|Doping nearly killed the Tour de France,|
but sometimes a doper can regain the
respect of fans and Theunisse is one of the
few. However, he can never, ever be
forgiven for that haircut.
He had come to widespread attention in the Tour one year previously when he presented a very real challenge to Pedro Delgado (the two riders had been team mates until Delgado left PDM for Reynolds-Banesto the previous year), holding fourth place overall until he tested positive for testosterone, received a ten-minute penalty and dropped to 11th (Delgado, coincidentally, tested positive for probenicid, a diuretic widely used to mask traces of steroids in urine - however, it had not yet been banned by the UCI and as a result he was not punished). Two years later, having won the Alpe d'Huez stage in the process of winning his polka dot jersey, he again tested positive in the Flèche Wallonne and Bicicleta Vasca. Sanctions in those pre-Festina Affair and Operacion Puerto days were considerably less strict than they are today and he was not banned, but was forced to retire after being diagnosed with a heart condition in 1995.
Theunisse continued to race in a few small-scale mountain bike events and, having trained Bart Brentjens to a level where he occupied the very top rung of the sport, became manager of the Specialized Mountain Bike Team in 1996. Then, further disaster: in 1997 while on a training ride, he was hit by a car and sustained a spinal injury that left him a paraplegic. From this point begins one of the most inspiring stories in cycling, sufficient even to forgive him his early doping offences. Through a combination of good fortune and sheer willpower, he learned to walk again in just six months and returned to his duties with the team. In January 1999, he won another mountain bike race. Five months later, he suffered a heart attack, possibly as a result of the doping; but recovered to a state where he could continue as team coach until Specialized ended its mountain bike sponsorship programme in 2001, at which point he moved to Majorca and began riding his bike 150km every day; a regime that served as training for the 2002 Over-30s European MTB Championships and which he won. He remained in competitive mountain biking despite constant, severe pain and involuntary spastic attacks caused by the 1997 injury, right up until 2005 when his condition had degenerated to a state where it became impossible to continue. Theunisse now plans to compete in paralympic cycling events.
Born in Cascine di Buti on this day in 1974, the Italian Fabiana Luperini won the Giro Donne a record five times - as the women's version of the Giro d'Italia, the Giro Donne is (the last surviving) women's Grand Tour, her achievement, therefore, is comparable to the five Giro d'Italia victories clocked up by Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi and Eddy Merckx and, if women's cycling were given the exposure it deserves, her accomplishments would be as widely-known as theirs. The first four victories came consecutively from 1995 to 1998; the fifth, remarkably, was a whole decade later in 2008 (the only male cyclist to have won two Grand Tours ten years apart was the great Gino Bartali at the Tour de France in 1938 and 1948).
Winning the Giro Donne in 1995 was impressive enough; however, at that time there was also a women's version of the Tour de France, known as the Tour de France Féminin or Grande Boucle - Luperini won that two, thus achieving two Grand Tour victories in a single year, something that only twelve male riders have ever managed. What's more, she won the Giro del Trentino Alto Adige that year as well. Then, after winning her second Giro Donne in 1996, she won the Grande Boucle and the Giro del Trentino again, then the Giro Donne and Grande Boucle for a third time in 1997 - only Eddy Merckx managed to win two Grand Tours in a single year three times. Until 2010, there was another women's race that many fans considered to be the third women's Grand Tour: it was the Tour de l'Aude Cycliste Féminin and, by winning it in 1998 (along with her fourth Giro Donne), Luperini can claim to have beaten even Merckx.
Luperini's triumphs were not limited to the big stage races, where her incredible climbing skills earned her the nickname Pantanina (after the legendary Marco Pantani). In addition to the Giro Donne and Tour de l'Aude in 1998, she also won the tough Ardennes Classic La Flèche Wallonne. She won it again in 2001 and 2002, equaling the three-victory record set in the men's version of the race by Marcel Kint, Merckx, Moreno Argentin and Davide Rebellin; also winning another Giro del Trentino in 2002 and another National Road Race Championship two years later. In 2006 she won the Emakumeen Bira, and in addition to her fifth and final Giro Donne victory in 2008 she won another National Road Race Championship and Giro del Trentino and the GP Ouest France. Still racing at the end of the 2012 season, she was sixth overall at the 2011 Giro Donne and fourth overall in 2012.
Eddy Merckx is widely considered to be the greatest cyclist to have ever lived. Luperini equaled two and beat one of his records.
|James Moore (right - on the left, 1869 Paris-|
Rouen runner-up Jean-Eugene-Andre Castera)
James Moore, the claimed winner of the world's first bike race, was born on this day in Bury St. Edmunds in 1849.
That first race took place - so far as we know - in St-Cloud, Paris, where Moore's family (his father may have been French, but there is no proof of this) had taken up residence when he was five and where he befriended the Michaux family, one of whom (either father Pierre or son Ernest) was the first person to think of fitting pedals and cranks to a velocipede and thus invented the first real bicycle. However, once again there is little evidence that he did in fact win the race - in no doubt, meanwhile, is his victory at the first Paris-Rouen one year later.
Moore died on the 17th of July in 1935, aged 86. Disappointingly, and perhaps inevitably considering the mystery that shrouds Moore's life, it is not known where he was buried - most researchers believe his grave is located somewhere near the Brent Reservoir in North London, fittingly the location of Britain's first cycle race which took place one day after Moore's race in St-Cloud. The bike he rode at St-Cloud is on display at Ely Museum in Cambridgeshire.
|Peter Post, 12.11.1933 - 14.01.2011|
In 1980, when Zoetemelk and Kuiper came 1st and 2nd overall in the Tour, Post's team won 11 stages - a feat that has not been repeated since. He was a shrewd businessman, experiencing little trouble in bringing the enormous Panasonic electronics manufacturer in as a new sponsor after Raleigh pulled out in 1983 and drove the team on to still more success. He retired in 1995, but returned as an adviser to the Rabobank team in 2005 when their rider Michael Rasmussen won the King of the Mountains and is now ranked as the second most successful directeur sportif after the legendary Guillaume Driessens whose Molteni team won 663 races. Post was 77 when he died on this day in Amsterdam in 2011.
Raimondas Rumšas was born on this day in Lithuania in 1972. Now retired, his best professional result was third place overall in the 2002 Tour de France, but he is better known for what happened afterwards when police discovered EPO, growth hormones, anabolic steroids, testosterone and corticoids in a car belonging to his wife, Edita. The couple claimed that the drugs were intended for Edita's mother but, as they should have been declared on entry into France, Edita spent some months in prison. Then, shortly after finishing the 2003 Giro d'Italia in 6th place overall, Raimondas tested positive for EPO and was banned from racing for one year, returning to the sport for a short while once the ban expired. While it was never proved one way or the other who had been the intended recipient of the drugs discovered in 2002, they were both handed four month suspended sentences while their Polish doctor, Krzysztof Ficek, got a twelve month suspended sentence in 2006; finally bringing another murky cycling career to an end.
Grimpeur Maxime Monfort, who rode with the Luxembourg-based Leopard Trek team in 2011 and remained with team leaders Andy and Frank Schleck when the team merged with Radioshack for 2012, was born on this day in 1983. Monfort's best results to date have been first overall, first Youth category and a stage win at the 2003 Tour de Luxembourg, 11th overall in the 2007 Vuelta a Espana, the National Time Trial Champion title in 2009, first overall in the 2010 Bayern-Rundfahrt, sixth overall in the 2011 Vuelta a Espana, and seventh overall at Paris-Nice as well as 16th overall in the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in 2012.
Happy birthday Gerben Karstens, 1966 Dutch Road Race Champion and winner of one stage in the Giro d'Italia, six stages in the Tour de France, fourteen stages in the Vuelta a Espana, Paris-Tours and an Olympic gold medal. He was born in 1942.
Other cyclists born on this day: Deirdre Murphy (Ireland, 1959); Raymonf van der Biezen (Netherlands, 1987); José Antonio Martiarena (Spain, 1968); Antonio Maspes (Italy, 1932, died 2000); Hiroshi Toyooka (Japan, 1969); An U-Hyeok (South Korea, 1964); Sergey Lagutin (Uzbekistan, 1981); Erich Welt (Austria, 1928); Bill Holmes (Great Britain, 1936); Micheal Watson (Hong Kong, 1938); Benoît Joachim (Luxembourg, 1976); István Lang (Hungary, 1933); Herman van Loo (Netherlands, 1945); Ron Keeble (Great Britain, 1946);