Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 24.04.2013

Antonio Suarez
The Vuelta a Espana began on this date in 1959, 1979, 1989 and 1990. 1959 covered 3,048km in 17 stages, with the General Classification and King of the Mountains both going to Antonio Suárez of Licor 43. 1979 nearly didn't happen after the El Correo Español-El Pueblo Vasco newspaper company, which had created the race in 1955 and both organised and financed it until 1978, pulled out; leaving the race in a very precarious state until the advertising firm Unipublic saw an opportunity, took over and has organised every edition since. The race faced further problems when riders mounted a "go slow" protest over conditions. The race covered 3,373km in 19 stages and the winner was Joop Zoetemelk. In 1989, the race covered 3,656km in 21 stages and saw epic battles between Pedro Delgado and a pan-team group of Colombians unofficially working to get Kelme's Fabio Parra to the top of the General Classification. Delgado also faced a challenge from his Reynolds team mate Miguel Indurain, who had won Paris-Nice and was a favourite until he crashed and broke his wrist. 1990 covered 3,711km in 21 stages and saw a surprise win for Marco Giovannetti who worked hard to hold off Pedro Delgado after taking the race lead in Stage 10.

Laura Trott
Laura Trott
Laura Trott, who was born in Harlow, Essex on this day in 1992, had already become a cycling legend during her teenage years with no fewer than fifteen medals won at the World, European and British National Championships. Yet despite her glowing palmares, she might easily have never had a cycling career after being born with a collapsed lung and severe asthma.

Beginning cycling with her mother, who took up the sport to get fit, Laura soon began to show talent at their visits to the Welwyn track and before long earned a place on the British Cycling development program. By 2011 she was ready to ride with the British squad at the World Track Championships and they won (she also won the European Under-23 Individual and Team Pursuit and Scratch Race Championships as well as the National U-23 Road Race Championships); they won again in 2012 at the World Championships in Melbourne, where Trott also won the Omnium. However, the real highlight of the year was the one that made her a household name, familiar to millions of Britons who had previously taken no interest in cycling: she won in both the Team Pursuit and the Omnium at the Olympics.

Trott is integral part of British Cycling's track masterplan for the coming years, as expressed best by Dave Brailsford in 2011: "She was absolutely brilliant in the team pursuit and she rode an absolutely faultless omnium. Super talent – 19 years old. Wow. It's pretty exciting."

In 2012, she followed her older sister Emma into road racing, signing a contract with Team Ibis; in 2013 she joined the new British-registered Wiggle-Honda, a team owned and managed by Rochelle Gilmore and partly funded by Bradley Wiggins.

Louis Trousselier
Louis Trousselier
Trou-Trou, as he was known to his fellow riders, was the exception to the rule that successful cyclists were "hungry boys from poor backgrounds" who rode bikes because, like working class Londoners and boxing, it was the only way they could escape poverty - he came from a wealthy family that owned a flower merchant business in Paris; which explains the nickname Henri Desgrange gave him, "The Florist" - which somehow manages to sound more chilling than "le Terrible" (Aucouturier), "il Diablo" (Chiappucci), "Spartacus" (Cancellara), "the Butcher" (Pothier and, before he became the Angel of the Mountains, Gaul), "The Cannibal" (Merckx), "Death-Rider" (Cyclopunk favourite Henri van Lerberghe) and any other nickname in cycling history.

In photographs, Trousselier looks a rather stern, over-serious man but this seems entirely an effect of his rather elaborate moustache. In fact, he was widely known as a bit of a comedian who frequently played practical jokes and tricks on his friends - and sometimes, on strangers. One of his favourite was to descend on a cafe while riding with a friend and stage a mock argument over who should pay. The manager would then become involved, at which point Trou-Trou would suggest a race to decide the winner. As cycling in France at the time was an even more popular sport than it is today, le patron would agree and the two men would sprint away, never to be seen again. It seems rather a cruel trick, theft no less; but one friend noted that he would be careful to make a record of the establishment's address and later send payment.

Trou-Trou at the Tour, 1905
Trousselier won the 1905 Tour de France, the first time he entered, and bagged five stages along the way - success that he needed, because he'd only been given leave from the Army for a few days, and returning as anything less than a national hero would almost certainly have resulted in a court-martial appearance and punishment for desertion. Fortunately, he escaped that and his victory brought lucrative contracts to ride in races all over France - he needed those, too, because that very night after he'd won the Tour he gambled and lost all his prize money in a dice game. According to legend, he later told reporters "There's always another Tour, I can win it back again!" He never did, however - the next year, he came 3rd and his results became gradually worse after that; although he did manage to win four more stages before giving up cycling just before the outbreak of the First World War and taking up employment with the family firm.

The exact date of Trousselier's birth is not known - most sources agree that it was the 29th of June in 1881, but some give it as the 29th of January. He died on this day in 1939, making him either 58 or 59. In addition to the Tour de France, he won Paris-Rennes in 1902, Paris-Roubaix in 1905 (and a such is the first man to have both races in a single year), Paris–Valenciennes and Brussels–Roubaix in 1905 and Bordeaux-Paris in 1908.

André Darrigade
(image credit: Velos-Mont-Valerian)
Born in Narosse, France on this day in 1929, André Darrigade made his name by beating Antonio Maspes - who would become World Sprint Champion - at the Vélodrome d'Hiver. The American-born journalist René de Latour was there to see it: "When we first saw him in Paris soon after the war finished he was a novice, not a roadman at all. He had come to the big city to ride in the final of the famous Médaille race at the Vélodrome d'Hiver. When he arrived at the Vélodrome d'Hiver, he had no soigneur, no dressing gown, nobody to hold him up at the start, pump his tyres or adjust his position to suit the high, frightening bankings. He was lonely — but courageous."

After the race, Darrigade received an invitation to join the Vélo-Club d'Asnières-Courbevoiede from none other than Francis Pélissier who by this time had retired from competition and was now serving as one of the club's managers. He accepted and remained in Paris, immediately winning more sprints and, before long, was recognised as the best sprinter in the country due to his ability to up the pace far from the finish line, then keep going at high speed for far longer than his rivals. "Darrigade was the greatest French sprinter of all time and he'll stay that way for a long time," said Raphaël Géminiani. "The mould has been broken. But he wasn't just a sprinter. He was an animateur who could start decisive breaks; he destroyed the image of sprinters who just sit on wheels." He rapidly became a favourite with fans who were as impressed by his technique as by his name - Darrigade, with its rolling double-r, sounds especially musical when pronounced in a French accent.

He also became a formidable presence on the road - after winning four events during that first year in Paris, he turned professional in 1951 with La Perle-Hutchinson (for a salary that only just covered his annual rent, he later said, but he remained with them for five seasons) and won the Castelnau-Magnoacf, Albret, Eckbolsheim and Mirande criteriums and the Bordeaux-Saintes and GP de l'Uza road races. Darrigade's early palmares does not look to be that of a rider destined for success in the long stage races, but from 1952 onwards he began to excel in that discipline too with stage victories at the Tour de Afrique du Nord, the Tour of Algeria and Paris-Nice. In 1953, he rode for the first time in the Tour de France and won Stage 12, then twice stood on the podium the following year.

In 1955, his final season with La Perle, he won the both the National Road Race and Time Trial Championships, then won Stage 6 at the Tour and then finished 2nd in Stages 13 and 22. He moved to Helyett-Potin in 1955, remaining with them for one year before spending two seasons with Bianchi-Pirelli and then returning to Helyett for four years. During this period, he won the Giro di Lombardia and Stage 1 at the Tour (again with two other podium appearances) in 1956; Stages 1, 3a, 22 and 23 (and three other podium finishes) at the Tour in 1957; Stages 1, 9, 15, 17 and 22 at the Tour in 1958; Stages 1, 11 and the Points Competition at the Tour and the World Road Race Championship in 1959 and the Douglas Criterium on the Isle of Man, Stage 15 at the Giro d'Italia and Stage 5 at the Tour in 1960. A year later, he won the Tour's Points competition for a second time, also taking Stages 1a, 2, 13 and 20 - however, by 1962, his 12th year as a professional, he began to slow down a bit and could "only" win a stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné and Stage 2a at the Tour (with another two podium finishes), then Stage 12a in 1963.

Darrigade and Wouters
(image credit: Freshly Squeezed)
When he was 35, he had a return to form with Stages 2 and 18 - yet this would be his final Tour and, having won four more criteriums through 1965 and 1966, he retired in 1966 - his 17th professional year. His career could very easily have ended far earlier: right back in 1958, he was involved in a crash at Jacques Goddet's Parc des Princes velodrome in Paris. The velodrome's 70-year-old general secretary (the grand title given to a man responsible for the facility's day-to-day upkeep, whom the French insist on terming le jardinier) Constant Wouters had crossed the track to ask journalists to step back out of the riders' way, but was unable to see the rider approaching as he tried to cross back over. Darrigade hit him at full speed - the incident was captured by a photographer from Paris-Match - which resulted in both men being thrown high into the air before landing hard enough to be rushed to hospital. The rider sustained broken ribs and a cracked skull but, incredibly, was able to return to the race to complete a lap of honour; which must have absolutely delighted the crowd. Wouters was not so fortunate - twelve days later, he died from his injuries.

Speaking to a journalist after his retirement (in which he became a newsagent in Biarritz and befriended a young David Millar, who had driven there in a yellow Land Rover to set up a new home at the beginning of his own professional career), Darrigade revealed that he had never lost his love for the sport that had transformed him from a boy with nothing all those years ago at the Vélodrome d'Hiver to one of the most famous, successful and adored riders of all time. "I was always considered a team man. I never had any pretensions to be anything else. In the days when the Tour had national teams, [manager] Marcel Bidot always saw me as just that, " he said. "Those wins never became dull or routine. Each one was an immense pleasure. What's more, I had the chance to race alongside such great champions as Louison Bobet and Jacques Anquetil." His record of five final Tour de France stage wins has never been matched. At the time of writing, he is 82 years old and still very much alive.

Rein Taaramäe
(image credit: YellowMonkey/Blnguyen CC BY-SA 3.0)
Estonian Rein Taaramäe was born in Tartu on this day in 1987 and became a stagiaire with Cofidis in 2007, then turned professional for the same team the following year when he won stages at the GP du Portugal and the Tour de l'Avenir. In 2009 he won the National Road Race and Time Trial Championships as well as the Tour de l'Ain, the Mountains Classification at the Vuelta al País Vasco, 3rd place at the Tour de Romandie and 8th at the Tour de Suisse. 2010 was a less successful year, then in 2011 he won a second National Time Trial title, 3rd place overall and 1st in the Youth Classification at the Critérium International and 4th overall and 1st in the Youth Classification at Paris-Nice. He also made his mark in the Grand Tours - at the Vuelta a Espana he improved his 2009 results (7th for Stage 19 and 74th overall) to 1st in Stage 14, although he didn't finish the race; and at the Tour de France his 2010 results (best result: 34th in the prologue, prior to later abandoning) to 8th for Stage 1, 12th overall and 2nd in the Youth Classification.

Bob Addy, born in Northwood on this day in 1941, spent one year with the Belgian Leroux-Terrot team but rode with British teams for the rest of his twelve years as a professional and became one of the most successful British cyclists of the 1960s and early 1970s. His first major win was Stage 6 of the 1963 Tour of Britain, then called the Milk Race after main sponsor the Milk Marketing Board, and followed it with the National Amateur Road Race Championship one year later - in all, he would win 14 races at home. He also raced abroad, coming third in Stage 8 at the 1965 Tour de l'Avenir, but his results on the Continent - where he faced far stiffer competition - were considerably less impressive.

Other cyclists born on this day: Ronny Scholz (Germany, 1978); Michael Grenda (Australia, 1964); Peter Deimböck (Austria, 1942); Pierre Adam (France, 1924); Arie van der Stel (Netherlands, 1894, died 1986); Matthew Randall (New Zealand, 1978); Conrado Cabrera (Cuba, 1967); Luis Muciño (Mexico, 1936); Frederik Bertelsen (Denmark, 1974); Anthony Langella (France, 1974); Wally Rivers (South Africa, 1922); Chun Hing Chan (Hong Kong, 1981); János Bognár (Hungary, 1914, died 2004); Marek Leśniewski (Poland, 1963); Viktor Sokolov (USSR, 1954).

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