Monday 14 October 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 14.10.2013

Jody Cundy
Jody Cundy
Born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire on this day in 1978 with a deformed lower leg, Jody Cundy was a naturally active child who began walking at 13 months and could kick a football by the time he was a year and a half old. However, by the time he was three it had become obvious that his leg was not going to grow; doctors advised that it be amputated and he learned to walk on a false leg.

During his childhood, the family moved to Norfolk. When he was five, he almost drowned after falling into shallow water and being unable to get out, after which his parents signed him up for swimming lessons - and he immediately loved it, working hard and rapidly becoming a leading member of his team despite, in his own words, not being "a naturally gifted swimmer." When he was ten, his parents met the parents of another disabled swimmer who asked if they were aware of disabled swimming clubs and competitions; they had not been but sought more information and found one for him. Within a very short time, he was breaking record times for his age category. In 1994 he was selected to swim at the World Championships in Malta. ""I was a rank outsider," he says, "...I knocked four seconds off my personal best and won the world 100m butterfly title at the first attempt." He then swam at the Paralympics in 1996, 2000 and 2004 and won three gold and two bronze medals.

In common with many athletes who have come to cycling from other sports, the bike was originally simply a means to improve fitness for Cundy; but as is often the way cycling took over his life. He switched completely in 2006 and, that same year, made his first appearance at the World Championships that year - he won a gold medal in the Kilo. At the 2008 Paralympics he set a new World Record during the Kilo qualifiers, then won another gold. He was favourite to win the event again at the 2012 Games but slipped at the start of the race; an incident he put down to a faulty starting gate - however, when the gate was examined, officials could find no fault with it and ruled that he would not be permitted a restart. Angry, he swore and threw bidons at them, later apologising to the spectators for his behaviour but said he still disagreed with the decision.

Floyd Landis
Landis at the 2006 Tour of California
Born in Farmersville, Pennsylvania on this day in 1975, Floyd Landis was raised in a Mennonite family - adherents to a religion that demands its followers work hard, play fair and worship regularly. Mennonites are a very varied ethnoreligious group with some adopting the "plain people" dress most commonly associated with the Amish (who are in fact a branch of the Mennonite religion, developing from the late 17th Century) while others dress in modern clothes and live modern lives - Landis' family belong to one of the more conservative sects and, as such, he was encouraged to take part only in "useful" activities during childhood. Among these was fishing, on which he was keen; most Mennonite groups allow the use of machines and technology (usually after careful debate and consideration, as in fact do the Amish despite popular misconception) and the young Floyd was therefore permitted to use a bicycle to get to fishing spots. In time, he realised that he got more enjoyment from the ride than the fishing and began cycling properly - and when he heard about a local race, he decided to enter. Since his religion demands modest dress he wore baggy tracksuit trousers rather than lycra shorts, but he won.

Paul, Floyd's father, did not appreciate his son's new passion - in his eyes, cycling had no ultimate useful achievement at the end: what real use is a trophy compared to a fish? Floyd was forbidden from continuing and to make sure he didn't do so in secret was given more jobs to do. However, Paul had under-estimated just how deeply in love with cycling his son had fallen - Floyd took to sneaking out of the house at night, often in the hours after midnight and no matter what the weather, to train. Paul found out and worried that the real reason his son was going out so late was to drink or take drugs and started following him in a car to find out what he was up to; when he discovered that Floyd was in fact training, Paul understood that cycling was to be his son's life. He relented and, in time, would become Floyd's biggest supporter and fan.

Landis concentrated on mountain biking for a few years as a teenager, winning several races and making a name for himself with a Junior National Championship in 1993, but he always knew that his future was on the road and told friends that he was going to win the Tour de France. When he was 20 he relocated to California to try his luck as a professional mountain biker and rapidly earned a reputation for his dogged, single-minded determination and ability to keep going long after other riders would have given up - on one occasion, having shredded both his tyres on the rocks, he finished a race riding on bare rims. In 1999 he switched, from that point concentrating on road racing and came second at the Cascade Classic and third at the Tour de l'Avenir while riding for Mercury, with whom he remained until the end of 2001. In 2000 he won the Tour du Poitou-Charentes et de la Vienne and was second at the Valley of the Sun, then in 2001 he beat Baden Cooke at the San Diego criterium. In the upper ranks of the cycling world, powerful figures were watching his progress and taking note - among them was Lance Armstrong who, late in 2001, invited Landis to join US Postal as a domestique; thus in 2002 Landis rode the Critérium du Dauphiné (and took second place behind Armstrong), then the Tour de France where he managed one top ten stage finish. The following year, Landis had a specific job to do within a team - having proved himself a superb climber, it was his task to attack hard in the mountains and force rivals to expend themselves so that they would be unable to respond when Armstrong made his winning move later on in the race. He did this admirably well and, without his help, Armstrong might very easily not have won in 2004 - the year that Landis rode so well in the Alps and Pyrenees that he started being tipped as a future Tour winner in his own right.

In the maillot jaune
Once again, the cycling world was taking note. Phonak tempted him away from US Postal with offers of more money and a team leader position for 2005 and he did not disappoint, becoming a very real threat to Armstrong in his final Tour-winning year, finishing three stages in sixth place and coming ninth overall. In 2006 he won the Tour of California, then a remarkable Tour of Georgia in which he built up a lead in the individual time trial and then kept it intact, losing not one single second, through the mountains. Then, at the Tour de France, he finished top three on three stages and won Stage 17 at Morzine, taking second place in the overall King of the Mountains and first in the General Classification - a victory made even more remarkable due to the fact that, as revealed during the Tour, he was suffering from osteonecrosis in his hip, an ailment causes by a fracture in 2002 and which resulted in bone grinding directly on bone - sufficiently painful, he said, to keep awake some nights.

Due to his hip, Landis had been given medical dispensation to receive injections of cortisone during the Tour to relieve pain and swelling. He was, therefore, also subject to special attention from doping control - cortisone has a long history in doping and it was important to ensure he gained no unfair competitive advantage from it. Four days after winning, Phonak released shock news: following his Stage 17 victory, he had provided a sample that had been found to contain a suspiciously high ratio of testisterone to epitestosterone, later revealed by his doctor to have been 11:1 - the maximum ratio permitted by the UCI was 4:1. Landis maintained his innocence and denied that he had ever doped, requesting that his B-sample also be tested and insisting that it would be clear. Phonak supported him but stated that should the B-sample be positive, he would be fired. It was: he was sacked and given a temporary ban pending investigation - the team fell apart and dissolved even before he was found guilty, banned for two years and, ultimately, stripped of his victory.

But Landis wasn't going to go quietly. He continued to deny that he had doped and unsuccessfully appealed, also beginning a "Floyd Fairness Fund" to which fans - many of them unable to believe that such a wholesome-seeming character would ever have resorted to cheating - donated an estimated $1 million. Litigation did not cease until late in 2008, but then in 2009 a French newspaper, L'Express, published claims that Landis had made use in court of information obtained by hacking into a computer network owned by the French Ministry of Youth, Sport and Social Life's National Laboratory for Doping Detection, the agency that had carried out the tests on 2006. Intially, no evidence could be found to support the claim and the case seemed to have reached an end; however, in 2010 - by which time the ban had expired and Landis was attempting to make a comeback - a French judge issued a warrant for his arrest. That same year, the Wall Street Journal printed an article claiming that he had attempted to gain last-minute permission to take part in the Tour of California and, when permission was refused, he had sent emails containing numerous specific allegations regarding several important figures in cycling, including riders, to journalists - among the riders accused were Armstrong and Hincapie, whom he said had both used blood doping and EPO in 2002 and 2003 and David Zabriskie and Levi Leipheimer, whom he said he had assisted when they used EPO. During an interview with the TV broadcaster ESPN, he admitted that he had no physical proof to back up his claims but said he needed to reveal what he knew to clear his conscience. He still denied doping with testosterone at the 2006 Tour (adding that it was the only time he ever failed a test), but confessed to using growth hormones and other products.

At the Tour de France, 2006
Landis' allegations against other riders were shocking enough, but what really rocked the cycling world was his claim that US Postal manager Johan Bruyneel had arrived at a "financial agreement" with the UCI in order to guarantee that a positive sample provided by Armstrong in 2002 never became public knowledge. UCI president Pat McQuaid went on record as saying that the allegation was completely untrue: "it's impossible that would happen. Therefore it's a lie as well as all the other lies he's told the last four years," he insisted. However, only a month later McQuaid revealed that the organisation had in fact received two payments from Armstrong, one of $25,000 in 2002 that was used to fund a junior racing anti-doping program and one of $125,000 three years later that was used to purchase a blood-testing device. He denied that these were bribes, but admitted that they were highly irregular and that his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, had made a serious mistake in accepting them, especially in secrecy. This, along with many of Landis' other allegations, form a central part of the ongoing investigation into doping at US Postal that has already resulted in Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France wins.

Just as had been the case with Phonak in 2006, the controversy surrounding Landis killed off his new Bahati team in 2010. It also meant that he was unable to secure a contract elsewhere, forcing his retirement: "He's reached the end of the road and I just find it disgusting. He's a liar and a cheat and he has nothing left in cycling so he just wants to burn the house down," claimed David Millar, who himself served a two-year ban and very public descent into depression and alcoholism after being found guilty of doping." If he had stood up and manned up four years ago, he'd be racing the Tour de France now. He'd have a different book out. He'd have not lost a penny. He'd be admired by young people. He would have a different life ahead of him."

Kristina Ranudd, born in Uppsala, Sweden on this day in 1962, was Junior National Champion in Road Racing and Individual Time Trial in 1977 and Elite National Road Race Champion in 1978 in 1973. She also rode with the winning team at the National Team Trial Championships in 1984 and 1985.

Steven Woznick, born in Oakland, USA on this day in 1949, won a total of seven Junior and Under-23 track championships between 1972 and 1975. In 1973 he also won the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic.

Miguel Ángel Martín, born in Madrid on this day in 1972, won the Clásica de San Sebastián and three stages, the General Classification and the Points competition at the Volta a Catalunya in 2004.

Michael Lewis, born in Belize on this day in 1967, became National Road Race Champion in 2007.

Aad van den Hoek, who was born in Dirksland, Netherlands on this day in 1951, tested positive for  stimulant Nikethamide at the Olympics in 1972 - at that time, the drug was legal in UCI competitions but had been banned by the IOC and the entire Dutch cycling team was disqualified as a result. Van den Hoek picked up a few good results over the course of his career, including an overall victory at the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt in 1974; however, his most high-profile moment came in 1976 when he was Lanterne Rouge at the Tour de France.

Other cyclists born on this day: Piotr Brzózka (Poland, 1989); Maisonnave (France, 1882, died 1913); Petra Henzi (Switzerland, 1969); Leonid Kolumbet (USSR, 1937); Osamu Sumida (Japan, 1969); Colin Dickinson (New Zealand, 1931, died 2006); René Hamel (France, 1902, died 1992); Warren Carne (Rhodesia, 1975); Vladimir Popelka (Czechoslovakia, 1948); Marc Ryan (New Zealand, 1982); Jorge Pérez (Cuba, 1951); Andrzej Sypytkowski (Poland, 1963); Luigi Bartesaghi (Canada, 1932); Stefan Kirev (Bulgaria, 1942); Roberto Muñoz (Chile, 1955);  Asier Maeztu (Spain, 1977); Jiří Pokorný (Czechoslovakia, 1956).

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