Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 05.02.2013

Barry Hoban
Barry Hoban
Before Mark Cavendish first broke and then smashed his record, Barry Hoban was, with eight victories, Britain's most successful Tour de France stage winner. Born in 1940 on this day in Wakefield, Hoban began cycling in 1955 and immediately showed promise, competing against and taking inspiration from Tom Simpson. He moved to France in 1962, once again following Simpson's lead.

After two years in France he turned professional with Mercier-Hutchinson-BP and entered his first Tour, riding support for perpetually 2nd place Raymond Poulidor. Several riders must have wondered just what sort of man they'd been riding with when, with the race over, Hoban went around gathering up as many pairs of sweaty cycling shorts and jerseys as he could lay his hands on. In fact, he'd spotted an easy way to make himself a bit of extra cash: British-made kit of the time were of very poor quality and likely to fall apart after a few rides. Good quality European kit, meanwhile, cost a fortune to buy even without the expense of having them sent across, so once it'd all been laundered he had no trouble at all finding customers for it. To this day, there are veteran cyclists in Wakefield who can remember the year when club rides stepped out in the finest cycling kit Italy had to offer.

While European shorts were of higher quality than British ones, many riders from Britain and overseas considered British frame builders to be the most skilled in the world. Thus, as the beginning of each new season approached, Hoban would make an annual pilgrimage to the Leeds workshop of craftsman Maurice Woodrup, who would have a frame ready, waiting and painted in Mercier's trademark pink. Hoban would then take the frame with him back to France where Mercier would supply him with the correct decals so nobody would be any the wiser.

Simpson, as all cyclists and fans know, died on Mont Ventoux the 13th of July in 1967, during a two-year period in which the Tour experimented with a return to national teams. The following day, the Tour paid its respects by allowing Hoban, as a team mate and the next placed British rider, to win the stage. Sadly, the honour was marred afterwards by a disagreement over whether Hoban or Vin Denson, another member of the team, should have been allowed to win. In 1969, Hoban married Simpson's widow Alice. They now live in Wales.

Samuel Sánchez González
Samuel Sánchez González, who began his professional career with the Euskaltel-Euskadi team in 2000 and has remained with them ever since, was born on this in 1978 in Oviedo, Asturias. Due to his loyalty to the team and long list of impressive results, he has attained the status of Basque national hero despite not being a Basque himself.

Samuel Sánchez
(image credit: Euskalbizikleta CC BY-SA 2.0)
Like many rider who train in the Basque nation, Sánchez has become a powerful climber and won the King of the Mountains classification at the 2011 Tour de France. However, he appears to have gained this skill through hard work, not displaying the skeletal form of most climbers and - perhaps even more tellingly - excelling in other areas where grimpeurs are usually fairly hopeless, including descending (he's known as one of the fastest descenders of his time and won Stage 13 at the 2006 Vuelta a Espana by mounting a lightning-fast downhill attack) and sprinting, the latter allowing him to have won the Points Classification at Paris-Nice, the Tour of the Basque Country and the Vuelta a Burgos. He can even time-trial, as he proved in the 2007 Vuelta al País Vasco The general impression is of a rider who would have been a handy all-rounder, then made himself a Grand Tour General Classification contender through sheer determination.

Few fans will ever forget Sánchez's Stage 15 win at the 2007 Vuelta a Espana when he followed Manuel Beltrán down from the Alto de Monachil into Granada like a hawk hunting a pigeon. Beltrán, it turned out, had asked to be allowed to win the stage, but Sánchez had received news that his wife was expecting a child and wanted to dedicate it to his future son who would be born in March the following year. He caught Beltrán and crossed the line in front of him, sitting upright as he did so and rocking his arms as though cradling a baby. His performance on the stage propelled him into 3rd place overall at the end of the race, thus making him the first Euskaltel rider to stand on the podium after a Grand Tour.

Sanchez in polka dots
(image credit: Petit Brun CC BY-SA 2.0)
In 2008, he won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. The peloton had been forced to work hard to reel in an early breakaway which was beginning to look as though it might last to the end of the race. Then, having his fair share of work, Sánchez escaped with two other riders and could only be caught by another group of three driven by the infamously fast Fabian Cancellara. The two groups combined, riding together towards a sprint finish. He finished just ahead the Italian Davide Rebellin with Cancellara coming in right behind them. In 2011, he revealed his great ethical support for the Tour of Beijing, hinting at a good understanding of the effects international events such as cycle races can have improving the lives of people living under repressive regimes.

Sánchez was a favourite at the start of the 2011 Tour de France, but the large number of crashes early on in the race left him far down the leadership board. However, he proved without equal in Stage 12, powering ahead of the climbing specialist Frank Schleck to the summit finish at Luz Ardiden after having already climbed Tourmalet in the same stage. In Stage 14, he finished in 2nd place at the Plateau de Beille summit finish, this time beating Andy Schleck. He would lose time on the Galibier in Stage 18, but then finished in 2nd place again on the Alpe d'Huez (beating Contador, no less) - at which point, with no further mountain stages, the King of the Mountains prize was in the bag. He also came 7th overall in the General Classification.

Sánchez won the 2012 Tour of the Basque Country in spectacular style, delighting the obsessive Basque cycling fans who have adopted him as one of their own - he had taken the General Classification lead at the end of Stage 3, but with no time advantage over Chris Horner of RadioShack-Nissan and Joaquim Rodríguez of Katusha; Joaquim Rodríguez - another atypical climber - would be an especially dangerous rival, as he proved when he took the race leader's jersey and a 9" advantage by winning Stage 4. This situation remained unchanged after Stage 5, which Rodríguez also won, but Sánchez turned it around with a blisteringly fast ride on the tough 18.9km individual time trial in the final stage, soaring up the three climbs and providing plenty of heart-stopping moments around the rain-soaked bends to finish 21" faster than the Katusha rider for a final overall advantage of 12". Luck would not remain on his side at the Tour de France, where a crash in Stage 8 left him with numerous injuries that caused him to abandon the race. He recovered in time for the Tour of Britain and finished Stage 7 in fourth place, then took second place at the Giro di Lombardia and 12th at the Tour of Beijing.

John Boyd Dunlop
On this day in 1840, John Boyd Dunlop was born in Dreghorn, Scotland. An intelligent boy, he studied veterinary science and qualified from the University of Edinburgh. He then set up a surgery and practiced for ten years before relocating to Northern Ireland and setting up another surgery. Dunlop had a sick son who suffered great pain as a result of the vibrations transmitted through the metal tyres of his tricycle, so his father set out to find a way to reduce this - resulting in the pneumatic tyre. He quickly realised that his invention had a future and patented it on the 7th of December, 1888. With help from the cyclist Willie Hume, who used the tyres to win a string of races, he soon found a market.

Then in 1891, it was discovered that a pneumatic tyre of very similar design had been patented in France by another Scottish inventor named Robert William Thompson more than forty years previously. A business deal also didn't work out which, combined with the subsequent declaration of invalidity on his patent, meant that Dunlop made very little money from "his" invention.

Paolo Rosola, born on this day in Gussago, Italy in 1957, won twelve stages at the Giro d'Italia (Stage 2 in 1981, Stages 3, 15 and 18 in 1983, Stage 12 in 1984, Stages 9 and 18 in 1985, Stages 8, 10 and 20 in 1987 and Stages 10 and 20 in 1988). 1987 was his best year with 10 wins in total.

Giovanni Mantovani, born two years earlier in Gudo Visconti, won a few stages at various races in the same period, including two (9 and 10) in the 1980 Giro, but for most of his career was one of those cyclists condemned to eternal occupation of the podium's lower steps. His best year, strangely, was one of his last - he achieved five victories in 1986, including the Perth Criterium and two stages (3 and 13, as well as 2nd for Stage 5) in the Griffin 1000, also in Australia, where it appears the climate suited him. Had he have discovered that earlier on, he might have enjoyed a far more successful career.

Fredereik Nolf, 1987-2009
(image credit: Thomas Ducroquet CC BY-SA 3.0)
Frederiek Nolf, born in Kortrijk in Belgium, died on this day in 2009 of a heart attack as he slept between Stages 4 and 5 at the Tour of Qatar, five days before his 22nd birthday. Due to his age, suspicions immediately arose that he'd been doping - EPO is frequently linked to heart attacks as it thickens the blood, putting more strain on the heart as it pumps harder in an effort to keep blood flowing around the body. However, no evidence of EPO or any other doping product was ever found and his death is generally assumed to have been caused by an undiagnosed heart defect, a tragically common cause among young athletes who might not have previously exhibited any symptoms due to their high level of fitness. Nolf was a close friend of Wouter Weylandt, who would be killed in a crash at the Giro d'Italia two years later.

Ana Barros, born in Portugal on this day in 1973, was 23rd in the Road Race at the 1996 Olympics.

On this day in 2011 Melissa Hoskins, Josie Tomic and Isabella King set a new Australian Women's Record of 3'21.427" in the 30km Team Pursuit.

Other cyclists born on this day: Valery Kobzarenko (USSR, 1977); Burton Downing (USA, 1885, died 1929); Frédéric Magné (France, 1969); Lee Seung-Hun (South Korea, 1938); Pavel Tonkov (USSR, 1969); Fyodor Borisov (Russia, 1892); Frederick Habberfield (Great Britain, 1895, died 1943); René Gagnet (France, 1891, died 1951); Horst Tüller (Germany, 1931, died 2001); Héctor Urrego (Colombia, 1945); Michel Rousseau (France, 1936); Ma Yanping (China, 1977); Roger Kluge (Germany, 1986); Cesare Facciani (Italy, 1906, died 1938).

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