Sunday, 2 September 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 02.09.12

Rachel Dard and Bernard Bourreau
Rachel Dard
Rachel Dard and Bernard Bourreau were both born in France on this day in 1951 and both became professional riders with Peugeot, Dard signing up in 1975 and Bourreau in 1973. Both won a stage at the L'Étoile des Espoirs in 1976 and both were called to provide a sample on the day that Dard won. They were both discovered to be using a system that allowed them to fill the sample bottle via pipe connected to a condom filled with somebody else's drug-free urine hidden in their shorts.

Dard went back to his hotel room then, having thought things over and realised he was probably going to be blocked from racing, possibly for the remainder of the season, went back to find the doctor, Bruno Chaumont, and begged not to be exposed. It seems remarkable nowadays that Chaumont agreed, but he did - and burned the report sheets he'd filled in. Dard went away happy. However, to satisfy riders' concerns that the bottles into which they urinate might be tampered with prior to a test so as to give a false sample, a rider was permitted to select two at random and the label bearing the date, tracking code etc. would then be attached in his presence. This had been done according to regulations - which meant that records would show he'd been to the anti-doping control but hadn't provided a sample, which was going to raise even more questions. He went first to Bourreau to inform him that they could avoid a positive test but Bourreau - who was apparently aware that by trying to cover up a positive test he'd be creating a far more difficult situation than he was already in - didn't want anything to do with it and was willing to accept whatever fate had in store for him; Dard then went alone in search of Dr. Chaumont to get the two bottles.

Chaumont had already left the race and was on his way back to the test laboratory in Paris, presumably taking the two empty bottles with him, so Dard persuaded another team mate named Bernard Croyet to drive him (in Dard's car) to the local station - but they arrived just as the non-stop train to Paris was leaving. Now frantic, Dard persuaded Croyet to drive him all the way to Austerlitz Station in the capital, where they met Chaumont as he got off the train at 06:30. Dard begged, in floods of tears, not to be exposed; Chaumont - at first reluctant, which rather suggests that he'd either thought better of his apparent willingness to assist a cheat earlier, or had perhaps planned to expose him all along - eventually took pity and smashed the two bottles to pieces.

Precisely what happened next remains a mystery. L'Equipe ran a story on the subject of doping some months later and Chaumont revealed all while being interviewed for it; but he insisted that he was not the one that first revealed the story. Dard, meanwhile, flatly denied that any of the events in the story had ever happened at all: "Everything is false, from beginning to end. There never were any empty bottles. I never had a morning meeting at Austerlitz station. My car is a 504 diesel and I'd never have been able to drive from Dax to Paris at the speed of a train." However, he admitted - to L'Equipe - that he had in fact doped at L'Étoile des Espoirs and even provided a prescription signed by the Peugeot team doctor, François Bellocq (he of the notorious "hormonal rebalancing"), to prove it. Still Chaumont was adamant that he had not exposed the rider. "I would never have dropped him," he said. "I would have defended him. I don't want the death of a sinner. I came into cycling to try to overcome the wall that exists between the cyclist and the doctor. I'm not there to do the dirty on anyone."

The most likely explanation regarding who revealed the story is that Borreau and/or Croyet, who so far as we know were the only people other than Dard and Chaumont to know what was going on at the time, had told somebody else and the story was doing the rounds as a peloton rumour. Had it have then got back to Chaumont, he might have assumed it was common knowledge rather than subject to the Omerta and blurted it out to journalists. It was most certainly in his best interests for the story to be kept quiet - as a doctor, he would be expected to maintain a high level of professionalism at all times; while Dard might have been banned from racing for a while (probably no more than six months maximum, as tended to be the way in those times) and lost his salary for that period, Chaumont could very easily have been banned from practicing as a doctor in the future and might even have been imprisoned This does not, however, enlighten us any further as to whether or not the events after the race ever actually happened or not, and there's one thing that seems in little doubt: Dard's statement that a diesel-engined mid-1970s Peugeot 504 could not possibly have beaten a French train cross-country..

In the end, Chaumont was disciplined but not banned. Bellocq was barred from working with the National Federation but not from trade teams; he was still working with GAN - the team that grew out of Peugeot and later became Crédit Agricole - in 1993, the year that he died, aged 47, of a heart attack. Peugeot team manager Maurice de Muer was angry with Dard, but for exposing the doctor rather than for doping; he knew, however, that throwing him out of the team for that reason alone would cause an outcry. He couldn't sack the rider for being a doper either, because he himself was almost certainly heavily involved in doping: according to Dr. Jean-Pierre de Mondenard, author of Le Dossier Noir de Dopage, no fewer than 36% of de Muer's riders were involved in doping cases between 1970 and 1978 - which looks far more like an organised doping program that riders acting independently. Instead, he told Dard that he would never ride anything other than the very least-prestigious races in future. When his contract expired at the end of 1977, Dard rode for six months with Jobo-Spidel, then retired in June the following year to open a bike shop in Paris.

We'll probably never know the truth.

Keith Butler
Born in London in this day in 1938, Keith Butler - the son of Stanley Meredith Butler, who rode for Great Britain at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles - was a successful amateur during the early 1960s, winning three stages at the Milk Race (Tour of Britain) and a National Amateur Road Race Champion title between 1961 and 1963. He then went to Belgium and was amazed at the sheer size of the racing scene and its popularity: "There'd be so many races that you'd cross one going the other way," he said.

Butler turned semi-professional with the French Bertin-Porter 39-Milremo team and won the Elite National Championhips in 1964, then came third the following year before returning to Belgium and taking out a full professional licence; after spending a very short time with St-Raphaël (the team of Jacques Anquetil), he joined the German Ruberg-Caltex. Later that year, whilst riding on the British national team in support of Tom Simpson at the World Championships in Spain, he met Anquetil once again and tried to follow as he went after Simpson during the race. "It was like riding behind a bloody motorbike!" he later remembered. The great French rider, the first man to win five Tours de France, would become a part of Butler's life again two years later when he returned to Britain and rode for Trumann's Steel on bikes produced by Anquetil's company.

Butler retired in 1968, having spent his final season with another British team, Allinson. Now aged 74, he is still involved with the Surrey League, a group he formed in 1974, which puts on almost 200 races each year.

Kirkpatrick Macmillan
Born in Keir, Dumfries and Galloway on this day in 1812, Kirkpatrick Macmillan was "proved" in the 1890s to have been the inventor of the first pedal-driven-rear-wheel bicycle. Unfortunately, the researcher who proved it was James Johnstone, a relative who had set out to prove that the bicycle was invented in his home county and seems not to have bothered himself too much with unnecessary things like evidence while doing so: among other "proofs," he offered a report published in 1842 about a "gentleman from Dumfries-shire... bestride a velocipede... of ingenious design" who had knocked over a pedestrian but gave no details as to the gentleman's actual identity.

Johnstone later produced a bike which, he said, had been produced to a design made by Macmillan; despite the fact that a Victorian newspaper would never have referred to a humble blacksmith like Macmillan as a "gentleman," this was apparently proof enough for most people, so nobody ever bothered to ask for more details on the original design that Johnstone said he'd found (but never published). In time, the story was sufficiently widely as to become widely accepted as fact - nobody even thought to verify it until well into the 20th Century. When the did so, no reliable documentary evidence could be found whatsoever; whereas orders placed with factories from the late 1860s seem to show that the only bikes available pedal drive to the rear wheel in that period were three- or four-wheeled machines.

Tom Steels
Tom Steels
Tom Steels, born in Sint-Gillis-Waas, Belgium on this day in 1971, had a very successful career as a novice, junior and amateur - including including gold medals for 1km, Omnium and Sprint at the 1989 Junior National Track Championships, another gold at the Junior Road Race Championships and a silver for the kilo at the World Junior Championships all in 1989 - before turning professional with Vlaanderen 2002-Eddy Merckx in 1994. He won Stage 10 at the Tour de l'Avenir that year, then came second at the National Road Race Championships the next; then in 1996, riding for Mapei, he won Gent-Wevelgem, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Stages 4 and 22 and third place in the Points competition at the Vuelta a Espana.

In 1995, having won Stages 2, 3, 5 and 8a at Paris-Nice and taken the gold at National Road Race Championships, he rode his first Tour de France and came second on Stage 1 - however, during the sprint finish of Stage 6, he became frustrated when other riders boxed him in and angrily threw his bidon at the French rider Frederic Moncassin, and was ejected from the race as a result (the stage was filled with controversy: Djamolidine Abdoujaparov was also thrown out of the race after the stage when it was revealed that a sample he provided in the wake of Stage 2 had tested positive for Clenbuterol and another drug and Erik Zabel was relegated from first to last place for dangerous tactics, the stage win being eventually awarded to Jerome Blijlevens, who is now the directeur sportif of Rabobank's women's team).

Steels won the Dwars door Vlaanderen, Stages 3 and 4 and Paris-Nice and his second Elite National Road Race Championship, then went back to the Tour and won Stages 1, 12, 18 and 21, coming third overall in the Points competition in 1998; then in 1999 he won another Gent-Wevelgem, came third at Paris-Roubaix and finished Stages 2, 3 and 17 in first place at the Tour. In 2000 he won Stage 8 at Paris-Nice and Stages 2 and 3 at the Tour - he would not finish that year nor the following two, but in 2002 he won another National Championship before switching from Mapei to Landbouwkrediet-Colnago for 2003. He remained there for two seasons, winning the National Championship for a fourth time, then moved to Davitamon-Lotto in 2005. That year he rode the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana but won no stages in either - in fact, his Stage 3 victory at the Driedaagse van De Panne early in the year would be his last professional victory.

Steels stayed with Davitamon until the end of 2007, by which time it had become Predictor-Lotto, then he went back to Landbouwkrediet (now Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner) for seven months in 2008 before announcing his retirement on the 4th of July. He is now a team director at Omega Pharma-QuickStep.

Born in Arradin, Brittany on this day in 1930, François Mahé wore the maillot jaune for the one and only time in his career for one day in the 1953 Tour de France and finished in tenth place overall. The following year he won Stage 21a, then in 1955 he was tenth overall again with no stage wins, in 1959 fifth overall, again without winning a stage, and in 1961 he won Stages 2 and 14 at the Vuelta a Espana, coming second overall. He also came second in the the 1952 GP de Ouest-France, the 1954 Ronde van Vlaanderen and the 1960 Paris-Nice.

Other cyclists born on this day: Gonzalo Garrido (Chile, 1973); Curt Söderlund (Sweden, 1945); Robert Whetters (Australia, 1939); Jürgen Colombo (West Germany, 1949); Karl Schmaderer (Austria, 1914); Kim Jin-Yeong (South Korea, 1970); Nick Ingels (Belgium, 1984); Bart Dockx (Belgium, 1981); André Auffray (France, 1884); Miguel Ubeto (Venezuela, 1976); Jupp Ripfel (Sweden, 1938); Türel Wanzenried (Switzerland, 1906, died 1993); Graham Seers (Australia, 1958); Francisco Tortellá (Spain, 1937); Paul Henrichsen (Norway, 1893, died 1962); Walter Garre (Uruguay, 1945); Sara Neil (Born Great Britain, competed for Canada, 1960).

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