Thursday, 3 October 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 03.10.2013

Emma Pooley
Emma Pooley - the greatest British rider
of her generation?
Britain has, after decades in which it was thought to be among the third-rate cycling nations, produced a series of world-class riders including World Champions, Tour de France champions (four, not two; as explained below) and a man considered by many to be the greatest sprinter in the history of the sport - but it's not known for climbers, having produced only two world-class examples. One of those was Robert Millar, the other is Emma Pooley.

Born in London on this day in 1982, Emma Pooley grew up in Norwich, Norfolk, where she competed in cross-country running. In 2001 she gained a place at the University of Cambridge where she studyied engineering at Trinity Hall and won a Blue for cross-country and triathlon. She had no interest in cycling until an injury prevented her from running and she got a bike to maintain her fitness; almost immediately, she excelled at it and in 2005 she came fourth at the National Road Race Championship. Shortly afterwards she signed up to Fat Birds UK, managed by Stef Wyman - one of the most respected and foresighted directeurs sportif in women's cycling with an ability to spot new talent, help them develop and send them out to take on the world in a sport he loves.

Pooley left Fat Birds for Specialized Designs for Women in 2007 and remained with them for two years, during which time she began to enjoy her first notable successes - she won two criterium races early in the season, then took part in the Tour de France Féminin and came second on Stage 1, third on Stage 5 and was third overall behind Nicole Cooke and Priska Doppmann; later in the season she won Stage 1 at the Thüringen-Rundfahrt and was second on Stage 2 at the Tour de l'Ardèche. 2008 was her breakthrough year: she won four races early in the year before taking her first General Classification victory at the Tour de Bretagne (where she won Stages 3 and 4a), then won Stage 4 at the Tour de l'Ardèche. She also competed at the Olympics that year, where she was second in the Individual Time Trial, and at the National and World Championships - she was second in the Nationals Road Race (again losing out to Nicole Cooke) and eighth in the ITT at the Worlds.

In 2009, Pooley began a three-year stint with the Cervélo Test Team Women, then based in Germany - it would relocate to the Netherlands the following year, then to Great Britain in 2011. During her first year with them, when it became apparent that she is perhaps the finest climber in the contemporary women's peloton, she won the Tour de France Féminin (she was not, however, the first British rider to win a Tour de France - Nicole Cooke won in 2006 and 2007 - but they both beat Bradley Wiggins to the title of Tour Champion), the GP Ouest-France and became National ITT Champion. 2010 started in spectacular style with victories at La Flèche Wallonne (where she beat Cooke into second place), the GP Suisse and the GP Elsy Jacobs; later she won Stage 7, the Mountains classification and the General Classification at the Tour de l'Aude, came second on two stages and was fifth overall at the Giro Donne, won the National Road Race and ITT Championship titles, another GP Ouest-France and the World ITT Championship. In 2011, following an epic (but, perhaps, unwinnable) battle with Marianne Vos in the mountains, she was second in the General Classification at the Giro Donne, where she won Stage 8; she would win Stage 3 and overall at the Tour de l'Ardèche, adding these to several victories early in the season and a bronze medal from the World ITT Championships.

Pooley at the Olympics, 2012
The end of the 2011 season brought bad news when one of Garmin-Cervelo's main sponsors withdrew funding from the women's team, forcing manager Jonathan Vaughters to release all the riders with very little time left until the end of the transfer period. Fortunately, all of them were able to find new homes with Pooley - like most of the rest of the team - being rapidly snapped up by legendary Dutch team AA, whom she repaid with victory at the Berner Rundfahrt and the Emakumeen Saria, then second place at the Giro Donne (there have been many riders able to perform well in a time trial, as Pooley can, but most climbers find the bike's tendency to skip around under their small frames alarming so that they slow down and heavier riders can catch them. Pooley can descend with the best of them, which is why she was the only rider able to keep within four minutes of winner Marianne Vos - third place Evelyn Stevens was more than six and half minutes down at the end of the race) and another General Classification at the Tour de l'Ardèche. Unfortunately, 2012 would also end on a sad note when owner/managers Leontien van Moorsel and her husband Michael Zijlaard announced that following the withdrawal of sponsor AA Drink they would be dissolving the team, following several years at the top of women's cycling. This time, the riders received plenty of warning in advance, with Pooley going to Bigla. However, she was initially uncertain of her plans for the 2013 season, stating that racing left her with insufficient time to complete her PhD in geotechnical engineering; she considered taking a year out of competition (which, she said, she was also considering out of anger at the UCI's apparent lack of interest in developing women's cycling). Instead, she opted for a reduced calendar, but still managed six prestigious victories including the General Classification at the Tour Languedoc Roussillon. In September she was named as a prospective member of the British team going to the World Championships, but turned down the place in order to concentrate on her studies.

Millar became a household name in Britain in the 1980s. Pooley is virtually unknown outside the cycling world despite being more successful than he ever was, one of Britain's most successful athletes of all time and, as a highly intelligent woman, being as perfect a role model for girls and young women as could ever be wished for.

Alex Dowsett
Dowsett at the 2011 Tour of Britain
Born in Maldon, Great Britain on this day in 1988, Alex Dowsett was National Individual Time Trial Champion in 2011 and 2012. Earlier in his career he won numerous national titles as a Junior and Under-23 as well as the U-23 Chrono des Nations in 2010, then signed to Sky as a neo-pro for 2011 and won the London Nocturne and Stage 8a at the Tour of Britain.

He was tipped to do well at the Spring Classics the following season, but a crash at the Driedaagse van De Panne left him with a broken elbow and put him out of action for several months. He returned in June to take a silver medal at the National Road Race Championships, then won the National Individual Time Trial Championships in September before coming eighth at the World ITT Championships a little over two weeks later.

Dowsett announced late in 2012 that he would be leaving Sky to go to Movistar, stating that the main reason behind his decision to do so was that the Basque team would offer him a place at one of the Grand Tours. The team's management selected him for the Giro d'Italia, and he repaid them by helping the squad take second place in the Stage 2 team time trial where they finished second behind Sky; he then extracted revenge in Stage 8, the individual time trial, when he beat Sky's leader Bradley Wiggins into second place by ten seconds.

Later in the summer, Dowsett was second to Thomas Scully at the London Nocturne. He then won the National ITT Championship for the third time, beating Matthew Bottril by 20". Still not of the age at which most cyclists reach a performance peak, Dowsett seems to have a glittering career riding against the clock ahead of him - some fans have gone as far as to compare him to Monsieur Chrono himself, the great Jacques Anquetil.

Maria Luisa Calle, born in Medellín, Colombia on this day in 1964, was National Road Race Champion in 1999 and National Individual Time Trial Champion in 2002. In 2004 she was third in the Points race at the Olympics but was forced to give back her bronze medal when she tested positive for the banned amino acid heptaminol. However, Calle argued that she had not knowingly ingested the substance in question and appealed to the Court of Arbitration in Sport, where she claimed that it might have come from an anti-migraine remedy she had used shortly before the race. The remedy, Neo-Saldina, was found not to contain heptaminol, but it did contain isometheptene - which, laboratory tests had shown, could metabolise into heptaminol. Since she had been unaware of this and isometheptene was not banned under UCI or IOC rules, her result was reinstated and her medal given back. She won the ITT at the Nationals again in 2007 and at the PanAmerican Games in 2011, when she was 43 years old.

Arthur Decabooter, born in Oudenaarde, Belgium on this day in 1936, won the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 1960, the Omloop Het Volk, E3 Harelbeke and GP Briek Schotte in 1961 and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in 1964 - a palmares that puts him well into contention for that most arbitrary and prized of titles, "Flandrien." Decabooter could also do well in a longer stage race and won two stages plus the overall Points competition at the Vuelta a Espana in 1960. He died on the 26th of May, 2012.

Other cyclists born on this day: Ian Mc Leod (Great Britain, races with a South African licence, 1980); Hitoshi Sato (Japan, 1962); Yoshikazu Cho (Japan, 1953); Rafael Ladrón (Spain, 1952); Malcolm McCredie (Australia, 1942); Emili Pérez (Andorra, 1966); Hans Andresen (Denmark, 1927); Erling Kristiansen (Norway, 1923, died 2009); Liévin Lerno (Belgium, 1927); Claus Møller (Denmark, 1968); Severino Rigoni (Italy, 1914, died 1992); Lino Aquea (Chile, 1962).

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