Monday, 26 November 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 26.11.2012

Anna Millward
Anna Millward, an Australian cyclist born in this day in 1971, came to the sport late after spending much of her early life studying science and law, for which she has an honours degree; it was only when she bought a bike to travel to and from university every day that she realised how much she enjoyed cycling. Cycling is as good way to make new friends as it is a way to keep fit, so she soon met other women who shared her love of the sport and with them she took part in Great Victorian Bike Ride, a strictly recreational and non-competitive organised cycling event that, like all events of its type, inevitably features hundreds of unofficial, inpromptu races and revealed that she could ride fast. Soon afterwards, she entered a race organised by her local club and won it.

Anna Millward
(image credit: James F. Perry CC BY-SA 3.0)
By 1996, Millward was ranked 18th in the UCI World Listings and was selected for her national Olympic team. She also won the prestigious Women's Challenge race in America. One year later, she was National Time Trial Champion. In 1998, she won the Points Classification at the Giro d'Italia Femminile, the Discovery Channel Women's Classic and the Commonwealth Games time trial. Then in 1999, the results really started coming in: by the end of the season, she'd won silver medals in the road race and the time trial at the World Championships as well as the Road World Cup, the GP Tell Cup, the New York Women's Challenge, the Athens Twilight Criterium, Boulder-Roubaix, the Sea Otter Classic and several other races along with stages at many of these and more. She set a new Hour Record in 2000 and won the Women's Challenge General Classification while also coming second on Points and third in the Mountains, then became National Time Trial Champion.

In 2001, she was ranked the best female cyclist in the world in the UCI rankings. However, she later tested positive for lidocaine, a drug banned under UCI rules. She voluntarily stepped down from racing during the investigation and explained at the court hearing that the positive test had been caused by an ointment used to relieve insect bites during the Tour de l'Aude, claiming that the ointment had been supplied to her as part of the official, approved medical kit provided by the Australian Institute of Sport. Further investigation revealed that this had indeed been the case and that had she ticked a box declaring she'd used it on a drugs test form, the result would not have been recorded as positive. As a result, she was given a full exoneration and was able to continue racing.

Marshall Taylor
On this day in Indiana, 1878, Marshall "Major" Taylor was born. Taylor's cycling prowess was evident from an early age - he won his first race aged just 13. Two years later he beat the Indianapolis track 1 mile record for amateurs: however, this achievement was not celebrated. In fact, the 15-year-old boy was booed by spectators and then immediately banned from the track, all because he was black. The following year, he competed in and won a 75 mile race in which he faced racist taunts and threats of violence from both fans and other riders and decided as a result to relocate to Massachusetts, that state being known to be a little less backward.

Taylor began a professional career in 1896 and rapidly earned a reputation as "the most formidable rider in America," winning several races both at home and in Europe where he met with less prejudice, especially among the French who took him to heart. Taylor retired at the age of 32, listing racism as the main reason for his decision. Today, there is a velodrome named after him in Indianapolis.

Albert Bourlon
Born in Sancergues on this day in 1916, Albert Bourlon turned professional in 1937 and enjoyed his first professional victory, at Châtellerault; a year later he rode his first Tour de France and finished in 35th place, 2h18' after winner Gino Bartali.

While some races continued during the Second World War, professional cycling largely came to a standstill. Bourlon joined the Army, but was captured and imprisoned by the Nazis. Known to be a Communist (he'd been politicised when he was involved in organising strikes during his time working for Renault before his cycling career) he was in very grave danger of being executed. He attempted to escape from prison three times, eventually doing so in 1944 and making his way to Romania, which had been liberated from Nazi control by the Soviet Red Army only a short while previously; remarkably, he won the Boekarest-Ploesti-Boekarest race that same year.

When the War ended, Bourlon returned to France and later entered the 1947 Tour, the first time the race had been held since 1939. At the start of Stage 14 he escaped the peloton and then successfully stayed away for the remainder of the 253km parcours, winning the stage - the longest successful breakaway in Tour history.

Bourlon died at Bourgues in Cher, where there is a velodrome named in his honour, on the 16th of October 2013. Aged 96, he was one of the oldest surviving Tour riders.

Ivan Basso
Happy birthday to Ivan Basso, born in Gallarate, Italy on this day in 1977. Basso is considered to be one of the best climbers of his generation and performs sufficiently well elsewhere to also be ranked among the best stage racers; a fact that has seen him twice win the Giro d'Italia.

Basso, left, with Armstrong on Tourmalet at the 2004 Tour
During childhood, Basso lived nextdoor to Claudio Chiappucci and must have been at least partly inspired to follow a career in cycling by him; his first noteworthy results were second place in the Junior World Championships of 1995 and victory in the Under-23 Worlds three years later, the latter bringing him offers of professional contracts that he could not accept as his parents allowed him to race only after he'd promised he would complete his academic studies first. He earned a degree in technical geometry, then turned professional with Riso Scotti-Vinavil in 1999 and rode in - but did not finish - the Giro d'Italia; in 2000 he finished it in 52nd place and picked up his first professional victories when he won Stages 1 and 3b at the Regio Tour. In 2001, riding for Fassa Bortolo, Basso made his Tour de France debut having won Stage 1 at the Tour Méditerranéen and taking second place at La Flèche Wallonne earlier in the season, he finished top ten on two stages before a crash whilst descending a mountain in Stage 8 put him out of the race. The following year he was third at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and completed the Tour in 11th place, winning the Youth classification. His seventh place result in the 2003 Tour was made all the more remarkable due to the fact that he received virtually no help from his team, which was riding in support of Alessandro Petacchi and was then left with only two team mates when the rest of the squad contracted food poisoning and abandoned. This, combined with personality clashes with team manager Giancarlo Ferretti, encouraged him to leave Fassa Bortolo for CSC in 2004; he rode for them until the end of 2006 and, in his first season with his new team, he won Stage 12 at the Tour and was third overall. Despite the team's success, courtesy of Basso and others, it suffered financial hardships after the 2004 season that became so serious manager Bjarne Riis gave the go-ahead for his riders to accept with his blessing offers of contracts from other teams. Basso was offered one, with a bigger salary, by US Postal where he'd have ridden with Lance Armstrong, but decided to turn it down and remain with Riis; he suffered personal tragedy early the following year when his mother died of cancer and set out to win the Giro so that he could dedicate the victory to her memory, but was put out of contention by illness and the Stelvio Pass but won Stages 17 and 18. Later that year he was the only rider able to stay with Armstrong at the Tour, once again finishing in second place.

During the 2005 Tour, Basso signed a new three-year contract with CSC, then in 2006 he won the Critérium International. The team won the team time trial at the Giro and he won Stages 8 and 20 before taking first place in the General Classification and second in the King of the Mountains and the Points competition. He planned to take part in the Tour as well but, the day before the race was due to start, organisers called a press conference and announced that several riders including Basso would not be permitted to ride due to implication in the Operacion Puerto doping case. Bjarne Riis stated that unless Basso could beyond doubt that he was innocent and had no links to Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the centre of the investigation, the rider would not be able to continue with CSC; rumours then emerged suggesting that if found not guilty Basso would join US Postal. On the 18th of October that year, his contract with CSC was terminated; nine days later he was cleared of doping when investigators could not find sufficient evidence to link him to Fuentes and on the 9th of November Basso revealed that he would indeed be joining US Postal, now renamed Discovery Channel.

Five months later, on the 24th of April in 2007, Italian Olympic Council CONI reopened its investigation into Basso and within a week Discovery announced that his contract would be terminated, though following consultation with team management he was allowed to leave voluntarily on account of "personal reasons" relating to the case. Then he admitted that although he had not doped, he had established links with Dr. Fuentes with the intention of doping; on the 7th of May he made his official confession to CONI, acknowledged that the intention to cheat was no better than cheating and accepted a two-year ban with the period during which he had been suspended from competition while riding for CSC taken into account.

When his ban came to an end on the 24th of October 2008, Basso signed a new contract with Liquigas. His first race was the Japan Cup, at which he came third. Early in 2009 he came fifth overall at the Tour de San Luis, then won Tirreno-Adriatico before marking his return to the Grand Tours with fifth place at the Giro and fourth at the Vuelta a Espana. In the Giro of 2010 he was first over the finish line of Stage 15 at the summit of Mont Zoncalan, then took the race leadership from David Arroyo in Stage 19 and went on to win the General Classification and second place in the King of the Mountains. He had hoped to stand a chance of winning the Tour de France too, a feat achieved by only seven men (including threeo who are usually listed as the two greatest cyclists in history: Fausto Coppi and Bernard Hinault, both of whom did it twice, and Eddy Merckx who managed to do it three times); however, unlike Coppi, Hinault and Merckx, he proved to be only human after all - the Giro had taken too much out of him and, having failed to win a single stage at the Tour, he finished in a disappointing 32nd place. In 2011, aged 33 and realising that his best years must surely soon come to an end, he elected to stay away from the Giro and concentrate on the Tour; he initially finished in eighth place but was subsequently upgraded to seventh following Alberto Contador's controversial ban following a positive result for bronchodilator Clenbuterol. In 2012 he again rode both races, taking fifth place at the Giro and 25th at the Tour, then finished the season with a second victory at the Japan Cup.

Basso in 2011
Basso, now aged 35, has not yet indicated when he plans to retire from comnpetition. However, he has invested part of the money he has earned from and won in the sport by purchasing a large tract of land near Gallarate, which he has begun to develop into a blueberry farm. The farm is named Il Borgo, "The Village," and with it he hopes to be able to provide secure, well-paid employment for locals in what he believes will be Europe's unstable economic future. His fans argue that a man can be forgiven his youthful intention to cheat when he acts as altruistically as that.

Note: Following an investigation into doping at US Postal in the late 1990s and first decade of the 21st Century, Lance Armstrong was stripped of all his seven consecutive Tour de France victories. Unlike the Tours won by Contador during the time for which he was banned, the riders who finished after Armstrong will not be upgraded and the Tours between 1999 and 2005 will remain without an official winner; this is at least in part because the majority of those riders to have come second and third also later fell foul of anti-doping tests and, as a result, Basso's second place result in 2005 (third place Jan Ullrich was also disqualified, as was sixth place Levi Leipheimer) will not be declared a victory.

In 2008, the Sports Journalist's Association of Great Britain named Chris Hoy Sportsman of the Year - the second cyclist to receive the honour after Tommy Simpson in 1965.

Isaac Galvez, 1975-2006
On this day in 2006, Spanish rider Isaac Gálvez López suffered internal bleeding after he hit crash barriers following a collision with Dimitri De Fauw during the Six Days of Ghent, dying in the early hours the following day. He was 31 years old and had been married for three weeks. De Fauw suffered terrible depression after the accident and committed suicide on November the 6th, 2009.

Arthur Vichot was born on this day in 1988. Vichot's results to date suggest great things to come, but his best race must surely have been the 2010 Tour Down Under when he became subject to a tradition unique to the race in which fans choose a non-English speaking lowly domestique and treat him like one of the greatest cyclists to have ever lived, painting his name in huge letters on the roads, cheering him whenever he appears and gathering in huge crowds outside his hotels.

Vincent Jérôme, born on this day in 1984 in Château-Gontier, is a rider who came to attention when he won the Under-23 Paris-Tours in 2004. In 2011 he won the Tro-Bro Léon, a race in Brittany that is sometimes known as Le Petit Paris–Roubaix on account of the harsh conditions and rough roads the cyclists face.

Other cyclists born on this day: Anton Hansen (Norway, 1886, died 1970); Peter Doyle (Ireland, 1945); Kevin Brislin (Australia, 1942); David Scarfe (Australia, 1960); Cédric Ravanel (France, 1978); Jan Smyrak (Poland, 1950); Colin Fitzgerald (Australia, 1955); Doug Ryder (South Africa, 1971);  Todd McNutt (Canada, 1964); Ab Sluis (Netherlands, 1937); Dino Verzini (Italy, 1943).

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