Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 21.08.2013

Keetie van Oosten-Hage
Keetie van Oosten-Hage
Keetie van Oosten-Hage
Born in Sint-Maartensdijk, Netherlands, on this day in 1949, is one of four cycling siblings: her sisters Ciska van Velzen-Hage, Heleen Hage and Bella van de Spiegel-Hage were also successful riders (as, for that matter, is nephew Jan van Helzen) - Keetie, Heleen and Bella all rode for the Beck's Bier team in 1977.

1966 was her first really good year with nine criterium wins and her first National Championship title, in Individual Pursuit, plus a silver medal at the National Road Race Championship; and the year after that she won fourteen crits and successfully defended her title. Then in 1968 she won ten crits, defended the Pursuit again - and won the World Road Race Championships. She kept the Pursuit title until 1978, when she took the silver, and was World Pursuit Champion in 1975, 1976, 1978 and 1979; she also won the National Road Race Championship form 1969 to 1976 and the National Omnium Championship in 1979.

Van Oosten-Hage retired in 1979, not because she was tired but because of the lack of races available to her - women's cycling didn't feature in the Olympics at that time and women's Grand Tours the Giro Donne, Tour de l'Aude and Tour de France Féminine did not yet exist (she said later that she'd have loved to have ridden the latter event). "I had won all the races there were," she explained.  "They included six world championships and several Dutch championships and a big race in America. There comes a point when it makes your ambitions less. I was still winning, but I had done it all." It is very easy to make a comparison here with that other Dutch superstar Marianne Vos, who has won so many races that her Rabobank team reportedly considered entering her into men's races simply to prevent her becoming bored.

Also like Vos, van Oosten-Hage faced accusations that she was too good, that her vast number of races wins left other riders feeling they could never beat her; fortunately most people are now agreed that a rider of such calibre is good for cycling because her success encourages other riders to strive harder, but in time van Oosten-Hage came to agree with her detractors: "Usually I won. A lot of people said at least now you have gone it will give other people a chance and we can use different tactics and so on. I can understand the other girls getting disillusioned because I usually won, and I suppose in retrospect that is not necessarily so good for the sport." It is a very great shame that she has been made to feel regretful about a great career during which she must have inspired many other women to start cycling.

The world was beginning to wake up to the existence of women's cycling by the early 1980s and, as they so often are, the Dutch KNWU national federation was at the vanguard; they gave her a job  running a program designed to ensure younger women would take her place and continue bringing trophies back to the Netherlands. However, the national team coaches - in some cases with good intentions and in others, no doubt, out of resentment that a woman had been given a responsible position in "their" sport - would frequently undo her hard work. She found this frustrating and, by 1985 considered becoming a coach herself but ultimately decided that at the age of 36 the training and examinations were more than she was willing to take on (some contemporary reports also claimed that the KNWU took steps to block her - they hadn't progressed quite that far, it seems).

In the years after her professional career, van Oosten-Hage gave away all her National and Worlds jerseys. "At the time they are nice to have, but then they are not so important and they mean more to other people," she says. "Now, of course, I regret it, but it is too late."

Erik Dekker
Erik Dekker at the Tour, 2005
Born in Hoogeveen, Netherkands in this day in 1970, Hendrik "Erik" Dekker entered his first race when he was eight. He didn't win that one, but it wasn't long before he started winning others; when he turned 15 he was selected for the National Juniors Track Team, and two years later he won a silver medal at the World Juniors Championships.

By the time he won a silver at the National Amateur Championships in 1992, Dekker had already won stages at the important Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda and Olympia's Tour races - this promising track record, combined with two stage wins at the Österreich-Rundfahrt, a prologue victory at the GP William Tell, Stage 10 at the Tour de l'Avenir and first place at the Rund um Köln in the wake of his Nationals medal made him an obvious choice for the Olympic team and entered for the road race. He, together with Fabio Casartelli and a third rider managed to break away from the peloton during the event and could not be caught - Casartelli won, but Dekker's exuberance as he crossed the line earned him many new fans. He had begun riding for the Buckler team at the start of the year (managed by Joop Zoetemelk and Jan Raas, no less) and at the end he was given a full professional contract.

Dekker in 2011
1993 passed quietly, as tends to be the case when a rider first begins to compete at the top level, then in 1994 he won the Postgirot Open and a stage at the Tour of the Basque Country. He was also picked for the team's Tour de France squad and survived the race; he was 101st overall, but two 20th place stage finishes and one in 15th are respectable for a debutant. He won the Postgirot again the following year and managed to improve his Tour finish to 70th place, then slipped a few places in 1996 with 74th, racing that year in red, white and blue as National Independent Time Trial Champion. He performed less well again in 1997 with 81st, but got into the top ten on three stages, including coming near to the podium with fifth place for Stages 17 and 20. 1998 had to be written off due to injuries suffered in a crash, which may also account for 107th place in the 1999 Tour (it might have inspired him to seek a little chemical assistance towards proving he still had the ability to win too, because he got into a spot of bother with a suspiciously high haematocrit reading - indicating possible EPO use and/or a blood transfusion - and as barred from competition until his red blood cells had returned to an acceptable level); but he found better form than ever before in 2000 - after riding his first Giro d'Italia (and coming 121st), he went back to the Tour, won Stages 8 and 17, came 51st in the General Classification and fifth overall in the Points competition.

2001 was, overall, every bit as good: his Tour result slipped to 91st with victory in Stage 8, but he won the Road World Cup, the Vuelta a Andalucia, the Amstel Gold Race, the Profronde van Surhuisterveen and the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt. In 2002 he won Tirreno-Adriatico and another National Time Trial Championship, but 136th at the Tour seemed to be show that any chance he might once have had of breaking into the top ten overall or even winning the Points competition were now gone; also, new injuries badly affected his performance towards the end of the year and throughout the next. Nevertheless, after winning the National Road Race title in 2004 he was back in France and riding faithfully for the team, settling for 133rd place for himself and then cheering himself up with overall victory at the Ronde van Nederland; then he rode the Tour again in 2005 and for a final time in 2006.

Faithfulness to the team is very much the keyword when describing Dekker's career. Buckler picked up a new sponsor in Dekker's second year, becoming WordPerfect for two seasons; then became Novell for 1995. In 1996, it changed to Rabobank and is still known as such, the Dutch bank being one of the few sponsors who got involved in cycling and stuck with it (they also back women's cycling and other sports, being that very rare thing - a company that sponsors sports not only for advertising, but because it actually cares). Dekker stayed with them throughout, for his entire career, and since retiring from competition he has continued to serve them as a team manager.

Jessica Allen, born in Brecon, Wales on this day in 1989, earned a place on British Cycling's Olympic Development Programme in 2006 after being discovered by the Welsh Talent Team; that year she also won the Junior National Time Trial Championships for the first of two  consecutive years and came second at the Welsh National Road Race Championships, then in 2007 she won the Points race at the National Track Championships. In 2008 Allen competed in both the Under-23 and Elite National Road Race Championships, taking second place in the former and fourth in the latter as well as coming third in the National Individual Time Trial Championship.

Maria Blower, born in Leicester, Great Britain on this day in 1964, was third in the National Road Race Championship of 1982; second at the Nationals, third at the Tour of Norway and 29th at the Olympics of 1984; third at the Nationals and eighth at the Olympics of 1988 and third at the Nationals in 1989.

Settino "Timo" Sabbadini, born in Monsempron-Limos, France on this day in 1928, turned professional with Terrot-Wolber in 1950 and retired in 1964 after nine years with Mercier. He won numerous criterium races, but occasionally showed up on the podium in stage races too, sometimes in the most prestigious ones: in 1956 he won Stage 4 at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and in 1958 Stage 5 at the Tour de France.

Businessman Manfred Neun,who was born Heidenheim, West Germany on this day in 1950, and began his career  working in a bank and managing two businesses, one of them a horticultural firm and the other a bike manufacturer. A keen cyclist himself, he currently serves as President of the European Cycling Federation, where his knowledge of cycling and politics has allowed him to act as an effective bridge between cyclists and government. Under his leadership, the ECF has taken an increasingly scientific approach in its mission to promote cycling as sport and as a method of transport, allowing it to back up programs designed to improve cycling infrastructure with accurate studies and facts.
"Cycling means happiness, cycling is community building and as everyone can have a bicycle, cycling is democracy. We can be an example for the whole world. So let us all live like examples." - Manfred Neun
Other cyclists born on this day: Ross Reid (Great Britain, 1987); Preeda Chullamondhol (Thailand, 1945); Koji Fukushima (Japan, 1973); Rodolfo Guaves (Philippines, 1953); Ferenc Stámusz (Hungary, 1934); Carlos Mesa (Colombia, 1955); Samuel Hunter (Great Britain, 1894); Bernhard Eckstein (Germany, 1935); Carlos Alcantara (Uruguay, 1948); Daniel Steiger (Switzerland, 1966).

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