Thursday, 11 April 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 11.04.2013

1909 victor Octave Lapize, pictured at the
1910 Tour de France
Paris-Roubaix was held on this date in 1909, 1954, 1965, 1976, 1993, 1999, 2004 and 2010. The 1909 edition - the last in which riders were allowed to be paced by another bike or tandem (they'd been allowed to be paced by cars and motorbikes too between 1898 and 1901) - was won by Octave Lapize, the first of the three victories that would make him the only man to have won in three consecutive year until Francesco Moser repeated the feat nearly seven decades later in 1980. Lapize would go on to become French National Champion in 1911, 1912 and 1913 and, after Stages 5, 9, 10, 14 and the overall General Classification at the Tour de France in 1910, would win Stage 6 in 1912 and 8 in 1914. When the First World War broke out, Lapize became a pilot in the French Army but was shot down on Bastille Day 1917 near Flirey. He survived the crash but succumbed to appalling injuries in hospital shortly afterwards. He was 29.

Raymond Impanis, winner in 1954, was another rider who also did well in the Tour (and the Vuelta a Espana and Giro d'Italia too, for that matter) - he did even better, meanwhile, in the Classics; winning the Dwars door Vlaanderen in 1949 and 1951, Gent-Wevelgem in 1952 and 1953 and the Tour of Flanders in the same year as his Paris-Roubaix victory (he also won Paris-Nice for the first time that year too, repeating it in 1960). All in all, he rolled across the Paris-Roubaix start line sixteen times - a record that was not equaled until Servais Knaven made his own 16th appearance in 2010, the same year that Impanis died.

Rik van Looy - first man to win all five Monuments
(image credit: Velorunner)
1965 brought the record-equaling third win for Rik van Looy. His previous victories, however, had been in 1961 and 1962, so he could not equal the three consecutive wins set by Lapize all those year before. However, by winning both Paris-Roubaix and Liège–Bastogne–Liège in 1961 and having already won  Milan-San Remo (1958) and the Tour of Flanders and the Giro di Lombardia (1959), he became the first rider in history to win all five Monuments, the toughest and most prestigious of the Classics (only two other riders - Roger de Vlaeminck and Eddy Merckx - have been able to repeat the achievement).

Belgian Marc Demeyer won in 1976 - the year in which the race was twice disrupted by angry protestors demonstrating against redundancies at Le Parisien, a newspaper that sponsored the race. Both incidents were filmed by a Danish crew for A Sunday In Hell, a movie that is considered one of the finest ever made on the subject of cycling and which is mandatory viewing for all historians and fans of the sport and which does an admirable job of depicting the sheer suffering involved in the race for those who have not been sufficiently fortunate as to have seen it for themselves. Less than six years later, on the 20th of January 1982, Demeyer died when he suffered a heart attack while sitting down doing a crossword at his home circumstances that would nowadays immediately suggest EPO (a synthetic version known as Epogen was undergoing clinical trials at the time, but was not available except to pharmaceutical laboratories). No link to doping has ever been proven, but as Willy Voet points out in his 1999 book Massacre á la Chaine, tests in the early 1980s were extremely rudimentary and, with the increasing elapsed time, any link to a drug available to Demeyer - if indeed such a link exists - is unlikely to ever be found.

Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle
(image credit: Eric Houdas CC BY-SA 3.0)
In 1993 the race was won by Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle who had formed part of a breakaway group with Francesco Moser (winner in 1978, 1979 and 1980), Marc Madiot (winner in 1985 and 1991) and Hennie Kuiper ten years earlier in 1983, when Kuiper won. 1999 was won by Andrea Tafi, who made such a name for himself in hard, dangerous races like this one that he was nicknamed Il Gladiatore. He won wearing the jersey of the Italian National Champion, thus achieving his greatest ambition - repeating the same feat that had been accomplished by his hero Francesco Moser in 1979. In 1993, race organisers reversed the direction in which the riders tackled the Trouée d'Arenberg: with the speed offered by modern bikes ever increasing, the notorious cobbles that are considered the hardest section of the entire race had become too dangerous even by the standards of Paris-Roubaix.

Magnus "Maximus" Bäckstedt became the first Swedish rider to win Paris-Roubaix in 2004 after beating Tristan Hoffman, Roger Hammond and Fabian Cancellara in a final sprint - Johan Museeuw, the favourite, had been robbed of his chances at becoming the second man to win four editions when he suffered a puncture on the crucial section at Hem. After the race, Jo Planckaert, who had come 2nd in 1997, told reporters: "This is a race that suits me when I'm having a good day. On the other hand, if you don't have the legs, this is the worst place you could possibly be." Cancellara - nicknamed "Spartacus" - won for the second time in 2010, thus becoming the most successful Swiss rider in the history of the race.

La Flèche Wallonne took place on this date in 1974 and 1990. 1974 was 38th edition of the race and ran for the first time as a loop, starting and finishing at Verviers; as it would for a total of six years. The total distance was 225km, 24km shorter than the previous year, and the winner was Frans Verbeeck. The 54th edition in 1990 ran for a fifth consecutive year between Spa and Huy, covering 208km - 45km down on the previous year. Moreno Argentin won for the first time, but in the coming years he would manage another two victories and equal the record.

Pat Hanlon
(image credit: Retrobike)
A decade and a half after her death, Pat Hanlon's name remains one of the most hallowed in the cycling world. However, few younger riders and fans know how she achieved her fame, let alone anything about her.

Prissie Jane Howell (as she was then known) was born on this day in 1915 and spent her early childhood in her native Cardiganshire, doing well academically but suffering a series of lung complaints due to the damp Welsh weather, so her parents decided to move her to Somerset. The drier weather suited her and she became healthy; however, as Welsh was her first language her studies went downhill fast. When she was 14, she was given a bicycle as a gift and discovered a talent for repairing it - a skill that in those days, despite the work carried out by women during the First World War when they had maintained machinery on farms and in factories while the men were away fighting, was considered most unbefitting a young lady.

Two years later, Pat went to live with an aunt in London and spent the next decade working as a "nippy," a waitress in a Lyon's Cornerhouse teashop. Often, she would wake at 3am to join the local cycling club for a 150km ride before returning to London in time to work the afternoon and evening shift. At weekends, she would ride to Somerset and back again to visit her parents - around 36 hours of riding in total. Soon, she was covering more than 24,000km each year and began to enter races; immediately enjoying some success which encouraged her to seek out a quality racing bike and finding one at McLean's, a famous bike manufacturer and shop based at 362 Upper Street, Islington (it closed in 1962), and she began to hang around the shop badgering the owners for a job. They would occasionally give her a job to do, but rarely if ever paid her for it.

The cellar at McLean's was the domain of the shop's elderly wheel builder - a man who, like many of those of achieve expertise in the art, gave the impression of being as much a wizard as a mechanic. She pestered him, too, trying to persuade him to teach her the skill, but he refused and told her that "women don't do jobs like that." Just as the First World War had forced Britain to give women the chance to prove they were equal to men, so the Second World War proved to be the opportunity Pat needed: one day, with the male shop staff all away fighting the Nazis, the boss told her that somewhat gruffly that as of the coming Monday she would be the on-site wheel builder. She remained there for almost twenty years.

At first - and as one might suspect - Pat faced awful prejudice, with many of the shop's customers making it perfectly plain that they would not be buying nor even trying wheels built by a woman. Pat, meanwhile, knew her wheels were good and refused to give up. In time, reports began to filter back from the more enlightened customers and those who bought their wheels without knowing who had built them - Pat's wheels were not good, they were excellent; magnitudes better than anything those who were fortunate enough to own them had ever ridden, light and strong and staying true on even the harshest roads.

Word of mouth is the best advertisement available, and in 1957 after her first marriage failed Pat left McLean's to set up her own shop in Tottenham (where, in the 1960s, she would employ a young man named John Berrisford; the very same one that taught your humble author how to build a wheel in the late 1990s). By this time, she was famous among cyclists throughout Europe and the great riders of the day would travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to buy Hanlon wheels. She was rarely seen in the shop, preferring to pay shop staff to deal with the likes of Jean Stablinksi, Jacques Anquetil, Tom Simpson and Rik Van Looy (who may well have been riding on Hanlon wheels when he won Paris-Roubaix on this day in 1965 - see above) when they showed up to buy the wheels she built in her private workshop. They sold as quickly as she could produce them: Mr. Berrisford told me that, in an attempt to meet demand, Hanlon would take her work home with her and build wheels while sitting down and watching television in the evenings, just as many women of her generation would knit. However, demand outstripped supply, and winning a Tour de France was by no means a guarantee that stock would be available when a hopeful cyclist visited in search of them.

Pat remarried in 1979 at the age of 64, sparking rumours that she would soon retire and sending shockwaves through cycling as riders realised that the supply of Hanlon wheels would soon dry up forever. She continued for four years, finally calling it a day in 1983 - sadly, husband Jim died soon afterwards. She outlived him by fourteen years, dying in Majorca on the 29th of December in 1997.

Some of those riders fortunate enough to have been able to lay their hands on a set of Hanlon wheels still have them, and some still use them. Mr. Berrisford's dated to 1964, and he claimed that he had never had to true them.

Przemysław Niemiec
(image credit: WR100Mio CC BY-SA 3.0)
Ron Kiefel, who was born in Denver on this day in 1960, became the first American cyclist to win a Grand Tour stage when he was first over the finish line after Stage 15 at the 1985 Giro d'Italia. His career began in cyclo cross, coming 5th in the National Championships of 1980 and 1981 before he turned to road cycling and won the National Road Race, Individual Time Trial and Team Trial in 1983. Following his Giro stage win, he won stages in the 1986 Coors Classic, then the General Classification at the Tour of Tuscany and a second National Road Race title in 1988. Kiefel rode in six Tours de France and finished them all, with his best result being 69th overall in 1988 - however, two years later, he was 3rd in Stage 8.

Przemysław Niemiec, born in Oświęcim, Poland on this day in 1980, is a climbing specialist who won the Tour of Slovenia in 2005, the Tour of Tuscany in 2006, the Route du Sud in 2009 and the Mountains Classification and 2nd place overall in the 2010 Settimana internazionale di Coppi e Bartali, later taking the Mountains Classification and 3rd overall at the Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda that same year.

Other cyclists born on this day: Will Clarke (Australia, 1985); Marvin Angarita (Colombia, 1989); Franck Rénier (France, 1974); Rick Flens (Netherlands, 1983); Franck Dépine (France, 1959); Gonzalo Aguiar (Spain, 1966); Antipass Kwari (Zimbabwe, 1975); Toni Tauler (Spain, 1974); Gino Pancino (Italy, 1943); René van Hove (Netherlands, 1915); Frans de Vreng (Netherlands, 1898, died 1974); Benedykt Kocot (Poland, 1954); Anikó Hódi (Hungary, 1986); Thanos Mantzouranis (Greece, 1982); Aleksandr Averin (USSR, 1954).

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