Thursday 4 April 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 04.04.2013

The legendary Paris-Roubaix race fell on this day in 1926 and 1948. The 1926 winner was Julien Delbecque, a now almost-forgotten Belgian rider born in Harelbeke on the 22nd of October 1903 and whom had won the Tour of Flanders one year previously. In 1948 it was won by Rik Van Steenbergen, whose 24-year professional career earned him a place among the ranks of Belgium's all-time greatest riders.

The Ronde van Vlaanderen was held on this day in 1953, 1954, 1971, 1976, 1982, 1993, 1999, 2004 and 2010. The 1953 edition was won by Wim van Est who - rather remarkably, considering the close links between Flanders and Netherlands and his nation's love of cycling - was the first Dutch rider to win. Two years earlier, he had also been the first Dutchman to wear the yellow jersey of the Tour de France (for more about that - and how he fell into a ravine while wearing it - see the entry for the 25th of March). Raymond Impanis won both the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix a year later on 1954, one of the few men to have won the hardest one-day races in a single season.

1971 was won by Evert Dolman after a hard race in which Eddy Merckx tried - and, unsually, failed - to take the victory; working hard to break up a peloton that stuck together and resisted his efforts all the way to the end. Dolman proved fastest to the finish line and finished in 6h12' - his advantage over the following nine riders, who all received the same time, a mere two seconds. Merckx, meanwhile, was 74th.

Koppenberg - one of the hardest sections of any race
(image credit: Mick Knapton CC BY-SA 3.0
1976 was won by Walter Planckaert, but all events in the race were overshadowed by the first appearance of the Koppenberg - a climb which, though rising just 64m to 77m above sea level, is discussed by cyclists in the same reverential, respectful tones at Angliru, Mortirolo and Ventoux because of its maximum gradient of 25% (the majority of the rest hovers around 22%). As if the slope isn't bad enough, the climb is made even more difficult by the cobbles that give it its name (because they're the size of children's skulls - kinderkoppen) and make it virtually unridable even when dry. When it rains, most rider will have to push their bikes up, and even then several will slip and painfully smash their knees. In fact, as Koppenberg has usually come around 180km from the finish, being the first to the top has offered no tactical advantage - any lead gained there can be lost later in the race relatively easily. However, it's so difficult that getting up faster than anyone else is seen as a victory in its own right, a glorious achievement. In 2012, the route will be changed to that the climb is 60km from the end - close enough to be strategically important. This new layer of competition will make what is already a legendarily difficult race even harder.

1982 was won by René Martens, who had also won Stage 9 at the Tour de France a year earlier. It was another hard race with only 51 of 212 starters finishing. 1993 brought a first victory for the legendary Johan Museeuw, who would become the fourth rider to win three times five years later and is rated as perhaps the best Classics specialist of the last two decades. 1999 was won by Peter van Petegem, who would win again four years later and then Paris-Roubaix, becoming the first man to have won both races in a single year since Roger de Vlaeminck did so in 1977.

Zulfiya Zabirova, winner of the first Ronde van Vlaanderen
voor Vrouwen in 2004
(image credit: James F. Perry CC BY-SA 3.0)
Steffen Wesemann won in 2004 - at the time, he was German and as such is the second rider from Germany to have won (Rudi Altig was the first, in 1964) but he took adopted Swiss nationality one year later and is sometimes erroneously credited as being the second Swiss rider to win.

2004 was especially notable as it saw the advent of the Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen, the race for women, which follows part of the men's route, climbs some of the same hills and - since the first race - has constituted a round of the Women's World Cup. The winner that year was Zulfiya Zabirova.

Ronde van Vlaanderen, 2010
(image credit: Paul Hermans CC BY-SA 3.0)

The first Swiss winner was Heiri Suter in 1923, the true second was Fabian Cancellara, almost nine decades later in 2010. He had stated earlier in the year that the race was one of his primary objectives for the year, but faced stiff competition from the Classics specialist Tom Boonen and the two men battled it out after escaping the peloton on the Molenberg but, in the end, the Belgian was unable to respond to his rival's legendary turn of speed which allowed him to sprint away on Muur-Kapelmuur and build a big lead. Keeping up the pace for the remainder of the parcours, Cancellara won by 1'14" - and one week later, repeated Suter's achievement of winning the  Ronde and Paris-Roubaix in the same year. Roger Hammond, who took 7th place some 2'34" behind the winner, put in the best performance by a male British rider for many years (see the 8th of April for why it wasn't he best performance by "a British rider").

The Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen was won in 2010 by Grace Verbeke, who had won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad  a week earlier and would also win La Flèche Wallonne a few weeks later - and, as such, proved herself to be one of the finest Classics riders in cycling's history.

Emile Daems - winner of the 1963 Paris-Roubaix, Stages 9a and 19 at the 1960 Giro d'Italia, Stage 3 at the 1961 Tour de France and Stages 5, 16, 18 and 2nd place in the Points competition at the 1962 Tour - was born on this day in 1938.

Marco Giovannetti
Marco Giovannetti
(licence unknown)
Marco Giovannetti, who was born in Milan on this day in 1962, won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics before turning professional and winning the Youth Category at the 1986 Giro d'Italia, coming 8th overall. The next year, he won Stage 6 and 4th overall at the Tour de Suisse, a race that - like the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de l'Avenir - has frequently offered those who pay attention hints revealing those young riders who have the potential to achieve future greatness in the Grand Tours; as was confirmed by his improved 6th place Giro result  that same year.

In 1989, having moved to the Seur team, he was 8th again in the Giro and then 26th in the Vuelta a Espana, thus proving himself capable of riding two Grand Tours in a season, then in 1990 he was 3rd in the Giro and won the Vuelta; the fourth Italian to have done so in the history of the race and earning his victory with a perfectly-orchestrated attack on the Las Palomas mountains in Stage 6 which, though he was only 5th over the finish line, devastated his opponents and moved him into 2nd place overall - precisely where he needed to be to start whittling away at Pedro Delgado's lead. The next year, he was 8th in the Giro, 30th in the Tour de France and 18th in the Vuelta - the lack of podium finishes more than compensated by becoming one of only 31 riders to have ridden all three Grand Tours in a single year - that only two riders (Raphaël Geminiani in 1955 and Gastone Nencini two years later) have achieved top ten finishes in the Tours in a year is evidence of how difficult merely completing all three is.

Giovannetti won his National Championship in 1992 and finished the Giro in 4th place overall after winning Stage 17. His career began to tail off afterwards, with 1993 bringing a string of 2nd and 3rd place finishes in numerous races but no victories and he retired in 1994.

Briek Schotte
(image credit: Retrosport)
Alberic Schotte
Alberic "Iron Briek" Schotte, who was born in Kanegem, Flanders on the 7th of September 1919 and died in Kortrijk on this day in 2004, enjoyed a career in cycling that spanned almost five decades with 20 years as a cyclist followed by very successful team management.

Beginning his professional life with Mercier-Hutchinson in 1939, Briek won one-day races and the Tour de l'Ouest in his first season and then continued racking up victories throughout the Second World War. With the conflict over - and races that had been suspended during the war being run again - he started to win prestigious events such as Paris-Brussels and the Tour de Luembourg in 1946, then Paris-Tours in 1947. That year, he also won Stage 21 at the Tour de France.

Briek finished in 2nd place at the 1948 Tour de France, a 4,922km epic that saw the first live television broadcast of the race. Schotte battled against riders such as Louison Bobet, Guy Lapébie and a selection of the strongest riders of all time; some in the twilight of their careers and some on the cusp of domination, but all very capable of riding hard. Among them was Gino Bartali, who was riding not just for glory but to prevent Italy descending into civil war: in the end, Schotte could not beat the legendary Il Pio - but 2nd place behind Bartali is an achievement of which any rider (with the possible exception of Fausto Coppi) could justifiably feel proud. He also won the Ronde van Vlaandaren and the World Road Race that year, making it the best of his career.

He would win a second World Championship title in 1950, also crossing the line first at Gent-Wevelgem, then won another Paris-Brussels a year later and the Tour of Flanders in 1953; and would win the latter two races again in 1955 and added numerous triumphs in other races before retiring in 1959. Schotte died on this day in 2004 - the same day the Ronde van Vlaandaren was being held.

Juli Furtado
Juli Furtado
(image credit: Autokton World)
Juliana "Juli" Furtado (born in New York on this day in 1967), like many cyclists, came to the sport via another having taken up cycling as a means of maintaining her fitness during the off-season when she was a professional skier (she was the youngest member on the USA National Skiing Team between 1980 and 1987). After an injury forced her to temporarily give up skiing, she started riding more - and never looked back.

In 1989, Furtado announced her arrival on the cycling scene in memorable style by winning the National Road Race Championship, then followed it up by becoming World Cross Country Mountain Bike Champion a year later. After spending 1991 winning numerous cross country races, she had a go at the World Down Hill Championship in 1992 - and won that, too. Concentrating on mountain biking and developing further the extraordinary endurance and peak heart rate skiing had left her with, she won 22 races between 1993 and 1996, becoming one of the most successful mountain bikers of either gender in the history of the sport with four consecutive NORBA titles between 1991 and 1994).

Towards the end of 1996, Furtado's results began to tail off. Beginning to suffer from fatigue, she consulted a doctor and was diagnosed with Lyme Disease - an infection spread by ticks from which, especially if detected early, patients can recover; though doing so may take many years (and may suffer life-long effects or in rare cases die). However, the disease had been misdiagnosed and further investigation revealed that she was in fact suffering systemic lupus, an incurable autoimmune condition that ended her career.

Today is the most likely date of the death of Jobie Dajka, an Australian track cyclist whose body was found by police at his home on the 7th of April 2009. Dajka had been implicated in a doping scandal but cleared; however, he was found to have lied when giving evidence (a charge he always denied). As a result, he was banned from competition for two years. The ban led to depression and he began drinking heavily, which in turn led to an assault on the Australian team coach and the vandalism of his parents' home and he was subsequently placed under a restraining order and banned for another three years. He obeyed the order and sought treatment, gradually regaining his health in time for the end of the two-year ban; the three-year ban being ended early due to the efforts he had made to get his life back on track shortly before his death aged 27. No cause has ever been found, but investigation ruled out suspicious circumstances.

Thomas Löfqvist
(image credit: Haggisni CC BY 3.0)
Thomas Löfkvist
Thomas Löfkvist (sometimes spelled Lövkvist, including by Löfkvist himself, although since 2010 he's settled on the official Swedish spelling Löfkvist) is a Swedish professional cyclist who was born in Visby on this day in 1984. In 2001, he won a National Junior Mountain Bike title, two National Junior Individual Time Trial Championship (individual and team classes) and the National Junior Team Time Trial (with Henrik Gustavsson and Per-Erik Johansson). One year later, having retained those titles, he won two more National titles, added a European Junior Cross Country Mountain Bike Champion title and came 2nd in the Juniors General Classification at the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt.

It goes without saying that he didn't have to wait long for a professional contract, signing up to Bianchi Scandinavia for 2003 and winning nine races - including more National Championships - with them. The following year he joined FDJeux, remaining with the team after the La Française des Jeux rename in 2005 and through to the end of the 2007 season, then swapped to Highroad and stayed with them for three seasons as they became Team Columbia until 2010 when he signed to the new British-based Team Sky.

Löfkvist's major wins started in 2004 when he won the National Individual Time Trial Championship at Elite level. The same year, he won the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe and took 2nd place in the General Classification at the Tour de l'Avenir, a race that often reveals young riders destined to become future greats. 2005 passed without victory as he concentrated on his first Tour de France, then he rode with the winning team in the National Time Trial Championship and took his first National Elite Road Race title a year later in addition to riding a second Tour in 2007. He formed part of the winning time trial team at the Nationals in 2007, also riding another Tour and his first Vuelta a Espana where he achieved his best Grand Tour result so far with 54th overall, his 2nd place finish in Stage 14 the best performance by a Swedish rider for a quarter of a century since Sven-Ake Nilsson won Stage 10 and finished 3rd in the overall General Classification in 1982.

Löfqvist in 2008
(image credit: Leptictidium CC BY-SA 2.0)
He was 41st overall at the Tour one year later, also winning the Points competition at the Tour of Germany, then came 3rd in Stage 5 at the 2009 Giro d'Italia, his first time at the race, and shared victory for the Stage 1 Team Time Trial alongside illustrious names such as Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw. 2010 brought his best Grand Tour result to date with 17th overall at the Tour de France - since that result made him the best-placed Team Sky rider, he led Sky in the Vuelta that year before the team abandoned the race after Stage 7 following the death of soigneur Txema González. In 2011 he led Sky at the Giro and came 21st overall, later finishing the Vuelta 52nd overall. His best result in 2012 was 8th at the Critérium International, though he also managed some decent stage finishes and 17th overall at the Tour de Suisse before moving to the Swiss IAM team at the end of the season. With them, he won the Tour Méditerranéen early in 2013.

René Wolff, born in Erfurt on this day in 1978, won a gold medal for Germany in the Team Sprint at the 2004 Olympics. In 2010, he became coach to the Dutch National Track team.

Jon Mould is a Welsh track cyclist born in Newport on this day in 1991. He won the National Team Pursuit Championship with James Boyman, Christopher Richardson and Joel Stewart in 2008, the European and National Madison Championships in 2009 (the former with Chris Whorral, the latter with Mark Christian) and the National Derny Championships the same year. Mould represented Wales at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India.

Rémi Pauriol, born in Aix-en-Provence on this day in 1982, won the Mountains Classifications at both the Tour Méditerranéen and Paris-Nice in 2011.

The Restaurant, Maurice de Vlaminck
Maurice de Vlaminck, son of a Flemmish father and a French mother, is considered alongside Henri Matisse and André Derain (he shared a studio and produced a series of pornographic novels with the latter) to have been one of the most important artists of the Fauvism movement. According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Biography, he moved to Chatou when he was 16 (1892/3) and earned a living as a violinist and by racing bikes.

Other cyclists born on this day: Zhang Lei (China, 1981); Erik Pettersson (Sweden, 1944); Leontien van der Lienden (Netherlands, 1959); Willy Falck Hansen (Denmark, 1906, died 1978); Doug Peace (Canada, 1919); Van Son (Cambodia, 1934); Yemane Negassi (Ethiopia, 1946); Óscar Pineda (Guatemala, 1977); Patrick Matt (Liechtenstein, 1969); Robert Charpentier (France, 1916, died 1966); Raúl Halket (Argentina, 1951); László Morcz (Hungary, 1956); Wakako Abe (Japan, 1966); Kjell Nilsson (Sweden, 1962); Jens Sørensen (Denmark, 1941).

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