Thursday 24 October 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 24.10.2013

Octave Lapize
Born in Montrouge, Paris on this day in 1887, Octave Lapize had already been Elite National Cyclo Cross Champion, Amateur National Road Race Champion, won a stage at the Tour of Belgium (1907), won Paris-Auxerre and been third in a 100km race on the track at the Olympics in London (1908) by the time he turned professional with Biguet-Dunlop in 1909. When he did so, his manager Paul Ruinart warned the cycling world that they should prepare themselves for some crushing defeats because Lapize was, he said, "the best rider of his generation. He can and must win everything, because he has all the gifts of a perfect cyclists."

He was indeed a phenomenal all-rounder, able to sprint, climb, endure the inhumanly long stages of the era and - perhaps most importantly - had the intelligence to outwit his rivals at a time when most stage racers relied on the simple method of riding as fast as possible for as long as possible. During the first few months of his professional career it looked like Ruinart had been right when the rider won a bronze medal at the National Cyclo Cross Championships and enjoyed victory on the road at Milan-Varese, Paris-Dreux and Paris-Roubaix; his opponents must, therefore, have felt some relief when he dropped out of his first Tour de France that summer after suffering badly in the freezing, snowy conditions that hit the race that year. However, Lapize went away and began immediately preparing for the next edition and when he rolled up to the start line in 1910 he had become an altogether different rider - leaner, fitter, meaner. These were factors that would stand him in good stead because, after seven years in which Tour director Henri Desgrange had kept his race away from the high mountains (which, he worried, would prove impossible to ride and where bears might eat the riders), the parcours was taking the peloton over the highest roads in the Pyrenees.

Lapize on Tourmalet, 1910
The man who had persuaded Desgrange that high mountain stages should be added was Adolphe Steinès, who had designed the route every year since the first Tour in 1903. In 1905 he had convinced Desgrange that a smaller mountain, Ballon d'Alsace, would add spectacle and it had proved popular with fans; this year, following a January fact-finding mission in which he was warned by locals that the col was barely passable in July (and would probably have died if a search party hadn't found him after he tried to make it over the pass in heavy snow and fell into a ravine), he'd talked the director into letting him add the 2,115m Col du Tourmalet, almost 1,000m higher than Ballon d'Alsace. Rivals of L'Auto, the newspaper Desgrange edited, said that the parcours was "dangerous" and "bizarre," and when it was first published no fewer that 26 riders asked for their names to be taken off the start list. Nevertheless, the mountains stayed and the Tour entered a new era - though Desgrange was still sufficiently worried that the experiment would prove a disaster that, when the race reached the Pyrenees in Stage 9 and he saw how much the riders struggled, he temporarily made Victor Breyer director just in case the whole affair descended into embarrassing farce on the harder climbs in the next stage.

The tall, powerfully-built Luxembourgian François Faber, who had won the Tour the previous year after such an impressive performance in the first half of the race (including five consecutive stage wins, still a record 103 years later) that organisers asked him to ease off a bit to make the race appear more interesting, now found himself at a serious disadvantage - no matter how much of a lead he could gain on the flat stages, he lost it all on the big climbs where the smaller, lighter riders left him far behind. Nevertheless, he did extraordinarily well despite a dog causing him to crash in tage 7 and led the race for ten stages from Stage 2, even winning on the small mountains of Stage 4 - but when the peloton reached the Pyrenees in Stage 9 Lapize beat him, then did so again the following day when they climbed Tourmalet. Lapize was the first man to the top, but could only get there by dismounting and pushing his bike; Gustave Garrigou, who ended the race in third place, was the only man to ride to the top and earned a bonus of 100 francs for doing so. According to legend, when Lapize passed the race officials waiting at the top, he hissed one single word at them: "Assassins!" In fact, those who were there to hear it remembered that it was "Vous êtes des assassins! Oui, des assassins!" - and that he shouted it, rather than hissed.

Lapize on Tourmalet, 1910
Faber had done sufficiently well in the earlier stages to maintain his lead and hoped to add to it in the flat stages to come, but then when he had a puncture in Stage 12 Garrigou helped Lapize to attack; Lapize thus became race leader with three stages to go. Lapize also won Stage 14; by the final stage, Stage 15, he was six points ahead of the Luxembourgian - the outcome of the race in those days being decided according to a points system (still used, in modified fashion, to decide the Points competition run alongside the General Classification and King of the Mountains to this day). When Lapize punctured shortly after the start of the final stage, Faber tried to seize his chance and sprinted away, hoping to gain an insurmountable lead and win back the race. However, he too punctured; he finished the stage in fourth place, beating sixth place Lapize by 6'01", but this only won him back two points - Lapize had won the Tour.

Lapize also won Paris-Roubaix in 1910, then he won it again the next year and became the first man to have won three times and three times consecutively - Gaston Rebry would match him with a third victory a quarter of a century later, but it would be 70 years until Francesco Moser managed to match the three consecutive victories (to date, nobody else has done so). He also won Paris-Tours, Paris-Brussels and became National Road Race Champion in 1911, a title he successfully defended in 1912; that year, he won Paris-Brussels again and also Stage 6 at the Tour. In 1913 he won Paris-Brussels for a third time, a record both for total wins and consecutive wins that has been matched once (Félix Sellier, 1924) and beaten once (Robbie McEwen, 2008), then in 1914 he won Stage 8 at the Tour.

On the same day that the 1914 Tour de France began, the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo and the First World War began. A week after the Tour ended, Germany invaded Belgium and declared war on France. Lapize joined up to fight, becoming a fighter pilot. He survived until the 14th of July in 1917 - that day, he was shot down over Flirey in Meurthe-et-Moselle near the German border and died shortly afterwards in hospital, aged 29 years.

Emilia Fahlin
Born in Örebro on this day in 1988, Emilia Fahlin entered her first bike race when she was 12 years old. Only four other riders took part, and she was the fourth to finish - however, she caught the racing bug and, four years later in 2005, she became Junior Road Race Champion of Sweden, also taking second place in the Junior National Individual Time Trial Championship. The following year she lost her title (but won a bronze medal); however, good results in stage races brought her to the attention of the T-Mobile team. She signed her first professional contract with them for 2007 and stayed as the team gradually transformed into HTC-Highroad before dissolving at the end of 2011.

Right from the start of her professional career, Fahlin was successful. In her first year she won the Under-23 Skandisloppet in Sweden, finished Stage 3 at the Tour of Poland in third place and was second at the Sparkassen Giro. In 2008 she won Stage 3 at the Redlands Classic, took the Elite National Road Race Championship title and then dominated the U-23 Svanesunds 3-dagars by winning three of the total four stages (and coming second on the one she didn't win). The year after that she won the Tour of California Women's Criterium and the National Individual Time Trial Championship, then in 2010 she won the National ITT and Road Race Championships. She kept the ITT title in 2011 and was third in the Road Race; then won the Prologue and Stages 2, 5 and 6 at the Tour de l'Ardèche but was unable to make it into the Emma Pooley-led top 5 overall finishers.

Following the demise of Highroad, Fahlin joined Specialized-Lululemon and helped towards the team's victory in the team time trial at the Energiwacht Tour. She took second place in the Road Race and third in the ITT at the Nationals, then came 19th in the Road Race at the Olympics before finishing the season with good top ten results at the Route de France and Lotto-Decca Tour. In 2013 she moved on to Hitec Products-UCK and, in June, became National Road Race Champion.

Levi Leipheimer
Leipheimer in 2005
Born in Butte, Montana on this day in 1973, Levi Leipheimer was for many years one of the most popular riders in the ProTour peloton: partly for his longevity (he remained competitive in the Grand Tours right up until 2012, when he was 37 years old) and excellent results (he was third at the Tour de France in 2007) but also for his caring nature - he supports animal welfare organisations and, with his wife Odessa Gunn (also a professional cyclist), runs a sanctuary for mistreated animals at home in California.

As a youth, Leipheimer was more interested in skiing than other sports and didn't start cycling until an accident kept him away from the slopes. As has been the case with a surprisingly large number of riders who came to cycling by accident, he showed promise right from the start and, in 1995, was signed up as a trainee with the British MS Maestro-Frigas team. He won the Tour de la Province de Namur with them but although the team continued in 1996, under the new name Sit&Sit-FS Maestro, his contract was not extended; instead he split his time between racing as an  Independent and for the Einstein team. He enjoyed one victory that year - a criterium at Burlingame in the US, but also failed a doping test when a sample he provided at the National Criterium Championships turned out to be positive for ephedrine. He was, therefore, stripped of the title and had to give back the prize money he'd won at the event, but claimed that the drug had got into his system via an antihistamine medicine he'd used to combat hayfever; race rules have since been altered to allow riders to use the drug with a doctor's note. In 1997 he was picked up by the Comptel Data Systems team and enjoyed seven victories in American races, then in 1998 and 1999 he went to Saturn Cycling and won another seven times, including two General Classifications  at the Tour of Beuce in Canada. Now very much on the international professional cycling radar, Johan Bruyneel's US Postal came calling; Leipheimer rode alongside Lance Armstrong with the team in 2000 and 2001.

In 2001 Leipheimer rode the Vuelta a Espana, his first Grand Tour, as a domestique for Roberto Heras - but then performed so well in the final stage, a time trial, that he overtook Heras and took third place in the General Classification and the Points competition. He was the first American rider to have ever finished the Vuelta in the top three. Heras, who had won in 2000, was fourth and not at all impressed with what had happened, but Leipheimer had done enough to earn himself a more lucrative contract with Rabobank for 2002: the year that he made his debut at the Tour de France and finished in eighth place. In 2003 he was eighth at the Critérium du Dauphiné but otherwise performed poorly all year, managing only 58th place at the Vuelta; he experienced a return to form in 2004 and was ninth at the Tour, then departed the team for Gerolsteiner with whom he was sixth at the Tour de France and won the General Classification and the King of the Mountains at the Tour of Germany. In 2006 he won the Critérium du Dauphiné and was 13th at the Tour de France; in 2007 he returned to Johan Bruyneel, riding for the team now known as Discovery Channel Pro Cycling, and won the Tour of California and Stage 19 at the Tour de France before his third place finish. Bruyneel became manager of Astana for 2008 and 2009 and Leipheimer moved with him; in 2008 he won the Tour of California again and took two stages at the Vuelta, where he was second overall, then in 2009 he won the Tour of California (for a record third time), the Vuelta Castilla y Leon and the Tour of the Gila, also taking sixth place at the Giro d'Italia. He didn't finish the Tour de France that year, breaking his wrist in a crash in Stage 12 while he was in fourth place in the General Classification.

Leipheimer in 2011
Leipheimer moved with Bruyneel in 2010 to RadioShack. He won the Tour of the Gila again, then came 13th at the Tour de France before winning the Tour of Utah; in 2011 he won the Tour de Suisse, the Tour of Utah and the USA ProCycling Challenge. In 2012 he joined Omega Pharma-QuickStep and won the Tour de San Luis before finishing his tenth Tour de France in 31st place. At the Tour of California that year, Bruyneel had been served with a subpoena as part of USADA's investigation into doping at US Postal. The full extent of the investigation at that time was not known; however, within a few months it had exploded into perhaps the biggest doping scandal to have ever hit cycling and led to Bruyneel's dismissal as manager of RadioShack-Nissan. Leipheimer  was one of the riders who gave evidence against Lance Armstrong, who was subsequently stripped of his seven Tour de France victories, and in doing so admitted the truth about his own doping before accepting a six month ban to expire in March 2013 - he was also stripped of all his race results gained between June 1999 and July 2006, as well as for July in 2007.

Other cyclists born on this day: Caroline Buchanan (Australia, 1990); Chris Carmichael (USA, 1961); Jill Kintner (USA, 1981); Peter Rogers (Australia, 1974); Emil Richli (Switzerland, 1904, died 1934); Joseph Farrugia (Malta, 1955); Marie-Hélène Prémont (Canada, 1977); Mario van Baarle (Netherlands, 1965); Koichi Azuma (Japan, 1966); Roland Königshofer (Austria, 1962); Rudolf Juřícký (Czechoslovakia, 1971); Rodolfo Caccavo (Argentina, 1927, died 1958); Johann Summer (Austria, 1951); Ezio Cardi (Italy, 1948).

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