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