Tuesday 23 October 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 23.10.12

Charles Crupelandt
Charles Crupelandt
There are a plethora of sad stories in cycling: riders whose dreams were smashed, riders whose bodies were smashed, riders who lost everything due to drugs, drink, gambling and bad business decisions and, of course, many who lost their lives while serving their countries during the two conflicts that brought European racing to a halt in the 20th Century. Other than those riders who died early in their careers, before they had chance to reach their full potential, the saddest of them all is surely Charles Crupelandt, a French rider born in Wattrelos on this day in 1886. He first raced as a professional with the French Radiator team in 1904, then spent a year as an Independent before signing to La Française for 1906 and riding in the Tour de France (he abandoned in Stage 2); the team didn't keep him on at the end of the year and so in 1907 he was back among the Independents - that year he again abandoned the Tour, this time in Stage 3, but began performing rather well elsewhere with two victories at Belgian criteriums and second place at Paris-Brussels. Two slow years followed, then in 1910 he was taken on by Le Globe-Dunlop and Stage 1 at the Tour de France in 1910, leading the race for a day before finishing in sixth place overall. In 1911 he returned to La Française, now named La Française-Diamant, and won Stages 4 and 7 at the Tour, finishing in fourth place overall; in 1912 he won Paris-Roubaix, then Stage 1 at the Tour again. The year after that he was third at Paris-Roubaix and the National Road Race Championships and won Paris-Tours; in 1914 he was third at Milan-San Remo, became National Champion and won what would be the last edition of Paris-Roubaix until after the First World War.

Crupelandt in 1912
Crupelandt fought during the war and became a hero, winning the Croix de guerre medal. However, at some point, be found himself in trouble with the law - there is a lack of clarity concerning the year this happened, with various sources claiming 1914, 1917 and 1921/2; whichever it was, he was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison and the Union Vélocipédique handed him a lifetime ban from competition, almost certainly after being pressured into doing so by Crupelandt's rivals. Once freed he was able to continue racing under the aegis of another organisation and won the unofficial National Championships in 1922 and 1923, but it spelled the end of a career that Henri Desgrange once predicted would lead to victory in the Tour de France. As the Vélocipédique gained greater control over the sport in France, Crupelandt's opportunies to race became fewer and fewer and he was unable to earn his living: by the time he died in great poverty on the 18th of February in 1955, he had lost both his legs and his sight.

To mark Paris-Roubaix's centenary in 1996, the commune of Roubaix laid a 300m stretch of cobbles along the centre of the Avenue Alfred Motte on the final approach to the velodrome that hosts the finish line. Set among the cobbles are inscribed stones commemorating all of the riders to have won what has become known as the hardest race in cycling, which has caused it to become popularly known as Chemin des Géants, Road of Giants; its official name is Espace Charles Crupelandt.

Chris Horner
Chris Horner
Born in Bend, Oregon on this day in 1971, Chris Horner turned professional with the American Nutrafig team in 1995 and won three races, then stayed with them the following year to win ten times and come second at the Redlands Classic and third at Fitchburg Longsjo. Those results were good enough for him to go to Europe and join Française des Jeux but, as is often the case when a rider unaccustomed to the level of competition in European racing makes the move, the next three years were a disappointment with third place at the 1997 GP Ouest France being the only notable result from the period; in 2000 he went to the second-category US based Mercury team and won the Redlands Classic, also picking up three other victories and an excellent third place stage finish at the Critérium International, then in 2001 he won the Solano Classic and four other races but switched to the third-category Prime Alliance team towards the end of the season - an unusual move for a rider whose career appeared to be starting to build up steam, but one that worked out very well for him because, with Prime in 2002, he won Fitchburg Longsjo, the Red River Classic, Redlands, the Sea Otter Classic, Solano and the season-long National Racing Calendar as well as taking second place at the Nature Valley Grand Prix and the Elite National Individual Time Trial Championship.

Horner began 2004 with another US team, Webcor, and won Redlands, the Sea Otter, the Tour de Toona and the National Racing Calendar. In October he received an invitation to join Saunier Duval-Prodir and, four years after his previous attempt failed, he returned to European racing. This time he was a very different and vastly more experienced rider - at the Tour de Suisse he won Stage 6 and was second in the King of the Mountains, then he went to the Tour de France and finished two stages in the top ten before coming 33rd overall. He went to Davitamon-Lotto for 2006 and won Stage 1 at the Tour de Romandie, finished the Tour de France in 64th place and the Vuelta a Espana in 20th, then came 15th at the Tour and 36th at the Vuelta the next year.

Horner in 2011
Rather than being an also-ran, as he must once have feared was his destiny, Horner had now proved himself to be a stage racer of considerable repute; this being a fact not missed by Astana, which signed him for two years in 2008. Since he was with the team primarily to act as domestique for Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, the results Horner added to his palmares while at Astana were not especially impressive; however, he was apparently more than content to have realised his ambition of competing in the biggest cycling events in the world - it was during this time that he became a highly popular rider with fans, who nicknamed him "Smiler" after noticing his constant cheerfulness and enjoyment of his sport. Then, at the Cascade Classic that year, Horner earned his place as one of the greatest characters in the history of cycling: when he saw that a rider named Billy Demong had crashed 2km from the finish at the Cascade Classic, he rode up to him, stopped and said "Hey dude - hop on!" before giving him and his broken bike a "backie" over the line.

In 2010 Horner joined RadioShack, the team for which he still rides, and won the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco before taking ninth place at the Critérium du Dauphiné; he also made his return to the Tour de France and finished in 10th place overall. In 2011, aged 40, he won the Tour of California, then in 2012 he was second at Tirreno-Adriatico and 13th at the Tour de France. Now aged 41, his career is likely to soon reach its end, much to the disappointment of many fans who believe that he deserved a Tour victory.

Beat Breu, born in St. Gallen, Switzerland on this day in 1957, won the Tour de Suisse in 1981 and  again in 1989. He also enjoyed some success in the Grand Tours, winning Stage 20 and finishing eighth overall at the Giro d'Italia in 1981, then Stages 13 and 16 (on the Alpe d'Huez) at the Tour de France a year later for sixth place overall; and in cyclo cross - he was National Champion in 1988 and 1994.

Nariyuki Masada, born in Sendai, Japan on this day in 1983, was second at the National Road Race Championship in 2012. He will ride for the Cannondale ProCycling team, the successor to Liquigas-Cannondale, in 2013.

Alessando Zanardi, known as Alex, was a successful racing car driver from the late 1990s until a crash in 2001 resulted in the amputation of both his legs. Nevertheless, he was racing again less than two years later and also later took up handcycling. At the 2012 Paralympics in London, he won the gold medals for the Individual Road Race and Time Trial and a silver in the Team Relay; his performance later being declared one of the top twelve highlights of the Games.

Art Longsjo Jnr., born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts on this day in 1931, rode for an hour and a half to get to the first race he ever entered and then once there won the 1-mile, 3-mile and 25-mile events; he was also a successful speed skater and, in 1956, competed in the cycling at the Summer Olympics and the skating at the Winter Olympics. In 1958, when he was 26, he won the Tour of Somerville but shortly afterwards he died in a road accident - the inaugural Fitchburg Longsjo Classic was organised in his memory two years later and has been held every year since.

Otto Weckerling, who was born in Kehnert, Germany on this day in 1910, dreamed of becoming a professional rider when he was a child. The heavy bike he used to ride to get to the farm where he worked as an apprenticeship gave him the legs to become one: he won his first race in 1927, beating his closest rival by four minutes, seven years later took second place at the Amateur National Championships - which earned him a contract with the Dürkopp team. In 1937 Weckerling won Stage 8 at the Tour de France and the General Classification at the Tour of Germany, then he won Stage 17 at the Tour de France in 1938 before the Second World War brought the race to a temporary end. He survived the conflict and, realising what lay ahead following the establishment of the German Democratic Republic and despite having recently finished building a new home, he moved his family from Madgeburg in the East to Dortmund in the West in 1950. Only weeks afterward, free movement in the Soviet-controlled GDR became impossible.

Other cyclists born on this day: Toivo Hörkkö (Finland, 1898, died 1975); Arturo García (Mexico, 1946); Mats Gustafsson (Sweden, 1957); Hiromi Yamafuji (Japan, 1944, died 1984); József Peterman (Hungary, 1947); Joseph Evouna (Cameroon, 1952); Alexis Méndez (Venezuela, 1969); Carlos Roqueiro (Argentina, 1944); Sven Höglund (Sweden, 1910, died 1995); Lionel Kent (New Zealand, 1928).

Ken Kifer
Ken Kifer
Cycling - not just racing, but in all its many forms - has long been inhabited by characters and eccentrics; a prime example of which was the writer, scholar, transcendentalist, self-sufficiency advocate and above all touring cyclist Ken Kifer, who was born in the USA on this day in 1945. Kifer's website is considered an authoritative source of information and advice on touring, but is equally known for his anecdotes and insights regarding life, love, work and a vast array of other matters.

Though something of a hippy, his essays on what he calls The New World ("simple living, organic gardening, T-groups, natural childbirth, progressive education, and lots of adventure") are well-thought-out and based largely on common sense; as when he advises that those who live in some parts of the USA and wish to go foraging for wild foods in the forest do so only with an experienced guide - having actually lived the sort of life he advocated, his concept of the "harmony of nature" was somewhat more practical than most who share his ideals and left him under no illusion that hippies are not likely to be viewed as tasty and easy meals by bears.

Kifer completed numerous tours thousands of miles long in his life, but was only six miles from his home when he was killed by a drunk driver on the 14th of September in 2003.
"One day, returning to Alabama by bike, I stopped to wash my clothes in Roanoke, Virginia. Two fellows were also doing laundry. They admired my courage and physical fitness, and one of them said, 'I'd like to do something like that, if I were as young as you are.' 'How old are you?' I asked. He said, 'forty-three.' I said, 'I'm almost fifty-one' ... I never lift weights, I never condition my abs, I never stretch, I never diet, I seldom see a doctor, I just walk and ride my bike ... Cycling keeps me lean, fit and healthy, and happy. I know that my own move back to the bike was the best decision I ever made." - Ken Kifer, 23.10.1945-14.09.2003

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