Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 17.09.2013

Jens Voigt
Jens Voigt
Born in Grevesmühlen, East Germany on this day in 1971 (one day before Lance Armstrong; legend has it that Jens immediately attacked and, by the time Lance celebrated his 13th birthday, was already 16), Jens Voigt had such an excess of energy as a boy that he frequently got into trouble and drove his parents to distraction. Fortunately, his parents were sufficiently intelligent (a quality he inherited from them) to realise that attempting to control a child such as that using punishment is pointless, instead they encouraged him to take up sports and channel his energy into something more productive. Before too long, somebody noticed that he was much more than just a boisterous, bored little boy - he had real athletic potential and his endurance abilities were phenomenal; when he earned a place at a specialist sports school when he was 14, his coach put him on a bike and got to work.

Jens is the only cyclist to have ever lapped the field in a point-to-point race. Sharks have a Jens Voigt Week. Jens Voigt crashed spectacularly during the 2009 Tour de France; the resulting impact created a mound of earth that is visible to this day - it is called "Col du Tourmalet."

Voigt began to collect good results in 1991, comong third at the Tour du Loir-Et-Cher 'Edmond Provost' that year and winning the prologue at the Österreich-Rundfahrt and second place overall at the Tour de la Guadeloupe the next. In 1993 he won the Steiermark Rundfahrt; in 1994 he won the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt, the Commonwealth Bank Classic and the Peace Race; in 1995 he was second overall at the Tour de Normandie and in 1996 he won he Sachsen Tour and a silver medal at the World Military Championships.

You are what you eat: Jens Voigt eats spring steel for breakfast, fire for lunch, and a mixture of titanium and carbon fiber for dinner; for between-meal snacks he eats men's souls, and downs it with a tall cool glass of The Milk of Human Suffering. When you open a can of whoop-ass, Jens Voigt jumps out and attacks.

In 1997, Voigt signed his first professional contract and began riding for Australia-based ZVVZ-Giant-AIS and won six victories. The following season he switched to GAN, which became Crédit Agricole halfway through the year, and remained there until the end of 2003; in his first year with them he made his Tour debut, finishing Stage 9 in second place and coming 83rd overall. The following year he was 60th, in 2000 60th again, then in 2001 he took the maillot jaune from Stuart O'Grady in Stage 7 (and lost it back to him the following day) and won Stage 16.

Jens Voigt's Suitcase of Courage will not fit in the overhead compartment. Someone once told Jens Voigt to "dig deep" - that is how geologists know the earth's core contains an iron-nickel alloy. Jens Voigt can start a fire by rubbing two mud puddles together.

2004 was Voigt's break-through year. Having moved to CSC (now SaxoBank-Tinkoff Bank) he won the Critérium International and the Bayern Rundfahrt, then went back to the Tour and spent much of it in breakaways with Jakob Piil; his best stage result was seventh (Stage 19; he was also ninth overall in the King of the Mountains). During Stage 15, Jan Ullrich attacked on this Col de l'Echarasson after getting into a break with Lance Armstrong and CSC team leader Ivan Basso, neither of whom were able to respond. Voigt, out in front in an earlier break, was ordered by team management to drop back and assist Basso; an order he obeyed - until Ullrich overtook him. Just as a cat cannot help itself but chase a bird, Voigt cannot help himself but chase another cyclist; and he caught him. The nest day on the Alpe d'Huez, he was verbally attacked by German fans who called him "Judas" for attacking a fellow German rider; but it didn't matter - he went away from the Tour that year with something more valuable than a stage win: he was now adored by the huge numbers of other fans who had noticed his hard riding style and started proclaiming him to be that rarest of cycling heroes, a flahute.

Many cyclists have one leg stronger than the other - both Jens Voigt's legs are stronger than the other. It takes Jens Voigt 20 minutes to watch 60 Minutes. Jens Voigt has four heart rate training zones: anger, rage, fury and breakaway. 

In 2006
2005 didn't go according to plan. Voigt won the Tour Méditerranéen, then took on Armstrong at the Tour - and for a little while at the start of the race and then again halfway through, he looked like he might be a real threat to the Texan; but would fall ill during Stage 10 and be eliminated from the race in Stage 11 when he was unable to finish within the time limit. In 2006, he rode as a domestique for Basso at the Giro and attacked the Italian's rivals so hard in the first few stages that when CSC won the Stage 5 team time trial, he found himself accidentally in second place overall with only a 6" deficit to race leader Serhiy Honchar before sacrificing his own chances for his team leader. During Stage 19 that year, Voigt and Julich got away in a 20-rider breakaway but stopped pulling in order to give the peloton, led by CSC, chance to catch up so that Basso could win the stage. However, the peloton didn't catch up; then by the final stage the break had been whittled down to Voigt and Juan Manuel Gárate. According to many who saw the stage, Voigt looked to be stronger man, but he sat up and allowed Gárate to win; later, Voigt explained that since he hadn't worked to keep the break going, he didn't feel that he deserved the stage. He had been due to support Basso again at the Tour but, days before the race began, the Italian was suspended from the team pending an investigation after being implicated in Operacion Puerto; Ullrich was barred for the same reason, leaving no clear favourite. Voigt rode for new CSC leader Carlos Sastre, once again attacking anyone who looked likely to mount a challenge and, on 230km Stage 13, got into a five-strong break that reached the finish line with almost a half-hour lead on the peloton - and once there, he out-sprinted Oscar Pereiro to take victory. On Stage 15, finishing at the summit of Alpe d'Huez, he supported Frank Schleck - the beginning of a long partnership with the Schleck brothers - with help from David Zabriskie. Schleck won that day, but Floyd Landis took the maillot jaune and wore it until the end of the race where he was declared overall winner after the closest three-way finish the Tour had ever seen; however, it was later revealed that the American had failed a doping test after Stage 17 and he was stripped of his title which then passed to Pereiro with Sastre being elevated from fourth to third.

Jens' big ring is 56; his rear cassettte is 11-11-11-11-11-11-11-11-11-12. Jens Voigt once got confused and accidentally rode two stages of the Tour de France back-to-back - he won by 5 minutes.

In 2007 Alexandre Vinokourov was barred from the Tour, leaving no clear favourite for a second consecutive year. Voigt's team mate, a young Swiss time trial specialist named Fabian Cancellara, took the maillot jaune in the Prologue and kept it until Stage 7, when it passed to Linus Gerdemann (who would become team mate to Voigt and Cancellara four years later at LeopardTrek), then in Stage 8 it went to Rabobank's Michael Rasmussen, who looked likely to win until Stage 17 when he was no longer part of the race - he'd been pulled out by the team, which had become concerned about his whereabouts on a number of occasions when he should have submitted to out-of-competition doping controls. Voigt finished in 28th place overall, Sastre was fourth again.

Tour of Germany, 2006
Voigt has never attempted to set an Hour Record because he can do it in 50 minutes. If by some incredible space-time paradox Jens could ever race himself, he would win.  When Voigt crashed while descending a mountain in the 2011 Tour de France, the mountain suffered a broken collarbone.

The following year, Voigt won Stage 18 at the Giro, came 37th at the Tour de France and won the General Classification and the King of the Mountains at the Tour of Poland. In 2009 he won the Critérium International for the fifth time, thus equaling the record set by Raymond Poulidor; he also won the Points competition and the King of the Mountains. At the Tour de France that year director Jason Berry made Chasing Legends, a stunningly beautiful film following the fortunes of the Columbia-Highroad riders, including Mark Cavendish. Voigt still rode for Saxobank, yet despite the film focusing on HTC, Berry very soon realised that he'd found a star: Voigt's honesty, intelligence, humour and patently obvious respect for his rivals - all qualities that had contributed to his enormous popularity among cycling fans - endeared him to a whole new audience, and it's probably not stretching things too much to say that some fans probably first became interested in the sport after seeing him and the horrific crash he had on the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard during Stage 16. When he returned to racing at the Tour of Missouri, following six weeks of recovery time, he was welcomed like a rock star.

At the Tour with LeopardTrek
Jens Voigt has several reasons for not riding with a power meter; these reasons are known as the Laws of Thermodynamics. Jens Voigt doesn't age, he simply drops every year that catches up with him. 

Voigt finished the 2010 Tour in 126th place; then in 2011 - having departed SaxoBank with the Schleck brothers and Cancellara to form the new team LeopardTrek - he was 67th, already one of the oldest men in the peloton, his age seemed to be catching up with him. However, he remained one of the most formidable attackers in the race and proved himself more than capable of successfully chasing down riders ten years younger - and catching them. After the race he once again showed the side of his personallity that has won him fans who otherwise have no interest in the sport when he told the story of how he'd thrown an empty bidon to a young boy among the spectators as a souvenir, then ridden all the way back from the finish line to make sure the man who grabbed it handed it over to its intended recipient. In 2012, having once again stayed with the Schecks and Cancellara following LeopardTrek's apparently ill-fated merger with RadioShack (which is part-owned by Lance Armstrong who, despite being a day younger than Voigt, retired much earlier), he was both the oldest man in the Tour and the oldest member of any ProTour team.

Jens Voigt rides so fast during attacks, that he could circle the globe, hold his own wheel, and ride in his own draft - at least as long as he didn't try to drop himself.

Voigt attacks
Unlike Armstrong, who was widely disliked in the peloton for using tactics that other riders felt were little more than bullying, Voigt has always been as popular and respected among the riders as he is with the fans - he was selected by them to be their official representative to the UCI, a role he has fulfilled extremely successfully and used to resolve a number of disputes (also unlike Armstrong, who accused those who spoke out against doping as wanting to destroy cycling, Voigt is a very vocal and convincing opponent of doping and all other forms of cheating). He had been hinting since late in 2011 that 2012 would be his final year; however, in 2012 he confirmed that he had decided against it and would continue racing until at least the end of 2013 - a short-lived rumour had it that he would be riding for Sky ProCycling, but he in fact remained with RadioShack-Leopard (as RadioShack-Nissan Trek had become), and he was the oldest man to compete at that year's Tour de France.

Voigt is now 42 years old; despite widespread belief that 2013 would be his final year, it was confirmed in August that he would be joining the new Trek-sponsored team, formed after the bike manufacturer bought what was left of RadioShack-Leopard following the scandal surrounding Lance Armstrong (a part-owner) and Johan Bruyneel (the team's manager), for 2014. One day, of coursem the inevitable will happen; there is no other rider capable of filling the gap he will leave.

Jens Voigt has already won.

Amanda Spratt
Born in Penrith, New South Wales in this day in 1987, Amanda Spratt began racing when she was 12 and later earned a scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport. In both 2004 and 2005, Spratt won a silver medal for the Pursuit at the Junior National Track Championships; in 2006 she won another for the Points race at the Elite Nationals. A year later, having won several more medals on the track, she came third overall at the Tour of Perth and from that point on began to concentrate more on road racing, starting with victory at the Under-23 Individual Time Trial Nationals in 2008.

Spratty, as she's known to her many fans, gained more good results on the road in the subsequent years, but victory eluded her until 2011 when she took first place overall at the Tour de Feminine Krasna Lipa. A year later, having signed to GreenEDGE, she won the National Road Race Championship and was ninth overall at the infamously tough Omloop het Nieuwsblad in Belgium, then in 2012, still with GreenEDGE (now named Orica-AIS), she was fourth at the Trofeo Binda, eighth at the GP Elsy Jacobs and sixth at the Thuringen Rundfahrt.

Orica's Rowena Fry and Amanda Spratt take the team mascot Skippy for a ride

Juan Antonio Flecha
Born in Junin, Argentina on this day in 1977 but of Spanish nationality, Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni has earned the nickname The Spanish Flandrien ("Flandrien" being a title that is not bandied about without care in cycling) due to his remarkable performances in the Northern Classics, cycling's hardest races.

At the 2005 Tour de France
Flecha signed for two years with Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada in 2000 and, in his second year, won three stages and the General Classification at the GP International MR Cortez-Mitsubishi plus one stage each at the Vuelta Ciclista a Aragón and Euskal Bizikleta. In 2002 he went to iBanesto and rode the Vuelta a Espana- he'd entered the previou year, but failed to finish - and finished Stage 18 in third place, was 41st overall and third in the King of the Mountains. One year later he went to the Tour de France and won Stage 11, the first Argentinian rider to have ever won a stage at the race.

In 2004, Fasso Bortolo made Flecha co-leader (alongside Fabian Cancellara) of their Classics squad and he picked up some good results; then in 2005 he was second and Gent-Wevelgem and third at Paris-Roubaix, the latter being considered by many riders to be the hardest race of them all. He also rode the Tour and the Vuelta that year, managing some top ten stage finishes in both but not making an impact with 73rd overall at the Tour and another did not finish at the Vuelta. In 2006 he switched to Rabobank, where he would remain for the next four seasons; the first passed without note, then in 2007 he was second at Paris-Roubaix and at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad - another notoriously tough Classic. In 2008 he came third at both the Brabantse Pijl and the Ronde van Vlaanderen (the latter being considered by many riders the second toughest race after Paris-Roubaix), then went on domestique duty again at the Vuelta (where he won a multitude of new fans by taking the Stars and Stripes from "Moose Man" - a spectator who had been showing up at races that year with an enormous set of real antlers on his head to run alongside the peloton waving the flag, becoming almost as iconic a figure as the legendary Devil Didi Senft - and riding with it trailing behind him for a few hundred metres) and the Tour before finishing off the year with victory at the Circuit Franco-Belge.

Flecha was third at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, thenth at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, 29th at Milan-San Remo, 13th at the E3 Harelbeke, 30th at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and sixth at Paris-Roubaix in 2009 - no victories, but simply entering that many Classics in a single year marks a rider out as a potential Flandrien. He made no impact at the Tour de France but was seventh overall at the Benelux Tour; Rabobank offered to extend his contract but he decided instead that it was time for fresh pastures and began 2010 with the new British Team Sky.

Flecha at the 2011 Tour de France
Sky seems to have become his home - in his first year with them, he won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, dedicating the win to former team mate Frank Vandenbroucke, who had died of a pulmonary embolism the year before after suffering for many years with emotional and drug addicition problems. He came 18th at Milan-San Remp, third at Paris-Roubaix and the E3 and fourth overall at the Tour of Luxembourg, then once again rode the Tour de France and (failing to finish again) the Vuelta. In 2011 he was second at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 11th at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and ninth at Paris-Roubaix. During Stage 9 at the Tour de France that year, he and Johnny Hoogerland suffered a dramatic crash when a France Télévisions camera car swerved to avoid a tree at the roadside, side-swiping the riders and knocking them off their bikes: Hoogerland was thrown into a barbed wire fence, Flecha hit the road hard. Both men lost time as a result, but finished the stage arm-in-arm and won the Combativity award for the stage. In 2012 he was third overall at the Tour of Qatar, third at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 20th at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and fourth at Paris-Roubaix before going to the Giro d'Italia and coming 36th, then 98th at the Vuelta.

Flecha announced in 2012 that it was once again time for a change - he would ride with Vacansoleil-DCM in 2013. He is now 35, but experience is often more valuable that youth in the Classics: he was fifth at Gent-Wevelgem, 21st at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and eighth at Paris-Roubaix, the toughest of them all. Later in the season, he would also manage a top ten stage finish at the Critérium du Dauphiné (Stage 1), another at the Tour de France (Stage 3) and sixth overall at the Post Danmark Rundt.

John Gavin Bone
Born in Glasgow on this day in 1914, John Gavin Bone entered a 25-mile novices' race in 1934 - the first race he ever rode - and won it, posting the fastest time by a Scottish novice that year. The following year, he beat the Scottish and British 12-Hour records by riding 244.75 miles (393.89km) - the race was held on a 211 mile parcours followed by laps of a seven mile circuit; Bone rode so much further than his rivals that the organisers had to hastily add an extra section leading towards Paisley. However, just hours later an English rider beat the record.

On the 29th of May in 1937, Bone won the Sunday Pictorial Cycling Festival at Alexandra Palace in London. 10,000 people were there to see him beat some of the greatest cycling names in the British Empire, including Percy Stallard (who would later form the British League of Racing Cyclists and organise the first road race held in Britain since Victorian times, a race that would grow into the Tour of Britain) and the Australian legend Hubert Opperman. For the very first time at a British cycle race, TV cameras were there to record the event.

Stuart Dangerfield, born in Willenhall, Great Britain in this day in 1971, was National Time Trial Champion in 2001, 2003 and 2005.

Mariano Diaz, born in Villarejo de Salvanés, Spain on this day in 1939, won Stage 11, ninth place overall and the King of the Mountains competition at the Vuelta a Espana in 1967. Two years later, he won Stage 15 at the Vuelta and Stage 9 at the Tour de France.

Other cyclists born on this day: Barry Forde (Barbados, 1976); Alberto Fernández de la Puebla (Spain, 1984); Eneritz Iturriagaextebarria (Euskadi, 1980); Alfred Achermann (Switzerland, 1959); Jesse Pike (USA, 1890, died 1986); Kristian Pedersen (Denmark, 1920); Luc Roosen (Belgium, 1964); Hubert Pallhuber (Italy, 1965); Jan Jankiewicz (Poland, 1955); Rudolfo Massi (Italy, 1965).

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