Born in Knutsford, Great Britain on this day in 1978, Emma Davies joined the Manchester Wheelers CC when she was twelve and crashed during her very first ride with them - she made the other team members promise not to tell her mum and dad in case they thought cycling was too dangerous and forbade her from continuing. Fortunately, they didn't find out - and having decided to make the switch to track cycling, she won a bronze medal in the Pursuit at the 1998 National Track Championships. The following year she won silver for the Pursuit, again at the Nationals, and was fifth in the same event at the European Under-23 Championships; then repeated her placing at the Nationals in 2000 before taking gold in 2001. She then won it again in 2002, 2003 and 2004, adding the Points race too in the last two years.
In September 2005, Davies married; just a month later she was seriously injured in a hit-and-run incident near Manchester Velodrome. She was left in agony with a compressed vertebral stress fracture, but got off relatively lightly - a shard of bone had splintered off and lodged 2mm from her spinal chord; had it have gone only slightly further, it could have cut through the chord and left her permanently paralysed. For months after leaving hospital, she couldn't walk more than half a kilometre without fainting from the pain. Yet, with a large amount of physiotherapy, she was able to make a full recovery - and in March 2006 she won a bronze medal in the Pursuit at the Commonwealth Games, then two criterium road races in Belgium.
|Maurice Boeck and Stan Brittain|
Brittain's Army cycling career was not especially successful: he was one of 58 riders to abandon an Irish stage race due to bad weather in 1953 and crashed out of the World Road Race Championships in 1954, where he rode in a team that included Ray Booty who would become the first man to complete a 100-mile time trial in under four hours two years later. However, from 1955 he seemed to enter his best years (or was no longer pursuing a course of studied incompetence, a technique commonly used by those forced to join the armed services against their will) and performed very well at the Peace Race, finishing Stage 1 in second place and taking the race lead in Stage 2, then retaining the lead until Stage 7 when it went to Gustav-Adolf Schur, later the winner of several National Championship titles in his native East Germany and father to professional cyclists Jan and Gus-Erik. Brittain came third overall, with Schur first and a multiple Czech national champion named Jan Veselý taking second; he rode the Peace Race again the following year but abandoned at the start of Stage 6 and also took part in the Olympics where he won a silver medal in the Team Road Race, then in 1957 he won Stages 2 and 9 at the Peace Race and was second overall behind Bulgarian Nentcho Christov.
In 1958, the Tour de France invited Great Britain to enter a team. Unfortunately, it was unable to field a sufficient number of riders capable of taking part; instead Brittain, Robinson and Ron Coe were joined by Seamus Elliott (Ireland's first Grand Tour stage winner and, in 1962, very nearly the World Champion) and a selection of riders from Denmark, Austria and Portugal to make up a primarily British international team. Robinson won Stage 7 and thus became not only one of the first British men to complete a Tour but also the first to win a stage. Brittain finished in 66th place but was under no illusion that he ever stood a chance of winning anything: "The Tour is a race and a half. It was then and is now. It is the class of riders who make the race and the country you go through: the Alps and the Pyrenees - the toughest in the world - which makes it a bike race. I wasn't involved in the racing. That was up front with the big-hitters. Just to get through the Alps and the Pyrenees was something. I had lost my climbing ability, but even in my best climbing years I was never going to climb those mountains, some 12 miles long. I was six-foot something and with a racing weight of 12 stones four, which made it difficult to take over the hills and the mountains," he later told Cycling magazine.
During 1958 Brittain rode for the French Helyett-Potin-Hutchinson team (though not at the Tour, it being the period during which the race was competed by national teams rather than trade teams), also home to Elliott, André Darrigade and Jacques Anquetil; after the Tour he left for the British team Viking Cycles. He couldn't enter the Tour in 1959 due to a broken wrist, then went to Belgium after realising how much money he could make racing there and his form and confidence improved, leaving him feeling that he had the chance to do well when he returned to cycling's most important event in 1960 - but then he fell ill and, having been unable to eat for two days, abandoned in Stage 9. He was again unable to finish the race in 1961.
Cécile Odin, born in Blaye, France on this day in 1965, came third at the Tour de France Féminin in 1985 and 1994, also winning Stage 6 in the latter year. She also won the Tour de Bretagne in 1987, the Tour de l'Aude in 1989, the GP de France in 1990 and was third at the National Individual Time Trial Championships in 1995.
Other cyclists born on this day: Bernard Esterhuizen (South Africa, 1992); Richárd Bicskey (Hungary, 1936); Rainer Podlesch (West Germany, 1944); Christopher Church (Great Britain, 1940, died 2001); Nedyu Rachev (Bulgaria, 1915); Harumitsu Okada (Japan, 1960); Alexius Ekström (Sweden, 1883, died 1958).