Monday, 8 October 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 08.10.12

Annemiek van Vleuten
Annemiek van Vleuten
Born in Vleuten, Netherlands on this day in 1982, Annemiek van Vleuten played football as a teenager and, despite having cycling ancestors on her mother's side of the family, had no interest in cycling until knee injury in 2005 when doctors advised it as an ideal sport to maintain fitness during recovery. Very rapidly, she became good at it and it wasn't long before somebody told her that she'd probably do well in a race. She gave it a go and did; so in 2007 she took our her first racing licence and began to train seriously with the WV Ede cycling club. Later that year she was invited to ride at the Holland Ladies' Tour, then won the National Students Championships.

In 2008, van Vleuten signed to the Vrienden van het Platteland team where she rode alongside Martine Bras, Liesbet de Vocht, Willy Kanis, Roxane Knetemann and Ellen van Dijk and came second in the individual time trial and third in the road race at the World Universities Championships; in 2009, when the team merged with DSB Bank to become DSB Bank-Nederland Bloeit, they were joined by 22-year-old Marianne Vos and van Vleuten won her first professional race, a criterium at Rijssen. The following year was her real breakthrough - she won Stage 2 at the Gracia Orlova and was second overall behind Vos then Stage 4 at the Emakumeen Bira, where she was again second overall, and Stage 1 plus the General Classification at the Route de France. 2011 was better - she won the Ronde van Vlaanderen, one of the most prestigious victories in cycling, and added excellent results in numerous races before winning the GP Ouest-France and the World Cup; but 2012 was equally as good with victory at the National Road Race Championship, second place at the GP Elsy Jacobs, victory at the Holland Hills and the Dorpenomloop Wijk en Aalburg and stage wins at the Emakumeen Bira and Giro della Toscana.

Sanne Cant
Born in Antwerpen, Belgium on this day in 1990, Sanne Cant is a cyclo cross rider who became Junior National Champion in 2006, successfully defended the title in 2007 and 2008; then became Elite National Champion in 2010 and successfully defended that title in 2011 and 2012. In 2012 she was also third at the World Cyclo Cross Championships, losing out to Marianne Vos and Daphny van den Brand, and came second at the National Mountain Bike Cross Country Championships.

Cant says that she wants to become World Champion; as she is still only 22 years old, it seems likely that she will realise her ambition sooner or later.

Philippe Thys
Born in Anderlecht on this day in 1889, Philippe Thys became Belgium's first ever National Cyclo Cross Champion in 1910 and then won the Independents competition (for riders with limited sponsorship - or sometimes paying their own way - but not members of teams) at the Tour de France. The following year he signed to Peugeot-Wolber to be able to ride the Tour as a professional and came sixth; in 1913 (the first time the Tour ran anti-clockwise around France and the first time an African rider took part - the Tunisian Ali Neffati) he was given a ten minute penalty after getting a bike shop to repair his broken fork but took the lead when Eugène Christophe broke his own fork and was given a penalty when judges learned he'd also received help - a seven-year-old boy named Corni had worked the bellows in the forge for him as he fixed the forks himself. Thys lost the lead again later in the race, but then Christophe's forks broke for a second time and Thys went on to win overall.

Philippe Thys
In 1914, he won again; this time, however, he dominated the race from Stage 5 - he only won the first, but finishing in the top five on every subsequent stage meant that nobody could even get close to him for the overall lead even though he received a 30-minute penalty after breaking a wheel and buying a replacement in a shop (Neffati raced again but was hit by a car during Stage 6 and abandoned). It would be the last Tour before the First World War; when the race next took place in 1919, many of the star riders from before the War had been killed.

Belgium was rapidly conquered by Germany at the start of the war and Thys, as a citizen of an occupied nation, did not fight. Some races continued; Thys won Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia in 1917 then Paris-Tours again in 1918, but apparently hadn't had much opportunity to ride his bike after that and, when he showed up at the Tour in 1919, fans wondered if he'd spent the last year eating instead - he was overweight and in poor physical condition: "You have become un petit bourgeois who has lost his love for his bike and wasted a huge talent," race director Henri Desgrange told him. After getting left behind in the first stage, he gave up and went home.

Insults in the newspapers stung him into training hard throughout the 1919 winter and, in 1920, the Thys who began the Tour was perhaps even fitter than the one who had won before the war. The race that year was declared by fans to be boring with the riders taking it easy in unusually hot weather, but Thys shone - he was a part of every breakaway, won four stages and once again finished in the top five on every stage, thus becoming the first man in history to win the Tour three times (no other rider would win more until Jacques Anquetil won a fourth in 1963). "France is not unaware that, without the war, the crack rider from Anderlecht would be celebrating not his third Tour, but his fifth or sixth," Desgrange wrote.

Thys in the 1914 Tour de France
Thys may also have been the first man to wear the maillot jaune. Officially, it was first awarded to Christophe during the 1919 Tour when Desgrange came to him one morning and asked him to wear it, saying it would make it easier for fans and photographers to spot him. Christophe hated it on sight but agreed to wear it, though he had to be persuaded to put it on again for Stage 12 because some spectators had called him a canary (which ranks quite low on any list of "most hurtful insults ever hurled at the peloton"). However, many years later Thys told Champions et Vedettes magazine that he'd been offered (and had refused) a yellow jersey in 1913. His honesty and good character are in no doubt, but there is no documentary evidence to support his claim whatsoever and, since he was 67 when he said it, it's generally assumed that his mind was playing tricks on him. This leads to two obvious possibilities: the first is that the jersey didn't exist until 1919 and Thys was actually remembering an incident from 1920; the second is that in 1919 Desgrange remembered it and the effect it either did have or he perceived it to have had when he first awarded it in 1913, then reintroduced it in an attempt to increase competition - by this point in 1919, only eleven riders remained in the race and, while he once claimed that in the ideal Tour only one rider would finish, he was well aware that fewer riders meant less interest (this seems to be what happened in 1920, too, when the race progressed slowly and it wasn't awarded until Stage 9). It's possible, therefore, that Thys was right - and that the maillot jaune, the greatest prize in cycling, began as nothing but a cheap gimmick intended to create a bit of excitement when the Tour became boring.

Anne-Caroline Chausson
Born in Dijon in 1977, Anne-Caroline Chausson had already enjoyed an impressive career as a BMX rider by 1993 when she turned to mountain biking. However, it was in mountain biking that she became world famous - she has been called the most successful downhill racer of all time and her decade-long battle for supremacy with the American star Missy Giove is often said to have been the sport's golden age.

Chausson was immediately highly successful in downhill racing, winning the  Junior World Championship in 1993, 1994 and 1995. Her first major victory at Elite level came in 1996 when she won the National Championship, beating Carole Grange who had been third at the European Championships the previous year; a short while later, she beat Leigh Donovan and Giove at the World Championship in Cairns, Australia and then successfully defended the World Champion title for the next seven years, retaining it until 2004 when it passed to Vanessa Quin - Chausson won it back for a ninth and final time in 2005. In 1998, she took the World Cup from Giove, then won it again in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.

From 2000, many downhill riders began to compete in dual slalom events, pitting themselves against another rider on an identical, designed course. Chausson dominated in the early years, winning the World Championship and World Cup in 2000 and a second World Championship a year later. The fast and furious nature of dual slalom gave rise to four-cross, in which four riders compete on one course with plenty of elbowing thrown in for good measure; this rapidly became even more popular than dual slalom and replaced it at the World Championships- which Chausson won in 2002 and 2003, also winning the World Cup in 2002.

Following fifteen years at the very pinnacle of downhill racing, Chausson made a return to BMX in 2007 with a view to representing France in 2008 when the sport made its debut at the Olympics. She qualified, then beat her team mate Laëtitia Le Corguillé and the American Jill Kintner into second and third place respectively; thus becoming the first person to have ever won a gold medal for BMX at the Games (later that same year, she won the silver medal at the BMX World Championships). She qualified again for the 2012 Games but lost time after the British rider Shanaze Reade touched wheels with her on the final berm; neither woman finished in the top three.

Dede Barry
Deirdre "Dede" Demet Barry, born in Milwaukee in this day in 1972, began her sporting career in skating, as have many other cyclists - originally, she was a figure skater but found the sport boring, spending most of her time on the rink challenging others to races. Her coach suggested she might therefore find speed skating more to her liking and made it onto the national team in 1987, then competed at the World Championships between 1988 and 1991.

Like so many other great cyclists, Barry began cycling solely to maintain fitness while not skating but after watching the International Cycling Classic criterium series she decided to concentrate solely on cycling and, in 1989, became Junior World Road Race Champion, National Road Race Champion and National Individual Time Trial Champion. After riding with the victorious time trial teams at the Nationals and PanAmerican Games in 1991, she took a second National ITT title in 1993, then won three stages and came third overall at the Women's Challenge in 1994. In 1995 she won the Women's Challenge and the PanAmerican Games ITT, in 1996 she was again National Road Race Champion and won the Mountains competition at the Redlands Classic, also coming second overall, and in 1997 she won the General Classification and the Points competition at the Grand Prix Féminin du Canada. The following year she was National Criterium Champion and in 1999 she won the Tour of Houston, but 2000 passed without victory and she took a year out of the sport in 2001 before returning to win the Coupe du Monde Cycliste Féminine de Montréal in 2002 aboard a steel bike built for her by her father-in-law. She was second overall and won a stage at the Giro della Toscana in 2003, then went to the Olympics in 2004 and won silver in the time trial before taking two stages at the Tour de l'Aude later in the season, her last before retirement.

Trent Lowe
Born in Melbourne, Australia on this day in 1984, Trent Lowe was National Mountain Bike Cross Country Champion in the Under-17 class in 2000, then in the Under-19 class in 2001 and 2002 and in the Under-23 class in 2003 and 2004; he was also Junior World Cross Country Champion in 2002. From 2005 he has competed in road racing and earned a contract with Discovery for the following season; in 2005 he took second place at the Redlands Classic and won the Youth category at the Tour of Georgia. He won the Under-23 category at the Herald Sun Tour in 2006 and 2007, then a second Youth category at the Tour of Georgia in 2008, where he was also second overall. In 2008, he rode the Tour de France, finishing in 77th place.

Lowe suffered a series of injuries and illnesses through 2009 and 2010, going without victory, but looked set for a comeback after signing to the new Australian Pegasus team for 2011. However, the team did not receive the ProTour licence it had expected and he has not been able to make a return since; his efforts have, perhaps, been hampered by an incident in 2010/2011, when Lowe threatened to publish information relating to Garmin-Slipstream doctor Luis Garcia del Moral (since banned from working with athletes for life as part of USADA's investigations into doping at US Postal, which has also seen Lance Armstrong stripped of his seven Tour de France victories) unless the team paid him €500,000.

Giuseppe Beghetto, born in Tombolo, Italy on this day in 1939, was Amateur National 1km Champion in 1958 and won a gold medal riding with Sergio Bianchetto in the tandem race at the 1960 Olympics. The following year he won the Sprint and the Tandem (again with Bianchetto) at the Amateur Nationals, then the 1km and Tandem in 1962, also coming second in the Sprint at the Amateur World Championships. In 1965 he became Elite World Sprint Champion, then successfully defended the title in 1966 and won it back in 1968 (when he also won the same race at the Nationals). He was National Sprint Champion again in 1969 and won two stages at the Giro di Sardegna, inspiring a move into road cycling that saw him compete in the Tour de France the following year - he finished two stages in tenth place before abandoning, then won a stage at Tirreno-Adriatico in 1971 before retiring in 1973.

Waclaw Starzynski, born on this day in 1910, was National Cyclo Cross Champion of Poland in 1936. He also took part on the notorious Berlin Olympics that year and came 16th in the road race; two years later he rode at the World Championships in Valkenburg but failed to finish.

Jørgen Pedersen, who was born in Copenhagen on this day in 1959, became Amateur National Road Race Champion in 1981 and won Stage 10 at the Tour de France in 1985, then wore the maillot jaune for five days in 1986. In 2007 he became a directeur sportif for Team CSC, but is no longer employed by the team.

Other cyclists born on this day: Lu Yu'e (China, 1960); Bruce Keech (Australia, 1966); Thomas Nyemeg (Cameroon, 1957); Wanderley Magalhães (Brazil, 1966, died 2006); Manuel De Vecchi (Italy, 1980); Jørgen Pedersen (Denmark, 1959); Ignace Mandjambi (Congo, 1940); Hiroko Nambu (Japan, 1968); Witold Plutecki (Poland, 1956); Lada Kozlíková (Czechoslovakia, 1979); José Robles (Colombia, 1964); Miguel Chacón (Venezuela, 1983 (The Netherlands).

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