Wednesday 12 September 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 12.09.12

Dan Albone
Albone aboard an Ivel racing bike
Born in Biggleswade, Great Britain on this day in 1860, Dan Albone spent his childhood living with his parents at the Ongley Arms Inn where, when he was nine years old, he was given a boneshaker bicycle - which was the very cutting edge of bike technology at that time and must have been a considerable financial outlay for whoever it was that bought it for him (presumably his parents), suggesting that he must already have earned a reputation for be gifted with mechanical objects. Four years later, having come up with a series of improvements, he designed and built a bike fitted with suspension and began winning races on it.

You can't buy an Ivel for £16 now
Albone took an apprenticeship at a local engineering firm when he left school; then when he was 20 started a company of his own, Ivel Cycle Works, based at the same premises as his parents' inn, where he created the Ivel Light Roadster, a racer and a tricycle, all of which were in high demand among the cyclists of the day. He built bikes for himself as well as for other riders and they were put to good use - having been one of the founding members of the legendary North Road Cycling Club in 1885, he began racing more seriously and won two events that year, then around 180 over the course of his career. That same year, John Kemp Starley revealed the famous Rover Safety Bicycle, the ancestor of all modern bikes, to the public; Albone was there to see it unveiled. He then produced his own improved version, considered by some to be a far superior machine to the Rover - among its fans was George Pilkington Mills, winner of the first Bordeaux-Paris race and the pre-eminent British cyclist of his generation, who used on to set a new 24-Hour World Record at 474km in 1886. He also developed the first safety tandem and a bike child seat and introduced the first frame with pump mounts; however, when a recession in the early 1890s badly hit cycling manufacture, the company went into voluntary liquidation.

Albone's genius was too great to be limited to one form of transport alone. Before Ivel closed, he used his knowledge of bike wheels to invent a new type of wheel for pony-pulled traps (a light, two-wheeled wagon). Previously, they had been fitted with heavy wooden wheels similar to those used on farm carts, Albone developed a type similar to bike wheels with metal spokes and rims, ball-bearing hubs and pneumatic tyres. He then redesigned the trap too, making it far lighter, faster and more comfortable, and they sold in large numbers. Towards the end of the century he began producing a car fitted with a 3hp Benz engine, then a motorbike.

Albone towards the end of his life
Ivel bikes are exceedingly rare today, the majority of them - in common with most bikes from the period - having either been melted down for the war effort or simply rusting away. Albone is better known, therefore, for his tractors - or agricultural motors as they then known, the term tractor not becoming common until years later. Such machines had existed for more than a half a century by 1900, but they were enormously heavy steam-powered traction engines that would sink into soft ground if used to pull a plough (instead, they used a belt to pull a plough back and forth across a field while parked up at the side); also enormously expensive, many farmers continued to use heavy horses as their ancestors had done since medieval times. Internal combustion engines were also used on farms but, due to their unreliability and low power, only to power stationary equipment; so Albone designed  a much lighter vehicle and powered it with an engine made by Payne & Co. of Coventry. He filed the patent in 1902, then set up a new company named Ivel Agricultural Motors and displayed his machine at the Royal Agricultural Show the following year - it won a silver medal that year, then again in 1904.

Albone married Elizabeth Moulden in 1887. Two years later they had their first child, a boy named Stanley, then eleven years after Stanley's birth their daughter Alwyne Patricia was born. Albone died on the 30th of October 1906, from a stroke while at work, and is buried in Biggleswade Cemetery. The Ivel Agricultural Motor was revolutionary at the time of its release, and more than a century later still looks similar to a modern tractor overall (despite having three wheels), but following Albone's death it suffered from a lack of development and the company slipped into decline. It vanished forever after being bought by receivers in 1920.

Charles Laeser
Charles Laeser, who was born in Geneva on this day in 1879, won the National Track Stayers Championhip and turned professional in 1903. 1903 was also the year of the inaugural Tour de France; Laeser took part riding for La Française, one of the few foreigners among the 60 cyclists gathered gathered at the Café au Reveil Matin in Montgeron near Paris on the 1st of July to begin the race.

He did not finish Stage 3; however, in the early Tours a rider who abandoned was allowed to rejoin the race and continue competing for stage wins, though not for the overall General Classification, so four days later he started Stage 4 - that year's shortest stage at a mere 268km. Hippolyte Aucouturier looked the likely winner when he was spotted near the finish line and far ahead of the rest, but he was then also spotted drafting behind a car and the judges disqualified him. Laeser, meanwhile, was miles down the road and still trying to catch a group of six riders leading the race, as he had been for most of the stage. He could not, and they finished a full fifty minutes ahead of them' However, the riders did not set off all at the same time - Laeser had started an hour ahead of anyone in the lead group: thus he became the first foreigner to ever win a stage at the Tour de France.

Oscar Camenzind, born in Schwyz on this day in 1971, won the Swiss Road Race Championship and was second at the Tour de Suisse in 1997, then won the World Road Race Championship and the Giro di Lombardia as well as fourth place at the Giro d'Italia in 1998. In 2000, he won the Tour de Suisse outright and a year after that he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In 2004 he was third at the National Championships, but later that year he tested positive for EPO. He made a full confession before being taken to court in an effort to force him to reveal who had supplied the drug to him; he refused, saying that he was afraid of reprisals.

Bryce Lindores was born in Australia on this day in 1986 and lost his sight a week before his eighteenth birthday in an accident caused when a rope between his truck and a car he was towing snapped. Two years later, he began tandem cycling; after only six months he won the bronze medal at the IPC World Championships, then two years after that another bronze at the 2008 Olympic Games. Lindores was selected to represent his country at the 2012 Games, but could not compete after his sighted pilot Mark Jamieson was refused an entry visa to the United Kingdom on account of a criminal record for sexual offences.

Dag Otto Lauritzen, born in Grimstad on this day in 1956, won the Norwegian Road Race Championship in 1984, Stage 14 at the Tour de France in 1987 (his only Tour success in seven attempts) and was third at the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 1989.

Kevin Seeldreayers, boen in Boom, Belgium on this day in 1986, won the Youth category at Paris-Nice in 2009. A professional since 2007, he remained with Quickstep until 2011 when he moved to Astana.

Other cyclists born on this day: Zeng Bo (China, 1965); Mauro Trentini (Italy, 1970); Arvis Piziks (Latvia, 1969); Rafał Majka (Poland, 1989); Maciej Paterski (Poland, 1986); Hylton Mitchell (Trinidad and Tobago, 1926); Albert Wyckmans (Belgium, 1897, died 1995); Adolfo Alperi (Spain, 1970); Olle Wänlund (Sweden, 1923, died 2009); Omar Ochoa (Guatemala, 1971); Ignacio Astigarraga (Euskadi, 1936).

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