|Happy birthday Wendy Houvenaghel!
(image credit: johnthescone CC BY 2.0)
Wendy Houvenaghel, the Northern Irish track cyclist, was born on this day in 1974. Houvernaghel has won a vast collection of trophies during her illustrious years as a professional including three gold medals in the UCI Track World Championships, four golds in the UCI Track World Cup and a silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Now based in Cornwall, Houvernaghel was interested in running, horse riding and hockey in her youth, only discovering her talent for cycling during her time with the Royal Air Force. Whilst in the RAF, she rose to the rank of Squadron Leader and qualified as a dentist - which would prove handy once she completed her commission as it allowed her to support herself before she gained a professional contract.
She took part in her first race in 2002 at a time when she had little cycling experience, yet one year later she became National Individual Time Trial Champion - a meteoric rise that left the cycling world in no doubt that a serious new talent had arrived and thankful that she had done so just in time for her best years when they could so easily have been swallowed up by military service. In 2004, she won every time trial she entered. However, it seems that now she's well into her late 30s, Houvenaghel's best years are far from behind her - in fact, 2011 was one of her best yet with two gold medals won at the World Track Championships and the Track World Cup (in both cases for the Team Pursuit event), a third gold at the National Circuit Time Trial Championships and a new 25 Mile Time Trial national record plus victory at the National Individual Time Trial Championship then in 2012 she on silver in the 3km Pursuit at the World Track Championships and gold at the Celtic Chrono, the Chrono Champenois (beating second place Carmen Small by 1'26") and successfully defended her National Individual Time Trial Champion title.
Considering her continuing success, fans were surprised when Houvenaghel was not selected for the Pursuit team at the 2012 Olympics; she later claimed that she had been promised a place on the squad based on good performances during training and had been passed over in favour of Joanna Rowsell despite Rowsell being ill a few hours before the race.
|Moineau in the 1935 Tour de France
More successes came in the following years: the Circuit du Forez, three Paris-Limoges, Paris-Tours - a palmares with of any professional would very rightfully feel proud. However, Moineau will be forever remembered not for these victories, but for the way in which he won his last Tour stage, Stage 17 from Pau to Bordeaux in 1935.
It wasn't an enormously long stage by the standards of the day, being 224km (four days previously, they'd faced a mountain stage more than 100km longer). It was also flat and came right after a rest day - in other words, it shouldn't have been difficult. But, when the riders woke that morning, it was already hot and the humidity was high: one of those sultry days that the French term a canicule that sometimes settle over south-western France like a hot, sticky blanket when the cooling winds stop blowing from the High Pyrenees and the Atlantic and the air gets hotter and hotter without respite until eventually, blessedly, the wind starts up again.
|Moineau - perhaps the most
popular cheat in cycling history
They probably didn't even realise that one rider hadn't stopped and was now far away in front of them. Moineau, who had rolled up to the start line that morning with a 52-tooth chainring - in those days, when the Tour was more a contest of endurance rather than speed, unheard-of off the track and a seemingly insane choice in that terrible heat - had set the whole thing up at his own expense, and the "generous villagers" were in fact a group of his friends.
Strangely, Moineau was not penalised for his cheating. Perhaps the organisers thought that the other riders were thankful for a free drink on such a horrible stage and hence didn't resent his stage win.
(image credit: Yay Cycling)
Thea van Rijnsoever, Dutch National Champion in 1983 and 1985, was born on this day in 1956.
(image credit: Adam Baker CC BY 2.0)
Oksana Grishina, silver medalist in the 2000 Sydney Olympics for the Track Sprint, was born on this day in 1968.
Rudolf Mitteregger, winner of the Tour of Austria in 1970, 1974 and 1977, was born on this day in Gaal, Austria, in 1944.
Theo Eltink, like his nation's current most famous cyclist Marianne Vos and many others, showed promise as a speed skater before deciding to concentrate on cycling. He was born in Westelbeers, Eindhoven, Netherlands, in 1981 and would later become a member of Rabobank TT3, a team that served as a training ground for young riders hoping to be offered a contract with the professional Rabobank team. While still an amateur, he won stages at the Tour de l'Avenir and Tour des Pyrénées, also taking a bronze medal in the Under-17 class at the 1997 National Cyclo Cross Championships and then a silver in the Under-23 class in 2003. The team gave him his chance to turn professional in 2005 and he entered his first Grand Tour - the Giro d'Italia, at which he managed an impressive 29th in the overall General Classification. At the Giro the following year he was 53rd, but upped his best stage result from tenth to fifth, then managed an eighth place stage finish and 24th overall at the Vuelta a Espana. Oddly, he never did better than that - he was 95th at the Vuelta in 2007, 77th at both the Giro and the Vuelta in 2008, after which he left Rabobank and moved to Skil-Shimano. Following a year without good results, the team did not renew his contract and, unable to secure a position elsewhere, he retired.
On this day in 2006 in the early hours of the morning, Spanish rider Isaac Gálvez López died of injuries sustained when he hit crash barriers following a collision with Dimitri De Fauw during the Six Days of Ghent the previous day. He was 31 years old and had been married for three weeks. De Fauw suffered terrible depression after the accident and committed suicide on November the 6th, 2009.
(image credit: johnthescone CC BY 2.0)
Jan Schur, son of the famous East German cyclist Gustav-Adolf Schur, was born on this day in 1962 in Leipzig. Now retired, he represented his country in the 1988 Olympics.
Other births: Carl Lorenz (Germany, 1913, died 1993); Ian Banbury (Great Britain, 1957); Dick Ploog (Australia, 1936, died 2002); Juan Brotto (Argentina, 1939, died 2009); Arnulfo Pozo (Ecuador, 1945); Batsükhiin Khayankhyarvaa (Mongolia, 1958); Brian Keast (Canada, 1953); Jonathan Garrido (Spain, 1973); Sirop Arslanian (Lebanon, 1966).