Maes began cycling during his boyhood and won his first race in 1928 before rapidly becoming known as one of the best young amateurs in Belgium, yet he didn't turn professional until 1933 when he signed up to Alcyon-Dunlop. Incredibly for a neo-pro, he won Paris-Roubaix that year; no doubt benefiting on the race's notoriously difficult parcours from the same cyclo cross skills that had won him the Critérium International de Cyclo Cross earlier than same season. The year after that he won Stage 23 at the Tour and was eighth overall, then in 1935 (the year that Romain Maes won) he won Stage 15, was second on two others, third on another, took fourth place overall and second in the King of the Mountains, having been the fastest man up the Tourmalet.
1936 was the first Tour in which teams from the Netherlands, Romania and Yugoslavia took part - there had also been a team made up of Italians resident in France but, very shortly before the race was due to begin, it was decided that they would not be permitted to take part; it was also the last year that Henri Desgrange served as Directeur - he had undergone prostate surgery a few weeks before the race and was due to have another one afterwards, but convinced his reluctant surgeon to agree to him attending in a car padded out with cushions and with a doctor in attendance. At that time, many roads outside of the centre of Paris were primitive, at best cobbled and at worst, unsurfaced tracks full of potholes and gulleys (in rural areas, they would remain as such until the Tour became televised, at which point local mayors began to find the money to modernise them so that the world wouldn't think their communities backward) and even in the first stage it became apparent that he wouldn't be able to continue. He then attempted to continue through Stage 2, with a fever and in great pain, but was forced to give up and announced his retirment later that day, at which point Jacques Goddet took over. The day before, Paul Egli had defeated torrential rain to win the first stage, becoming the first Swiss rider to have ever led the Tour; after that the first week was uneventful until Stage 7 when Theo Middelkamp became the first ever Dutch rider to win a stage - prior to this Tour, he had never left the Netherlands and Ballon d'Alsace in Stage 4 was the first mountain he'd ever seen. During Stage 7, Romain Maes abandoned with bronchitis; 1930 winner Georges Speicher also left a short while later. Maurice Archambaud took the maillot jaune in Stage 4 but, with the race still at an early point, could not defend it for long and it passed to Sylvère Maes in Stage 8. French team leader Antonin Magne had expected Maes to beat him in the Stage 13b and 14b individual time trials, but he lost a lot more time that he'd bargained for - after 13a he was 3'49" behind overall, after 14b the gap had risen to 8'90". He tried to attack in the mountains in an affort to win it back, but Maes was better than expected there as well: Magne moved into second place overall from third in Stage 16 but by the end of Stage 17 he was 26'13" behind. Belgium would also win the two remaining team time trials so, by the end of the race, Maes' lead was 26'55".
|Maes (black jersey) at a level crossing, 1937
|Maes in Izoard, 1939
Maes may have won a third Tour, but 1939 would be the last until after the Second World War. He was selected for the Belgian team in 1947 after taking fifth place overall at that year' Giro d'Italia and, as winner of the previous edition, would have worn the maillot jaune in the first stage; but he decided not to take part just a few days before it was due to begin. He continued racing into 1948 but never won another race, then retired from riding and became manager of the Belgian team until 1957. Afterwards, he bought a bar, renamed it Le Tourmalet and ran it for the next nine years until his death from cancer on the 5th of December, 1966.
|Charlie Davey at Herne Hill
Born in Croydon on this day in either 1886 or 1887, Charlie Davey competed in soccer and field athletics until he was 17, when his brothers convinced him to have a go at a grass track event they were racing. He won five prizes.
In 1906, he founded the Addiscombe CC (which is still in operation) and won his first road race, a 50-mile time trial; four years later he joined the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletics Club, finishing the Anerley 12-hour in third place with them in 1911. This won him a place at the 1912 Olympics where he took part in the road race, run as a 318km time trial and became something of a farce as it took place on open roads and times were inaccurately recorded; in fact, cycling in general was rather farcical in those Games - the Swedish committee responsible for organising the event had decided not to include track cycling and, when several competing countries requested it be added, revealed that Stockholm's only velodrome had been demolished to make room for the new Olympic stadium). Team sizes were limited to twelve, but Great Britain had three teams representing Scotland, England and Ireland, who then competed together as a team of 33 (this tactic had been controversial for some time and had been the reason that the UCI was established in April 1900) but organisers hadn't expected as many nations to take part as eventually did and the race had to begin at 2am so that the 123 riders (151 had signed up) to start could be sent off in groups. This gave the early riders, who benefited from cool, calm conditions, a huge advantage; Rudolf Lewis of South Africa was second to go and recorded the fastest time while Britain's Freddie Grubb took second place. The times of the first four riders from each nation were then combined to decide the outcome of the team time trial, which in Britain's case - Grubb, Leon Meredith, John Wilson and Charles Moss - won them the silver, hence Davey got his share of victory despite failing to score.
|Davey (running) coaching Tommy Godwin
Alessandra Cappellotto, born Sarcedo, Italy on this day in 1968, was second in the Giro Donne, Giro del Trentino Alto Adige-Südtirol and Masters Féminin as well as seventh in the Road Race at the Olympics in 1996; second and the Emakumeen Bira and won the Thüringen-Rundfahrt der Frauen and World Road Race Championship in 1997; third overall at the Tour de France Féminin in 1998; second overall after winning Stages 9 and 11 at the Giro Donne in 2000 and won the National Road Race Championship in 2003.
Damien Monier, born in Clermont-Ferrand, France on this day in 1982, won the Under-23 National Track Championships Pursuit race in 2003 and the same event at Elite level two years later and again in 2008. He also competes in road races for Cofidis and won Stage 17 at the Giro d'Italia in 2010.
Edward Sels, born in Vorselaar, Belgium on this day in 1941, won the National Military Championship in 1961 and the Under-23 Ronde van Vlaanderen in 1962 then turned professional with Libertas later that year. He moved to Faema-Flandria for the following season and changed teams almost annually until his retirement in 1972; in the intervening years he won Stage 1a at the Vuelta a Espana, Stages 1 and 9 at Paris-Nice, Stages 1, 11, 14 and 19 plus second place in the Points competion at the Tour de France and the National Championships in 1964; second place at Paris-Roubaix, first place at Paris-Brussels and Stage 7 at the Tour in 1965; the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Stages 6 and 22a at the Tour in 1966; Stage 4 at the Giro d'Italia in 1968; Stage 6 at the Vuelta a Espana in 1969 and total of 82 other victories. His two younger siblings Rosa and Karel were also professional cyclists.
Megan Dunn, who was born in Dubbo, Australia on this day in 1991, began cycling at the age of three and competing at the age of six. When she was fourteen, she won the Under-15Time Trial, Sprint, Individual Pursuit and Scratch at the National Track Championships and then at sixteen she became the youngest ever rider to win the Bay Classics, also winning the Points and Scratch races at the World Junior Championships. Now holder of a scholarship at the Institute of Sports, National Team coach Gary Sutton has declared her to be "the future of women's cycling."
Other cyclists born on this day: Serena Sheridan (New Zealand, 1980); Alexandre Usov (USSR/Belarus, 1977); Benoît Poilvet (France, 1976); Jean-Cyril Robin (France, 1969); Gianni Vignaduzzi (Canada, 1966); Li Wenkai (China, 1969); José Alberto Sochón (Guatemala, 1980); Andrés Jiménez (Colombia, 1986); Zhang Junying (China, 1977); Simon van Poelgeest (Netherlands, 1900, died 1978); Giddeon Massie (USA, 1981); Roland Garber (Austria, 1972); Achim Stadler (West Germany, 1961); Olivia Gollan (Australia, 1973); Jiří Škoda (Czechoslovakia, 1956).