Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 29.08.12

Geneviève Jeanson
© James F. Perry
Geneviève Jeanson with André Aubut
Born in Lachine, Canada on this day in 1981, Geneviève Jeanson won the Junior World Road and Time Trial Championships in 1999 and went on to have one of the most controversial careers of any professional female cyclist.

In 2000, she faced allegations that she had asked for - and received - special treatment from the nation cycling federation in order to be able to take part in that year's Olympics, persuading them to give her a place if she could finish in the top eight of two out of five pre-decided races rather than, as was the case with other athletes, based on cumulative results gained during 1999 and up until the Games. However, since she had been a junior in 1999 and junior results didn't count, it's arguable if this could be termed unfair; she also exceeded the requirement by winning the Tour de Snowy and Waale Pijl, then coming second at the Elite national Time Trial Championship (beating all the Olympics hopefuls in the event). She got her place at the Games and came 11th in the road race and 15th in the time trial, but not without further controversy: during the road race, Canadian team mate Lyne Bessett escaped the peloton in a breakaway. Many people believed that, with permission from her coach André Aubut, Jeanson had assisted rival teams in chasing and catching the break; though she would later claim that she had moved to the front of the pack to try to hold back the chase group and only gone with them to try to bring them back when they gained a slight gap.

The following year she won Stages 1, 3, 4 and 6 at the Redlands Classic and Stages 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 at the Tour of the Gila, taking the General Classification at the former with an overall advantage of 9'23" and at the latter with 14'57" - huge and unexpected margins that immediately raised suspicions. At the Montreal round of the World Cup the same year, she lapped all but a few of the other riders; then in 2002 she won a second Tour of the Gila, this time with an advantage of 11'42". Few people expressed any sort of surprise in 2003 when, after winning Redlands by 12'52" and either winning or reaching the podium in 24 races, she failed a haematocrit reading, a red blood cell count used to detect possible EPO use or blood transfusion (tests for EPO and homologous transfusions - ie, those using blood from a donor - had been developed in 2000 but were not yet widely used away from the top levels of European men's cycling; other than checking for traces of plastic from the IV bags within which blood is stored, there is still no test for autologous transfusions which use the subject's own blood). However, a high haematocrit reading proved nothing; therefore all the UCI could do was ban any rider who failed one for two weeks "for health reasons." Jeanson claimed that she used an oxygen tent as part of her training and that this had caused her high red cell population; when she passed a count two weeks later she was free to continue racing.

Jeanson in 2002
She was caught by an out-of-competition test in 2005 at the Tour de Toona, later explaining to journalists that the ample she provided had been declared positive for EPO and insisting that she was innocent. She still denied that she had ever doped by January the following year, then announced her retirement. Later that year, in November, the UCI revealed news that she had decided to accept their back-dated two-year ban, then a little under a month later she told journalists that she did not plan to return to cycling when the ban expired in July the following year. Finally, in September 2007, she confessed; admitting to Radio Canada that she had been using EPO for most of her career but placed the blame squarely on André Aubut whom, she claimed, had suggested she start using the drug shortly after he first began coaching her when she was 15. "I hated everything. I hated myself for doing it. I hated myself not being able to get out of it," she said in an interview. "It was miserable. It was not Geneviève that lied, it was someone else I did not know. It was something I was told to do and yes, I do regret it."

Aubut and a doctor who had worked with her Rona team were subsequently banned from working with athletes for life, but there are still questions: when Jeanson failed the haematocrit test in 2003, she was reportedly tested for EPO and blood transfusions but no indication of either was detected. Had she temporarily stopped using the drug in favour of autologous transfusions? If not - and she certainly didn't say she'd stopped using it at that point - how many other riders might also have been using it and escaped detection?

Frank Hoste, who was born in Ghent on this day in 1955, won Gent-Wevelgem, the Belgian National Road Race Championship and Stage 8 at the Tour de France in 1982; Stage 16a at the Giro d'Italia and Stages 1, 2 and 8 at the Tour de Suisse in 1983; Stages 1, 6, 21 and the Points competition at the Tour in 1984; Stage 6 at the Giro in 1985 and Stage 15 at the Tour in 1986.

Andrey Amador
Andrey Amador, born in San José, Costa Rica on this day in 1986, won the prologue and came fifth overall the Tour de l'Avenir in 2008. Four years later, he won Stage 14 at the 2012 Giro d'Italia; leaving little doubt that at the age of 26 he is a rider to watch in the coming years.

Ole Ritter, born in Slagelse in Denmark on this day in 1941, set a new Hour Record of 48.653km at Mexico City in 1968. It was the first time the record had been broken at altitude since 1898 and it would stand for four years until Eddy Merckx bettered it by 778m in 1972. Ritter rode the Giro d'Italia in 1967 and beat Merckx, Rudi Altig and Jacques "Monsieur Chrono" Anquetil in the Stage 11 individual time trial; he also won Stage 5 in 1969 and Stage 2 in 1973. He is the subject of two films, both made in 1974. The first, The Stars and the Water Carriers, follows the 1973 Giro d'Italia and also heavily features José Manuel Fuente and Merckx; the second, The Impossible Hour, follows on from The Stars and tells the story of his Hour Record attempt, taking him back to Mexico City where he managed to beat his 1968 record twice in a week (but not Merckx's record - the Belgian shows up a lot in this one too).

Valentin Uriona, born in Muxica in Spain on this day in 1940, won Stage 2 at the Milk Race (Tour of Britain) in 1961, Stage 9 at the same event a year later, Stage 7 at the Vuelta a Espana in 1963, overall at the 1964 Critérium du Dauphiné and Stage 4 at the Vuelta in 1966. He was killed in a crash at the National Championships the following year

Stijn Devolder at the 2012 Omloop Het
Stijn Devolder, who was born Kortrijk on this day in 1979, is a Belgian cyclist who has enjoyed much success in one-day events, including his victories in the National Road Race Championship of 2007, the National Time Trial Championship of 2008 and both events in 2010 as well as at the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2008 and 2009. A good climber and a great time trial rider, he has also gained impressive results in the shorter stage races, winning the Österreich-Rundfahrt in 2007, the Volta ao Algarve in 2008 and the Tour of Belgium in 2008 and 2010. Somewhat surprisingly, this ability has not translated into Grand Tour success and he hasn't won a stage either the Tour de France nor the Vuelta a Espana, the two that he has entered, though he was 11th overall at the Vuelta in 2006.

Henk Faanhof, born in Amsterdam on this day in 1922, was disqualified from the 1947 National Championships after officials saw him swap bikes with a team mate - a new UCI rule, unbeknownst to either rider, had recently banned bike exchanges during races. Two years later, Faanhof became Amateur Road Race Champion and the year after that he won two stages at the Ronde van Nederland; then in 1954 he won Stage 9 at the Tour de France.

Les Triplettes de Belleville
On this day in 2003, Les Triplettes de Belleville was released in the UK. A 78-minute animated film, it tells the story of Champion Souza (who looks like many great cyclists, but especially like Tom Simpson) who is kidnapped along with two of his rivals during the Tour de France by mysterious gangsters, who wish to use them to power a cinema. Souza's grandmother, accompanied by her dog Bruno, go in search of him and end up in Belleville, where they befriend and are assisted by Les Triplettes, an aging jazz group.

Many have tried to work out which Tour Les Triplettes is set within; the truth is that is is an amalgamation of several, allowing writer/director Sylvain Chomet to employ various devices and bits and pieces of Tour history wherever he wishes. However, in the film one stage finishes in Marseilles and the leader of the Tour is clearly based on Jacques Anquetil; Stage 12 in 1957 was the only stage in any of the Tours ridden by Anquetil to finish in the city.

Other cyclists born on this day: Jhon González (Colombia, 1971); Veaceslav Oriol (Moldova, 1968); Hector Zamarron (Mexico, 1980); Giuseppe Faraca (Italy, 1959); Hernán Medina Calderón (Colombia, 1937); Gil Suray (Belgium, 1984); Xaver Kurmann (Switzerland, 1948); Denis Špička (Czechoslovakia, 1988); Alessandra Grassi (Mexico, 1976); Michael Belcourt (Canada, 1964); Georgios Portelanos (Greece, 1966); Fausto Lurati (Switzerland, 1929); Carlos Torrent (Spain, 1974); Walter Gorini (Italy, 1944).

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