Sunday, 13 October 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 13.10.2013

Johan Museeuw
Johan Museeuw
Born in Varsenare, Belgium on this day in 1965, Johan Museeuw is the son of Eddy Museeuw who  dreamed of a career in cycling and rode as a professional for a year and three months with the Okay Whisky-Diamant-Simons in 1968 and 1969, but achieved no results better than third place at the Omloop van de Westhoek Ichtegem (he did, however, make a return 20 years later and was second on Stage 4b at the Tour of Luxembourg, beating Roman Kreuzinger's father - also named Roman - into third place). Like many riders whose careers did not live up their ambitions, he encouraged his son to race and supported him all the way; Johan was second at the Debutants' National Cyclo Cross Champion in 1982, then became National Military Cyclo Cross Champion and won stages at the Ronde van West-Vlaanderen and amateur's Ronde van België and overall at the Omloop van de Westhoek Ichtegem in 1986.

In 1988, Museeuw made his professional debut with ADR-Mini Flat-Enerday, riding alongide Eddy Planckaert, Frank Hoste and Alfons de Wolf; he impressed right from the start with several podium places and victory at the GP Briek Schotte, and thus earned his place on the team when it became ADR-W Cup-Bottecchia-Coors Light for 1989. That year, they were joined by American star Greg Lemond, who had recovered from a shotgun accident that nearly killed him the year after his Tour de France victory in 1986. Museeuw, who had ridden the Tour in 1988 but failed to impress, supported him through the race and was an instrumental part of the American's second Tour triumph - and along the way, he found time to announce his presence with third place on Stage 3. The following year he switched to Lotto-Superclub, where he would remain for three seasons, and won the Tour's Stages 4 at Mont-St-Michel and 21 on the Champs Elysées; he was 81st overall but second in the Points competition, leaving no doubts that he was a serious new talent. In 1991 he won stages at the Tours of Britain and Ireland, then returned to the Tour de France where he was on track for another good Points competition result with seven top ten stage finishes, including five in a row between Stages 3 and 7, but abandoned before the end of the race.

In 1992, his final year with Lotto, Museeuw became National Road Race Champion and put in another consistent performance at the Tour, once again taking second place in the Points competition. However, earlier in the season it had become apparent that he was developing into a different sort of rider to the sprint specialist he had been - while still able to generate a blistering pace on the run in to the finish line, his endurance had improved dramatically. This gave him an advantage in the Classics and he had been third at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Milan-San Remo, won the E3 Harelbeke and then finished second at Scheldeprijs and the Amstel Gold Race. The next year, when he joined GB-MG Maglificio and was second in the World Championship, he won the Dwars door Vlaanderen and then the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the latter being frequently considered the second toughest (and often the second most prestigious) after Paris-Roubaix. He was second for a third time in the Points competition at the Tour, but when he won Paris-Tours late in the season he confirmed that he was a Classics specialist rather than a stage racer. He could still hold his own in a stage race sprint, though - in 1994 he won the Classics Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and the Amstel Gold Race, was second at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and third at Gent-Wevelgem; but he also won a stage at the Tour de Suisse and picked up more good results at the Tour de France.

In 2006, following retirement
Museeuw became World Road Race Champion in 1995 and won a second Ronde van Vlaanderen, then a week later took third place behind Franco Ballerini and Andrei Tchmil at Paris-Roubaix; in 1996 he successfully defended the Worlds title (and became National Champion), then won Brabantse Pijl, was eighth at Milan-San Remo and third at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and at the Amstel Gold Race, and he also won Paris-Roubaix. In 1997 he won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne again and was second at Scheldeprijs and third at Paris-Roubaix, then in 1998 he won the Ronde van Vlaanderen a third time. This placed him in an interesting position: he now shared the record for victories at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and his continuing success suggested he could beat it with a fourth. But, with one Paris-Roubaix already under his belt and several years at the top of the sport still to go, could he become the first man in history to win both four times?

But Paris-Roubaix is not like other races. Its harsh, usually muddy granite cobbles take their toll every year and have done ever since the race was first held in 1896; every year bones and careers are broken on them and no man who sets out to achieve a record there will do so unscathed. For Museeuw it happened in 1998, only a week after his success at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, upon the notorious jagged stones of the Trouée d'Arenberg, the most dangerous section of a parcours that is dangerous for its full 260km length: a crash at 60kph smashed his left knee like a bone china teacup. He needed an operation to repair it, then it became infected and for a while, doctors were certain they would need to amputate. The Queen of the Classics demands terrible tribute from her subjects, but Museeuw proved worthy - following a long and very painful recovery, he began riding again and in 1999 he won the Dwars door Vlaanderen and - a symbol that his career was starting again if ever there was one - the GP Briek Schotte; then he came second at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and third at the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Winning Paris-Roubaix, 2000
In 2000 he went back to Paris-Roubaix and won, unclipping his foot from the pedal and listing his leg in the air to point at his knee as he crossed the finish line, then in 2001 he was second behind Servais Knaven. In 2002 he won for a third time - only Roger de Vlaeminck, the greatest Classics rider of all time in the opinion of many people - had won four. In 2003 he won the Omloop Het Nieuwesblad, but then a doping allegation arose and put paid to the rest of the season. At the beginning of the 2004 he was 38 years old, too old to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, so he chose to go for the greater prize at Paris-Roubaix. Once again, the Queen had other ideas: he was with a 21-strong break at Arenberg, then attacked and gained a lead on Auchy-Lez-Orchies before being captured. With only 15km to go he attacked hard on the Carrefour de l'Arbre, the last section of difficult cobbles before the comparatively easy route into Roubaix, thus reducing the lead group to only himself, Fabian Cancellara, Tristan Hoffman, Magnus Bäckstedt, Roger Hammond and George Hincapie (who soon lost contact); but then with 6km he suffered a puncture and his opportunity to realise his dream of equaling de Vlaeminck's record was gone forever. He retired three days later.

Museeuw's commemorative pavé on the Chemin des Géants
Just as Eddy Museeuw encouraged a younger rider to go for the glory he'd been unable to attain, so too did Johan. In his case his protege was not son but Tom Boonen, born in the Belgian town of Mol two days after Museeuw's birthday in 1980. Like Museeuw, Boonen learned well at the foot of the master and went on to achieve things his mentor had never done, included Tour de France Points competition victory in 2007 and, in 2012, a fourth victory at Paris-Roubaix.

In 2007, Museeuw decided it was time to admit the truth about what had happened in 2003 and called a press conference at which he admitted he had resorted to using human growth hormones in order to have a good final full season, then resigned from his job as PR manager at the QuickStep team - he was handed a suspended ten-month prison sentence and a fine. He now has his own business producing a range of highly-desirable road race, cyclo cross, time trial and mountain bikes based on frames made using a combination of carbon fibre and flax. The company's logo includes a lion, Museeuw's nickname having been The Lion of Flanders.

Nelson Vails
Nelson Vails
Born in Harlem, New York on this day in 1960, Nelson Vails was a professional on road and track between 1988 and 1995. Prior to that, he won a gold medal at the PanAmerican Games in 1983, won the National Sprint Championship in 1984 and shared the National Tandem Sprint title in 1984, 1985 and 1986.

In 1984, Vails was selected for the National Team at the Olympic Games and came second in the Sprint final. This was the first time in the history of the Games that a cycling medal had been won by an African-American.

Prior to his racing career, Vails was a cycle courier in New York where he earned the nickname "Cheetah" due to the speed he rode at when delivering packages - he can be seen playing a courier in the 1986 film Quicksilver.

Mark French
Born in Melbourne on this day in 1984, had already won four Junior World Championship titles in Sprint, Team Sprint and Keirin by 2003, the year he made it through into the upper ranks of track cycling by winning the National Keirin Championship at Elite level. In 2004 he was again the subject of newspaper headlines, but this time for all the wrong reasons - cleaners found vitamins, used syringes and 13 phials of an equine growth hormone on the doorstep of his boarding room, Room 121, at the Australian Institute of Sport.

French denied that he had doped and claimed that the drugs and equipment did not belong to him, then swore under oath that they belonged to fellow riders Sean Eadie, Graeme Brown, Shane Kelly and Jobie Dajka whom, he said, had been using his room to inject themselves with drugs for some months. Nevertheless, he was found guilty of doping and trafficking the growth hormone and corticosteroids, receiving a two-year ban. No evidence to support his claims regarding the other riders could be found and none of them were prosecuted for doping or supply - however, Dajka was found to have "failed to be specific" (as opposed to outright lying) when giving evidence in an effort to mislead the investigation; he too was banned for two years. He launched an appeal and, in 2005, the Court of Arbitration found in favour, deciding that there had been no reliable evidence to prove he owned or part-owned the drugs and syringes, then lifted both his two-year ban from competition and his lifetime ban from taking part in the Olympics; he returned to his sport and went on to win one silver and one gold medal at the National Championships in 2007 and three golds in 2008 (in the latter year, he won the Team Sprint riding with Shane Kelly).

Dajka launched an appeal against his own ban, but was not successful and became increasingly depressed, dealing with his disillusionment by drinking heavily. His weight increased dramatically and he began suffering further emotional problems that led to him carrying out a physical assault on Australian Track Team coach Mike Barras, for which he was banned for another three years. After an arrest for vandalising his parent's home he was placed under a restraining order and sought treatment, spending time in hospital in Adelaide. On the 22nd of December 2006, the two-year ban came to an end and, as he had strictly complied with the conditions of the restraining order and made efforts to retrieve his life, the three-year ban was ended early. Gradually, his health improved and he began to consider a return to racing; but on the 7th of April 2009 he was found dead at his home by police. He was 27 and is believed to have died three days before he was found. Though his death is not thought to have been suspicious, a cause has never been established.

In 2008, French was awarded Aus$350,000 defamation payment after being called a "dirty, stinking, dobbing cyclist" on radio; in 2010 he was awarded another Aus$175,000 paid by the Herald and Weekly Times newspaper, which had labelled him "un-Australian" and a "drugs cheat."

Linda Brenneman, born in San Juan Capistrabo, USA on this day in 1965, won the Tour de Toona and a stage at the Women's Challenge in 1991, was third at the National Road Race Championship in 1992, won the Redlands Classic in 1993 and 1995 and was third at the National Individual Time Trial Championship and 11th in the Individual Time Trial at the Olympics in 1996.

Other cyclists born on this day: Max Götze (Germany, 1880, died 1944); John Becht (USA, 1886); Walter Richard (Switzerland, 1939); Dick Cortright (USA, 1929, died 2009); Bilal Akgül (Turkey, 1982); Axel Hornemann Hansen (Denmark, 1899, died 1933); Raoul Fahlin (Sweden, 1966); Daniel Rogelin (Brazil, 1972); Andrew Hansson (Sweden, 1882, died 1964); Milan Kadlec (Czechoslovakia, 1974); Franco Giorgetti (Italy, 1902).

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