|Rik van Steenbergen|
(public domain image)
The 1958 winner was Leon Vandaele. The race that year was notable for two reasons: firstly, it took the unusually long time of just over eight hours to be completed, and secondly because it finished in a 23-man sprint - the largest in Paris-Roubaix history. 1969 was won by Walter Godefroot who achieved the very rare distinction of beating Eddy Merckx, who was 2'39" behind as Godefroot crossed the line. 1975 brought the second of Roger de Vlaeminck's record four wins and he too beat Merckx into second place.
|Carrefour de l'Arbre|
(image credit: John.john59 CC BY-SA 3.0)
Sean Kelly, who had become the only Irish rider to win the race two years earlier, won for a second time in 1986. The same year, he won Milan-San Remo and would do so again in 1991, and he won Liège–Bastogne–Liège the same year as his first Paris-Roubaix and again in 1989 and the Giro di Lombardia in 1983, 1985 and 1991 (plus the amateur version in 1976), making him the joint third most successful Classics rider of all time. For the first time, the finish was relocated to the Avenue des Nations-Unies outside the offices of the race's main sponsor, mail order company La Redoute; where it would remain until 1988.
|Frans Bonduel in 1932|
The Ronde van Vlaanderen fell on this day in 1930 when it was won by Frans Bonduel, the rider who went on to win Stage 17 and finish in 7th place overall at the Tour de France later that year. Bonduel enjoyed an unusually lengthy professional career that lasted for twenty years between 1928 and 1947. He died on the 25th of February in 1998 when he was 90 and there is a street in Baasrode, the town in which he was born, named after him.
In 1936, the first ever edition of La Flèche Wallonne was held on this day and covered a distance of 236km from Tournai to Liège. It was won by Philemon De Meersman (15.11.1914-02.04.2005), a Belgian rider who was professional for just three years up until the outbreak of the Second World War. The next time it was held on this date was in 1949, when started at Charleroi and stretched for 231km, once again to Liège. The winner was Rik Van Steenbergen, and he would win again nine years later. The race would not fall on this date again for four decades, the next time being 1988 when the 243km parcours between Spa and Huy was covered fastest by Rolf Gölz - a German rider who seems to be largely forgotten a quarter of a century later, despite having held amateur Worlds and professional Nationals titles as well as winning Stage 8 at the 1988 Tour de France and numerous other races. It has not been held on this date since.
|Nicole Cooke at La Flèche Wallonne, 2010|
(image credit: Les Meloures CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cooke turned professional in 2002 and won a third National Road Race Championship, then added a Commonwealth Games gold medal. She was National Champion again in 2003 and won the World Road Cup and the Amstel Gold Race as well as the bronze medal at the World Championships, then in 2004 she won her fifth National title and the Giro Donne. A sixth National title came a year later, and a seventh in 2006 along with the General Classification at the Tour de France Féminine, then the greatest women's race in the world.
All in all, Cooke has won 10 National Championships, making her the second most successful rider in the event after the legendary Beryl Burton with 12 victories. She won the World Junior Road Race twice and the World Elite once, the Tour de France Féminine twice; with a total of 68 victories to her name to date. 2010 and early 2011 were not good for Cooke and poor results a she struggled to recover from an illness led to much of the British cycling press (that small part of it that takes notice of women's cycling, at any rate) to write her off, declaring that her career was over.
Fifth place at the Waalse Pijl, sixth at the GP Elsy Jacobs, second in the National Road Race Champions, first place on Stage 5 at the Giro Donne and fourth at the World Championships in Copenhagen (leaving her the best-placed British woman) in 2011 suggested the press had been wrong and more good results in 2012 - Stage 5 victory and eighth place overall at the Energiewacht Tour, which was emerging as one of the most popular and prestigious events in women's cycling, gave fans hope that Cooke was finding form once again.
However, early in 2013 she announced her immediate retirement. "I am very happy with my career. I have many happy memories over what's been a life's work," she said, then went on to launch a scathing attack on doping, revealing that she had been offered drugs when racing her first Tour de France: "I was invited into a team camper and asked what 'medicines' I would like to take to help me and was reminded that the team had certain expectations of me during the race and I was not living up to them. I said I would do my best until I had to drop out of the race, but I was not taking anything." She also attacked the injustice that women's cycling, although doping is far less prevalent in it, suffers enormously from doping in men's cycling: "Every scandal on the men's side has caused sponsors to leave on the women's side. With such thin budgets, the losses have a greater relative impact on what survives."
Olaf Ludwig was born in Gera - then East Germany - on this day in 1960. He began riding with the snappily-named SG Dynamo Gera/ Sportvereinigung (SV) Dynamo whilst still a teenager, riding on the winning teams in two World Junior Team Time Trial Championships in the late 1970s, and remained an amateur until 1990 when the Reunification allowed him to sign a professional contract with Panasonic. A sprinter of considerable repute who by this time had won numerous stages at the Tour de l'Avenir, an Olympic gold medal, several National Amateur Championship titles and a record 38 stages at the Peace Race, it came as no great surprie when he won Stage 8 and the overall Points competition of the Tour de France in his inaugural professional year.
(image credit: Etixer CC BY-SA 3.0)
In 1991, Ludwig was ranked 9th in the world by the UCI, won Stage 7 at the Tour de Suisse, Stages 2 and 5 at the Tour of Ireland and stood on the podium of the Tour de France six times, this time coming 3rd in the Points competition. In 1992, he won Stages 5 and 10 at the Tour de Suisse and the World Road Race Championship, the Four Days of Dunkirk, the Dwars door Vlaanderen and Stage 21 at the Tour de France, this time coming 4th on Points. In 1993, he won Stage 13 at the Tour but abandoned after the next stage; then a year later he won Stage 4 at the Tour of Britain as his career began to wind down, victories coming fewer and further between before his retirement in 1996.
In retirement Ludwig was employed by Telekom, the team with whom he spent his last four professional seasons, as a public relations agent. Later, when the team became T-Mobile, he would become a manager but ended his association with the organisation in 2006.
(image credit: McSmit CC BY-SA 3.0)
On the 4th of May 2010, the UCI announced that Valjavec was among a number of riders under investigation for suspicious blood values - usually an indication that a rider has been found to have an unusually high red blood cell population, indication of either undetected EPO use or blood transfusions rather than a failed anti-doping test. He strongly denied that he'd cheated and continues to do so, claiming that an illness he'd failed to report to the testers was the cause of the suspicious results. The Slovenian Federation found in favour and declined to charge him, also criticising the UCI's use of biological passports (a system that aims to keep an accurate record of a rider's test history). The UCI, meanwhile, disagreed and referred the case for appeal at the Court for Arbitration in Sport which subsequently over-ruled the Slovenian decision, found him guilty and banned him on the 22nd of May 2011, effective as of the 20th of January 2011, and disqualified his results between the 19th April and 30th of September 2009 - including the 8th place finish at the 2009 Giro, his best ever Grand Tour result.
Alex Steida, born in Belleville, Ontario on this day in 1961, became the first North American cyclist to lead the General Classification of the Tour de France in Stage 2, 1986. He was also leading the Mountains, Points and Youth Classifications. Unfortunately, the remainder of the race did not go his way and he finished in 120th place overall, then never entered again.
Juan Carlos Domínguez, born in Íscar, Spain on this day in 1971, won the General Classification, Mountains Classification and Stage 5 at the Vuelta a Murcia in 1997 and numerous Spanish races until 2007. That year, he recorded an unusually high haematocrit level of greater than 50% - evidence of possible EPO use or illegal blood transfuion - at the 2007 Eneco Tour of the Benelux and was banned for fifteen days.
Fabrizio Guidi, who was born in Pontedera, Italy on this day in 1972, won the Points competition at the 1996 Giro d'Italia, then one stage in 1999 and 2000. He also won three stages in the 1998 Vuelta a Espana and the overall Tour de la Région Wallonne in 2006 before retiring in 2007 with more than 40 professional victories to his name.
Other cyclists born on this day: Ian McGregor (USA, 1983); Ángel Vicioso Arcos (Spain, 1977); Geneviève Robic-Brunet (Canada, 1959); Anton Joksch (Germany, 1900); Peter Clausen (Denmark, 1964); Klaus Kynde Nielsen (Denmark, 1966); Christoph Sauser (Switzerland, 1976); Yves Landry (Canada, 1947); Óscar Giraldo (Colombia, 1973); Igor Dzyuba (Uzbekistan, 1972); Roman Kononenko (Ukraine, 1981); Stephen McGlede (Australia, 1969); Ed McRae (Canada, 1953).