Wednesday 24 July 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 24.07.2013

Ferdinand Kübler
Ferdinand Kübler
Born in Marthalen, Switzerland in 1919, Ferdinand Kübler - commonly called Ferdi, though he prefers Ferdy - is 94 years old today: making him the oldest surviving Tour de France winner in the world and the longest lived Tour winner in history. In his best years, Ferdy was like no rider seen before: an uncontrollable, impulsive, unstoppable rider every bit as likely to throw his chances away in a suicidal attack as to impress with his enormous talent. Ending his career took no less an opponent than Mont Ventoux, and he won more than 400 victories. Had he not have been limited to Swiss races in the early days of his career by the Nazi occupation of Europe, he might easily have come closer to Eddy Merckx's record of 525.

Kübler's professional career began with the Cilo team in 1940 and he became National Pursuit Champion on the track that year; he kept the title and won a stage at the Tour de Suisse the following year when he rode for the P. Egli Rad team. In 1942 he won the National Hill Climb Championship and the General Classification at the Tour de Suisse, then in 1943 he won the Pursuit Championship for a third time. In 1944 and 1945, he won A Travers Lausanne for the fourth and then fifth time and, in the latter year, also became National Cyclo Cross Champion; with the war over he was free to compete in foreign events but had a quiet year. He entered the Tour de France with the Tebag team in 1947 and won Stages 1 and 5, wearing the maillot jaune for one day and abandoning in Stage 7; having won the National Road Race Championship, the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse in 1948 he returned to the Tour in 1949 (having won the National Road Race Championship again) and won Stage 5, this time he abandoned in Stage 18. Later that year he won the silver medal at the World Road Race Championships.

There are those who say that had Fauto Coppi not have broken his pelvis at the Giro d'Italia and had Gino Bartali's Italian team have stayed in the race instead of going with him when he abandoned after allegedly being threatened by a man with a knife, Kübler would not have won the 1950 Tour de France. Coppi may indeed have won if he was able to race; but he wasn't and that's how cycling works, so that point is irrelevant. Bartali was aging and coming to the end of his career - he had been one of the greatest Tour riders ever seen and was still capable of beating far younger men in the mountains, but in this edition the time trials counted for a great deal and he wasn't as fast as he once was. Magni, meanwhile, was a superb rider in the flat time trials, as can be seen by his second place finish in Stage 6 when he was only 17" behind Kübler; but he wasn't much of a climber. Kübler could climb and time trial, so it seems that his insistence that he'd have won regardless is probably correct. Either way, it was a fair-and-square victory and we'll never know what might have been. It should also be remembered that he had phenomenal form that year, winning thirteen other races, fourth place overall at the Giro and three Tour stages.

Kübler on the Tour, 1950
Kübler met his match on the 18th of July in 1955, the day his impulsiveness led him to make a serious mistake - underestimating Ventoux. The Giant of Provence wasn't in the mood to go easy on anyone that day, as Jean Malléjac discovered, not even realising what was happening to him when he collapsed on the seared asphalt - when the doctors got to Malléjac they found him lying flat on the stony ground with one leg still trying to turn the pedals and he didn't regain consciousness for a quarter of an hour (he wasn't the only one - no fewer than six men collapsed and needed medical assistance that day).

Kübler had believed himself able to tame the mountain. Raphaël Géminiani tried to warn him: "Watch out, Ferdy - the Ventoux is not like any other col." Kübler, with his curious habit of referring to himself in the third person, replied: "Ferdy is not like any other rider." Then he tried to sprint to the summit, and hadn't got very far before he was reduced to begging for a push from spectators to get over. On the way down, ashen-faced and in a cold sweat, he found a bar and started drinking heavily - other customers persuaded him to continue and got him back on his bike, but he set off in the wrong direction and finished in 42nd place. "He is too old, Ferdy; he is to sick - Ferdy has killed himelf on the Ventoux," he told a press conference that night, then abandoned and never returned to the Tour. He won three races the following year, then retired in 1957.

After his racing years came to an end, Ferdy bought a flower shop and became manager of the Italian Gazzola team, home to Charly Gaul; another rider who sometimes foamed at the mouth when climbing, but a climber to whom even Ventoux paid respect. He was also a friend of Tom Simpson, who bore a passing resemblance to him - Simpson, of course, died on Ventoux in 1968. Kübler is still involved in Tour de Suisse public relations work to this day.

Daniel Morelon 
Daniel Morelon, born in Bourg-en-Bresse on this day in 1944, began cycling after going to see some races with his father and two older brothers. Having originally dreamed of a career as a road racer, he developed an interest in track cycling after watching Sante Gaiardoni winning the gold medals for the 1,000m Time Trial and Sprint at the 1960 Olympics; decided that his future lay in the velodrome, he entered his first race two years later and crashed (due to forgetting that he was on a fixed-gear bike, he said) yet still finished second behind Pierre Trentin, who would become his great rival.

In 1963, Morelon was summoned to complete his National Service with the French Army and joined the Insep National Sports Institute, which brought him into contact with coaches and training levels operating at the top levels of cycling. Within a year, he was specialising in the Sprint and was able to beat then World Champion Patrick Sercu - and two years later, he was World Champion himself: as he would be again in 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973 and 1975. Despite their rivarly, Morelon and Trentin often rode together in tandem events and became World Champions in 1966.

Morelon retired in 1977 and became National Coach; however, in 1980 he returned to competition and won silver for the Keirin and bronze for the Sprint at the European Championships. In 1990 he became chief of a training facility in Hyeres, where he coached Laurent Gané and developed a new rivalry with his Parisian counterpart Gérard Quintyn, the coach responsible for Florian Rousseau. Both men retired following the 2004 Olympics; while Morelon was taken on by the Italian team prior to the 2008 Games he decided instead to work for the Chinese, coaching Guo Shuang.

Josef Fuchs, born in Einseideln, Switzerland on this day in 1948, won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 1981.

Daisuke Imanaka, who was born in Hiroshima on this day in 1963, became the second Japanese rider to ride the Giro d'Italia (1995) and the Tour de France (1996).

Cyclists born on this day: Gerard Bosch van Drakestein (Netherlands, 1887, died 1972); Deb Murrell (Great Britain, 1966); Radiša Čubrić (Yugoslavia, later Serbia, 1962); Alberto Ongarato (Italy, 1975); Levi Heimans (Netherlands, 1985); Bob Downs (Great Britain, 1955); Aitor Pérez (Euskadi, 1977); Gabriele Missaglia (Italy, 1970); Adriano Durante (1940); Bjørn Stiler (Denmark, 1911); Bent Pedersen (Denmark, 1945); Heinz Richter (East Germany, 1947); Vratislav Šustr (Czechoslovakia, 1959); Arturo Gériz (Spain, 1964); Dania Pérez (Cuba, 1973); Tanasije Kuvalja (Yugoslavia, 1946); Kleanthis Barngas (Greece, 1978); Robert Pfarr (USA, 1920, died 2006).

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