(image credit: Eric Houdas CC BY-SA 3.0)
One year later, he became National Champion and won Stages 10 and 23 at the Tour de France, along with more one-day successes including the prestigious Paris-Brussels. 1985 was even better with wins at Ghent-Wevelgem, the GP Eddy Merckx, the Tour of the Netherlands, the Tour of Flanders and Stages 13 and 19 at the Tour de France, during which he wore the yellow jersey for two days. He improved even more for 1986 when he won a series of smaller races topped off by the Three Days of De Panne and - the icing on the cake - the Points Classification at the Tour. 1987 brought his second wins at the GP Eddy Merckx and De Panne in addition to victory at Paris-Roubaix, the toughest and most prestigious of the Classics.
Then, something happened to Vanderaerden in 1988. Nobody, least of all the rider himself, knows what it was; but it was the beginning of the end. He still won races, including a third Three Days of De Panne (which he'd win twice more) that year and the Tour of Ireland a year later, plus there would be a Stage 17 win at the Vuelta a Espana in 1992; but the big wins stopped coming.
Many have suggested that the constant comparisons to Merckx wore him down in the end, the realisation that he was never going to equal The Cannibal's palmares causing him to become disheartened. Yet it seems odd that his success in smaller races continued, as entering a depression would have been more likely to end his victories altogether. It seems likely therefore that he was simply not destined to be the hero that his country wanted him to be and he retired in 1996, just one of the many riders who performed highly enough to get fans' hopes up and then proved to be human after all.
Sébastien Hinault came 3rd in the Novices' National Championships right back in 1990 but didn't turn professional until 1997 when he was taken on by GAN. His first couple of years were quieter, but anyone who paid attention - and there were many, simply because of the young rider's surname - could see that there was potential: he managed seven top twenty finishes in his first Tour de France, after all. Most riders don't even finish their first Tour de France.
(image credit: PB85 CC BY-SA 3.0)
2000 to 2002 were not quite so good, though first place at the Tour du Finistère will have been welcome, but from 2003 he began to win stages at the bigger races. The first was Stage 4 at the Tour of Poland, followed by Stage 4 at the Tour of Germany a year later. 2006 was his best year to date with victories for Stage 8 at the Tour de Langkawi, Stage 4 at the Tour de Picardie and Stage 4 at the Tour du Limousin. 2007 was another dip with a single win, then he got his first Grand Tour stage win for Stage 10 at the Vuelta a Espana and an overall General Classification triump in the Tour du Limousin. Six top ten finishes came in the next Vuelta then his talent began to fade a little as he entered his 12th professional year, though not so much that he couldn't still pull in some good results: in 2012, he won two races and finished four stages at the Tour de France (best: fourth, Stage 13). At the end of the year, Hinault announced that he would be leaving AG2R-La Mondiale and stepping down from WorldTour cycling; in 2013 he will race for proContinental IAM Independent Asset Management.
Eleonora van Dijk
|Ellen van Dijk|
(image credit: My Women's Cycling Tumblr (Sarah Connolly))
2008 brought her first World Championship title, for the Scratch race, a gold in the Under-23 class at the European Championships and Stage 2 at the Tour de l'Aude Cycliste Féminin. She won another gold for the Under-23 Individual Time Trial at the 2009 European Championships and Stage 6 in the Holland Ladies' Tour of 2010. 2011 was a good year with the overall General Classification and a stage win at the Ladies' Tour of Qatar (a race that often reveals cyclists who are going to do well in the big European races within a few years), Stage 2 at the Holland Ladies' Tour and further track success. In 2012 with Specialized-Lululemon she was fourth overall at the Tour of Qatar, second at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, won Stage 2 at the Gracia Orlova, became National Individual Time Trial Champion and won the Lotto-Decca Tour; she also competed in three disciplines at the Olympics and was instrumental in helping Marianne Vos win the Road Race.
Piotr Wadecki, once ranked the second best cyclist in the world, was born on this day in 1973 in Elblag. Poland. He has been National Road Race Champion twice, National Time Trial Champion once, won the Peace Race, the Course de la Solidarité Olympique (twice) and a number of other races. He has also taken part in the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, but Grand Tours proved not to suit him - his best result was 17th for Stage 7 at the Tour in 2002.
David Weller, born in Jamaica on this day in 1957, became the first athlete from his country to win an Olympic medal in any event other than track and field when he was awarded bronze for the 1,000m Time Trial at the 1980 Games in Moscow. At the time of writing, he also remains the only Jamaican to have done so.
Denis Verschueren was a Belgian rider born in Berlaar on this day in 1897. He won some excellent results during the 1920s and 1930s, including two National Interclubs Champioships (1926 and 1929), the Tour of Flanders in 1926, Paris-Brussels in 1926 and Paris-Tours in 1925 and 1928. He died at the age of 57 on the 18th of April in 1954.
Aleksandr Khatuntsev, twice World and once European Under-19 Team Pursuit Champion, once European Under-23 Team Pursuit Champion, twice winner of the Tour of the South China Sea and once winner of the Five Rings of Moscow, the GP Moscow and the Boucles de l'Artois, was born on this day in 1985 in Voronezh, USSR.
Other cyclists born on this day: Orlando Castillo (Colombia, 1967); Daniel Ducreux (France, 1947); Tereza Huřiková (Czechoslovakia, 1987); Héctor Chiles (Ecuador, 1971); Egon Scheiwiller (Switzerland, 1937); Flemming Gleerup Hansen (Denmark, 1944); Luis Barrufa (Uruguay, 1946).