Sunday 31 March 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 31.03.2013

Paris-Roubaix was held on this date in 1907 and 1929. In 1907, Georges Passerieu attacked a small breakaway group as they neared the end of the race in an effort to tire them out and build up a lead because he knew they'd be too strong for him to beat if the race ended in a sprint. He managed to get a lead and was first to reach the Chatou velodrome, hosting the finish, where word quickly spread among the waiting spectators that he had arrived. They waited for him to ride out onto the track, but he didn't appear. It turned out that, just as he had been about to ride into the building, an over-officious gendarme had decided that it was the perfect moment to stop him and check his bike for the tax disc that was legally required to be displayed on all bikes at that time. Having just ridden for 270km on the treacherous, rough roads of the era (worse then than anything in Paris-Roubaix now), Passerieu was understandably not at all happy about this and began shouting at the policeman, the situation rapidly developing into a heated argument. Finally, he was permitted to go on - fortunately, the lead he'd built was sufficient to still allow him to win.

In 1929, the start moved back to Porte Maillot for the first time since 1913 an the finish was moved to the Stade Amédée Prouvost in Wattrelos for the first and only time. The winner was Charles Meunier.

The Ronde van Vlaanderen was held on this day in 1940, 1957, 1963, 1974 and 2013. 1940 was the first edition to be held during the Second World War, a little over a month before Belgium was invaded and, eighteen days later, occupied by the Nazis. Achiel Buysse - who was not related to the 1914 winner Marcel Buysse but was the father-in-law of Michel Vaarten, who was a successful professional criterium and keirin rider, and grandfather to Pascal Elaut and Luc Coljn who also became professional cyclists - was the winner with a time of 6h2'0", and he would win again in 1941 and 1943 to become the first man to have won three editions (since repeated by three others: Eric Leman, Fiorenzo Magni and Johan Museeuw).

The race was again held on this day in 1957, when it was won by Fred De Bruyne who became one of the few cyclists to have won the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix in a single year a week later - he also won Milan – San Remo, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and  Paris–Nice in 1956, Paris-Tours in 1957 and Liège–Bastogne–Liège again in both 1958 and 1959, making him among the most successful Classics specialists in the the history of cycling. For the first time in 1957, the Berg ter Stene became part of the race. Climbing from 32m to 100m, its maximum gradient is 9%.

In 1963, Noël Foré (who had won Paris-Roubaix in 1959) was victorious with a time of 6h8'42", setting an average speed of 40.68kph - a new record. Tom Simpson took 3rd, the best result by a British rider in the race's history with the exception of his win two years previously.

1974 was won by Cees Bal when he beat Frans Verbeek, Walter Godefroot and Eddy Merckx by 19" - Godefroot would later be disqualified after he failed an anti-doping test - one of three similar disqualifications during his career. Two new climbs were introduced that year: Oude Kwaremont, which rises from 18m to 111m with a maximum gradient of 11% and the infamous Taaienberg which, while rising only 45m in total, does so in a sufficiently short stretch to give it a maximum gradient of 18%.

In 2013 the race ran for 256km from Bruges to Oudenaarde and was competed by 26 teams rather than 25, as had been the case in previous years - Katusha, which had lost its ProTour licence, had been reinstated following an appeal; organisers requested permission from the UCI to increase the numbers of participating teams rather than revoke one of the seven wildcard teams' right to take part. With 15km to go, Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) launched a solo attack and successfully dropped a lead group while Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) escaped the lead group nearer to the line, Cancellara won 6h06'01", Sagan finished +1'27, Roelandts +1'29" with the rest of the group at 1'39" - it was Cancellara's second victory, the first having been in 2010.

The 2013 Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen took place on the same day as the men's race and ran for 127.4km in wintry conditions that discouraged breaks. Paterberg, 23km from the finish line, was expected to prove decisive with any group or individual that could get to the climb at the front of the peloton, remain ahead as the pack began to break up and then maintain their lead over the Hoogberg being in with a very good chance of staying in front to the end; as indeed was the case - Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv/Giant), Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products-UCK) escaped on Oude Kwaremont and worked together to build up a comfortable lead, which was bridged by Ellen van Dijk following a superhuman solo effort. Johansson tried to attack Vos at the top of the climb but found Longo Borghini and van Dijk unable to assist; then more attacks came as Oudenaarde approached, driving the pace so high that the Orica rider found herself temporarily dropped until she made an effort every bit as superhuman as van Dijk's and managed to rejoin, setting the scene for a classic sprint finish. Vos, the most successful cyclist of the time, was widely expected to win and didn't disappoint, finally adding the last major event she had not previously won to her extensive palmares.

Bob Maitland
Bob Maitland
(image credit: Birmingham History)
Bob Maitland, who was born in Birmingham on this day in 1924, developed an interest in cycling during his teens when he collected autographed photographs of the famous British riders of the day - his most treasured being one depicting Charles Holland, who had become one of the first British men to ride in the Tour de France.

In 1955, Britain sent a team to the Tour. At this time, the National Cycling Union and Percy Stallard's British Legaue of Racing Cyclists were locked in a bitter battle over whether or not bicycle races should be permitted (the NCU had banned them since the late 19th Century when a group of racing cyclists frightened a horse which them turned over the carriage it was pulling, causing the occupant to make an official complaint to the police and leading to a belief that races would lead to a ban on all cycling on the roads, the BLRC - of which Maitland was a member - had been formed to support races and, when they organised the inaugural Tour of Britain, found that in fact the police supported them). Since the rival organisations couldn't work together without fighting, it was decided that riders would be selected to the team by a committee of journalists.

Some other journalists, meanwhile, foretold disaster. "We cannot send a team to the Tour unless we are willing to gamble heavily with men's reputations, our future in the race, and Britain's sporting prestige," said Ken Bowden in Cycling, and he turned out to be correct. Completely unused to the high standard of racing on the Continent and to the sheer demands placed upon riders by an event such as the Tour de France, the team was rapidly whittled away. "None of the British cyclists had experienced one of the northern spring classics, so they had no idea that the Tour could be so much harder and faster than the races they had known. The early stages were a shock. And then, between Roubaix and Namur, the British had the jolting first experience of the northern French and Belgian roads. One by one they left the race," remembered writer Tim Hilton and the cycling historian and journalist William Fotheringham says that Maitland told him, "They were not a happy team, more 'a lot of individuals put together, just a shambles" - not least of all because roughly half raced at home for Hercules and the other half for bitter rivals BSA. From a team that originally numbered ten men, only Brian Robinson (29th place) and Tony Hoar (69th place and Lanterne Rouge) would finish the race.

Maitland became World Road Race Champion in the 65-69 age category in 1989 and died on the 26th of August 2010 in Metz, France, at the age of 86.

Gustaaf van Cauter, born in Mechelen, Belgium on this day in 1948, won a stage at the Tour de la Province de Namur in 1970, was part of the winning team in the 1971 100km World Team Trial Championship and won a bronze medal in the 100km Team Road Race at the 1972 Olympics. He is now the president of Bioscan, a molecular imaging laboratory.

Manuel Vázquez Hueso, born in Spain on this day in 1981, received a two-year suspension on the 14th of January 2011 after an out-of-season test showed positive for EPO. The ban was backdated so as to begin on the 26th of April 2010 and all his results since the 20th of March 2010 (the date he provided the positive samples) have been disqualified.

On this day in 1869, The Times newspaper carried a report on three cyclists who had ridden between Liverpool and London in three days. The report ran as follows:

Monique Knol (right, pictured with Dutch TV presenter Bart
de Graaf) was born on this day in 1964
(image credit: Herman Harens CC BY 3.0)
"Their bicycles caused no little astonishment on the way, and the remarks passed by the natives were almost amusing. At some of the villages the boys clustered round the machines, and, where they could, caught hold of them and ran behind until they were tired out. Many enquiries were made as to the name of 'them queer horses', some called them 'whirligigs', 'menageries' and 'valparaisons'. Between Wolverhampton and Birmingham, attempts were made to upset the riders by throwing stones."
Other cyclists born on this day: Monique Knol (Netherlands, 1964); Yvonne Elkuch (Liechtenstein, 1968); Fumiharu Miyamoto (Japan, 1969); Joe Laporte (Canada, 1907, died 1983); Rasa Mažeikytė (Lithuania, 1976); Jakob Schenk (Switzerland, 1921, died 1951); Stoyan Petrov (Bulgaria, 1956); Ferry Dusika (Austria, 1908, died 1984); Primo Magnani (Italy, 1892, died 1969); Tang Xuezhong (China, 1969); Gustav Kristiansen (Norway, 1904, died 1988); Ernst Christl (Germany, 1964); Arvid Pettersson (Sweden, 1893, died 1956); Hans Lutz (Germany, 1949); Roger Pirotte (Belgium, 1910); Jules Béland (Canada, 1948).

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