The Ronde van Vlaanderen was held on this day in 1936, 1964, 1970, 1981, 1987, 1992, 1998 and 2009. The 1936 edition was won by the Belgian Louis Hardiquest who took 7h30' to cover the course before beating Edgard De Caluwé, François Neuville and Cyriel Van Overberghe - all Belgians, as were the rest of the top ten - in a final sprint. For the first time that year, an amateur's race was run parallel to the main event - the winner was W.T Jolijn.
Rudi Altig became the first German winner in 1964 after battling against strong headwinds along the coastal sections to escape a powerful group of riders that included Rik van Looy who had won in 1959 and 1962, Tuur Decabooter who won in 1960 and Jo de Roo who would win a year later in 1965; building up a 4'05" lead by the time he crossed the finish line.
Eric Leman won in 1970, the first of his record-equaling three victories (he was the third man to win three in the history of the race). Perhaps even more impressive are the riders he beat - 2nd place went to Walter Godefroot and 3rd to Eddy Merckx. Out of 173 starters, only 37 finished. In 1981, the year the race began to be held on the 14th Sunday of the year so as to always fall one week before Paris-Roubaix. The winner was Hennie Kuiper, followed by Frits Pirard in 2nd and Jan Raas in third, making it the only year in which Dutch riders took all three steps of the podium.
|Skibby, inches away from being run over|
(image credit: Cadenced)
Jacky Durand was victorious in 1992, the first Frenchman to win the race since Jean Forestier in 1956. Durand was famous for his apparently suicidal breaks, which inspired Vélo magazine to publish a monthly Jackyometer keeping check of how much time he spent riding ahead of the pelton - this race was no different, and he broke away with Thomas Wegmüller with 217km still to go. Often, breaks like this fail because it takes less effort to ride in a peloton that it does alone or in a small group and the riders will tire quicker, but when it works the results are spectacular. On this occasion, it worked: Wegmüller used up his reserves and was unable to remain with the Frenchman as he sprinted to the finish and crossed the line alone. Some years later, he was stopped for speeding. The gendarme walked up to the window of his car, looked inside, and was speechless for a few moments. "You won Flanders in 1992," he told the rider, then let let him go.
(image credit: GSL2.0 CC BY-SA 3.0)
The winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen in 2009 was Germany's Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, a year after her HTC-Highroad team mate Judith Arndt had won. The women's race was not televised.
In the early day of the race, many races were motorpaced with riders utilising the slipstream provided my small motorcycles that would travel just ahead of them as is still seen in modern day derny races such as keirin. This would sometimes allow riders known primarily for track racing - as they would be more used to trailing the derny - to gain an upper hand over riders with more road racing experience; as proved to be the case in 1899 when Albert Champion managed to build a sufficient lead early in the event to maintain his advantage even as he lost time to his opponents on the cobbles. Only Émile Bohours could get anywhere near him and may have caught him, coming within 30 seconds before his own motorpacer hit a spectator. He slowed considerably later on in the race as he became hungry, but by this time he was so far ahead of closest rivals Paul Bor and Ambroise Garin that he crossed the line some 23 minutes ahead of them. Despite the surprise, the win was not considered a great victory - one year previously Maurice Garin (Ambroise's brother and, in five years' time, the winner of the first Tour de France) had won the event with a time ten minutes' quicker than Champion, despite much worse weather.
|Champion signing on at the start of the 1899 Paris-Roubaix|
By this time, Champion's factory was performing well and the company expanded into the American market, establishing the Champion Spark Plug Factory in Boston. After an argument with the American team providing financial backing in 1908, Champion simply walked out and set up a new company named the Champion Ignition Company in Flint, Michigan - the fact that he shared office space with Buick no doubt probing highly advantageous. Champion Spark Plugs were not happy about the new factory's name and began legal proceedings, causing Champion to rename the company The AC Spark Plug Company. Both are still with us - Champion Spark Plugs is now part of the Federal-Mogul stable which continues to market spark plugs under the Champion brand and AC Spark Plugs is now ACDelco. He said that one of his proudest moments was when he was told that the Spirit of St. Louis, the aeroplane in which Charles Lindbergh completed the first non-stop transatlantic flight by a heavier-than-air craft in 1927.
|Champion in later life|
Per Pedersen, who was born in Vestervig, Sweden on this day in 1964, turned professional with RMO-Meral in 1986 and remained with the team for five seasons during which he achieved some good results including 7th in Stage 13 at the Tour de France in 1989, 1st in Stage 7b at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya a year later, 1st in Stage 2 at the Vuelta Ciclista a la Communidad Valenciana in 1991 and 1st in Stage 6 at the Volta ao Algarve in 1993.
Pedersen rode in four Tours de France (1989, 1991, 1992 and 1993) but was never able to come even close to his Stage 13 result in 1989; so he did what so many riders of the day did when they found the top results they so desired just out of reach and turned to performance-enhancing drugs. He admitted in 2006 that he had used doping subsequently banned from competition, telling the press that "it involved cortisone." After retiring at the end of 1993, he was employed briefly as a directeur sportif at Team CSC. He now runs a bike shop near Herning, birthplace of CSC (now Saxo Bank-Sungard) general manager, 1996 Tour de France victor and self-confessed ex-doper Bjarne Riis.
|Tournant (on the bike), 2008|
(image credit: Jejecam CC BY-SA 3.0)
Anouska van der Zee, born in Utrecht on this day in 1976, won numerous podium finishes on both track and road over her eight-year career and won Stage 3 at the 2003 Holland Ladies' Tour. She competed in the Road Race at the Olympics of 2004, but didn't finish and retired shortly afterwards.
Kristof Vandewalle, born in Kortrijk, Belgiumon this day in 1985, won Stages 1 and 2 and the overall General Classification at the 2003 Tour de l'Avenir, then won Stage 3 at the same race a year later. His best results since have been at the 2010 Grosser Preis des Kantons Aargau semi-Classic, which he won, and 2nd place in Stage 18 at the 2011 Vuelta a Espana. In 2012, he will continue to ride with Quick Step following its merger with Omega Pharma-Lotto.
Willy Planckaert, born in Nevele on this day in 1944, enjoyed considerable success during the 1960s and 1970s when he won Stage 4, 7 and the Points competition at the 1966 Tour de France; Stages 5, 9 and 22b at the 1967 Giro d'Italia and the Dwars door Vlaanderen in 1973, along with numerous victories in other prestigious races. His younger brother Eddy (born 1958) would also win the Tour's Points competition 22 years later in 1988 and middle brother Walter won the Tour of Flanders in 1976 and two Dwars door Vlaanderen (1977 and 1984). His son Jo also became a professional cyclist and finished the 1997 Paris-Roubaix in 2nd place.
Laima Zilporytė, born in Mediniai, USSR on this day in 1967, represented her nation at the 1988 Olympics and won bronze in the Road Race; having been out-sprinted by Dutch Monique Knol and German Jutta Niehaus to gold and silver.
Rafał Ratajczyk, born in Żyrardów on this day in 1983, is a Polish track cyclist who became European Under-23 Points Race Champion in 2004 and won the National Under-23 Individual Time Trial Championship on road in 2005. In 2009 he was suspended from competition for a period of six months by the Polish federation after he tested positive for the banned sympathomimetic amine stimulant ephidrine. In 2011, he won the European Elite Point Race Championship at Apeldoorn.
Other cyclists born on this day: Jeong Yeong-Hun (South Korea, 1973); Henry O'Brien, Jr. (USA, 1910, died 1973); René Brossy (France, 1907); Masazumi Tajima (Japan, 1933); Norbert Sinner (Luxembourg, 1907, died 1945); Vadim Kravchenko (Kazakhstan, 1969); Vlado Fumić (Yugoslavia, 1956); Charles Pile (Barbados, 1956); Josef Schraner (Switzerland, 1929); Pierre Nihant (Belgium, 1925, died 1993); Aleksandar Strain (Yugoslavia, 1919, died 1997); Yngve Lundh (Sweden, 1924); Merlyn Dawson (Belize, 1960).