|Jobie Dajka, 1981-2009
The four men French implicated - Dajka, Graeme Brown, Sean Eadie and Shane Kelly - were eventually cleared when the investigation found no evidence to connect them in any way to the drugs. French was found guilty of supplying doping products to other athletes and banned from competition for two years, but an appeal later decided that there was no evidence to link him to the drugs either and he too was cleared. However, Dajka was found to have deliberately misled the investigation by lying when giving evidence; a charge he insisted was false, saying that he had failed to be specific rather than lied, and he was suspended from competition for two years.
An appeal was not successful and the rider entered a deep depression, 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 parents' 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.
Dajka is believed to have died three days before he was found and, though his death is not thought to have been suspicious, a cause has never been established.
Laura Van Gilder
Born in Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania on this day in 1964, Laura van Gilder signed her first professional contract in 1992 and, at the age of 49, is still racing - and winning. In 1999 she won the Tour of Somerville, but it was not until 2002 - by which time she was 37 - that her career really kicked off: that year, she won seven races including another Tour of Somerville and the General Classification at Le Tour du Grand Montréal. The following year she won three more, including the challenging CSC Invitational, another four in 2004, five in 2005 and three in 2006.
By the start of the 2007 season, Van Gilder was 42. It's well-known that female athletes tend to maintain their peak for longer than male athletes, which is why it's not uncommon to find female cyclists who are still racing professionally in their late 30s and early 40s, sometimes having already had one successful career in their 20s before leaving the sport to raise a family and then returning when their children are older, whereas the majority of male professionals retire in their mid-30s. However, it's not common that a rider has the best year of her career when she's at that age - but Van Gilder did, winning fifteen races including the CSC Invitational, Stage 4 at the Nature Valley GP, Stages 4 and 7 at the Tour de Toona and the USA Crits finals, in addition to two podium stage finishes (second, Stage 1; third, Stage 6) at the Tour of New Zealand. It was no fluke, either, because she won eleven races in 2008, six in 2009, eleven in 2010, four in 2011 and 2012 and five in 2013.
|László Bodrogi at the 2008 Paris-Roubaix
(image credit: Jack Thurston CC BY-SA 2.0)
László Bodrogi, born in Budapest on this day in 1976, had already achieved a successful career in Hungary when his father - a doctor and his manager - got a job in France and relocated his family, thus shifting the young László from a cycling backwater to the very heart of the sport. Further success in French races won him a place with VC Vaux-en-Velin, an amateur club that served as a feeder team for Festina, but nothing came of it after the doping scandal of 1998 that almost killed the team for good.
In the end, he had to wait until 2000 and interest from Mapei-QuickStep for a professional contract and won a bronze medal in the World Time Trial Championships the same year. Two years later he won the National Time Trial Championship and the Eddy Merckx GP, then came second at the Tour of Flanders, and in 2003 took the National Road Race Championship. He subsequently won the Road title in 2004 and 2006 and the TT title again in 2006, 2007 and 2008 - the last time because later that year he took French citizenship.
In 2005 he won the Tour de Luxembourg and competed for the first time in the Tour de France - he came 119th, but was the first Hungarian in the history of the race.
|Compton Gonsalves, standing third from the right
(image credit: Trinidad Guardian)
Compton Gonsalves was born on this day in 1926 in Georgetown, Guyana and later moved to Trinidad and Tobago, for whom he won a bronze medal at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 1946. The next year, he won five National titles, set two world records and formed a cycling club to bring new people into the sport.
Then, he moved to England where he found work in London and didn't cycle for ten months. Somehow, he found his way onto the Olympic team but, due to those ten months, only came 16th out of a field of 21 in the 1km Individual Sprint - a race that two years previously he'd have most likely won easily. In 1951, the Trinidad and Tobago Federation came into being and was affiliated to the UCI, meaning that Gonsalves could compete for the nation in UCI-sanctioned races. Having moved back, he won a silver and another bronze at the Central American and Caribbean Games that year before announcing his retirement and forming another cycling club. In later years he moved again, this time to Canada; and as of 2010 an annual Compton Gonsalves All Star Invitational 300 Metre Sprint Power race has been held in Trinidad.
Arthur Metcalfe was a British cyclist born in 1938 who died on this day in 2002. Like many cyclists, he was described by those who knew him during his childhood as having been rather weak and sickly. However, on his second day as a member of the Hartlepool CC, he entered a 40km time trial and left for dust several riders far more experienced than himself.
In 1966 he became the first rider to win both the National Amateur Road Championship and the Best British All-Rounder titles in the same year. He'd entered the All-Rounder competition on a whim: "I remember thinking I needed a change. I'd ridden a few time trials in the past and so I thought I'd have another go," he later said.
Metcalfe turned professional in 1967 and, using up his entire annual holiday quota at work, rode the Tour de France with Tom Simpson. Permitted two mornings each week by his employer - Carlton Cycles - in which to train, he was woefully unprepared for the strain of a Grand Tour, yet completed it in 69th place. In 1968, he led the peloton for a while in Stage 10 and was awarded the Combativity prize for the stage.
His professional career was brought to a premature end by a broken pelvis in 1971, at which point he went into business with another professional cyclist named Wes Mason and set up a frame-building form named MKM which would be awarded the British rights to build Jacques Anquetil-branded bikes. Once recovered, he was reinstated as an amateur and began racing again, at one point receiving a ban after taking part in an event in South Africa - he remained angry about it for the rest of his life, saying that he had coached young cyclists while there and feeling that he should have been rewarded for this good service rather than punished for the race. Once the ban had expired, he set time trial records over 100 miles and 12 hours that remained unbeaten at the time of his death.
In later life, Metcalfe and his wife decided to relocate to France. However, it was not to happen - he died aged 64, a few months before they had been due to leave. Metcalfe, like many ex-professionals if his age, believed that the modern Tour de France is too easy and that it should be increased to what he termed its "proper length" - 2,500 miles (4023km).
"The philosophy of the Tour is that it's an epic of courage," he said. "We had stages of 233km. Sure, they go 2mph faster now, but you'd expect that. And there are 70 more riders. I was working for Carlton Cycles. British riders are all full-time pros now and they're better than ever we were, so they can ride further. The argument is that they want a clean Tour. But you can ride 2,500 miles clean. The race may go 1mph slower but from the roadside you'd never notice it. You can't see a difference that small."
Franco Ballerini, born on this day in 1964 in Florence, first found fame as a cyclist before becoming a cycling team manager. Born in Florence, his greatest success came in the Classics - he won Paris-Roubaix, the single-day race so hard it's known as commonly by its nicknames "The Hell Of The North" and "A Sunday In Hell" as often as by its real name, on two occasions, first in 1995 and then again in 1998. He also won Paris-Brussels in 1990, the Giro della Romagna in 1991, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 1995 and the Grand Prix de Wallonie in 1996.
|Franco Ballerini, 1964-2010
(image credit: Eric Houdas CC BY-SA 3.0)
Ballerini loved rally racing as much as he loved cycling, and it was while participating in that sport that he met his untimely end when he was 45. He was acting as navigator for a driver named Alessandro Ciardi during a race at Larciano when the car went out of control and crashed, leaving him with the horrific injuries that caused his death on the 7th of February 2010.
Dutch mountain biker and cyclo cross rider Gerben de Knegt was born on this day in 1975. After joining American Eagle in 1997 and spending 1999 with Giant, he has spent his entore professional career since 2000 with Rabobank and was National Cyclo Cross Champion twice, in 2002 and 2006.
Yevheniya Vysotska (also spelled Evgenia and various other ways, as tends to be the case when Cyrillic letters are transliterated into the Latin alphabet), born on this day in 1975, won the Ukrainian National Individual Time Trial Championship in 2009 and the National Hill Climb Time Trial and Hill Climb Road Race in 2010. She was 4th overall in the 2011 Golan race in Syria and at the 2012 National Individual Time Trial Championship, then came second overall at the Tour of Adygeya and ninth overall at the Giro Rosa and Giro Toscana in 2013.
Lucien Teisseire, born in Saint-Laurent-du-Var on this day in 1919, won Paris-Tours in 1944, Stages 6 and 13 at the 1947 Tour de France, came 6th on the overal General Classification at the 1948 Tour, won Stage 4 the following year and Stage 20 in 1954 - the latter, when he was 35 and on the challenging mountain stage to Briançon was a surprise victory as all the rest were flat stages. He also won the Critérium du Dauphiné in 1953 and a bronze medal at the 1948 World Championships.
Melissa Holt, born in Napier on this day in 1975, won the New Zealand Time Trial and Road Race Championships in 2001, 2008 and 2009. She took the Time Trial title for a fourth time in 2010.
Happy birthday to Benjamin Day, the Pegasus Sports rider born in 1978. His best results to date were an overall win at the 2010 Redlands Bicycle Classic and the National Time Trial Championship in 2003
Other cyclists born on this day: Robert Van Lancker (Belgium, 1947); Warren Scarfe (Australia, 1936, died 1964); David Cabrero (Spain, 1976); Jacqui Uttien (Australia, 1964); Peter McDermott (Australia, 1944); Roland Günther (Germany, 1962); Jeff Leslie (Australia, 1952); Richard Hine (Australia, 1939); Ignác Teiszenberger (Hungary, 1880); Erich Hagen (Germany, 1936, died 1978); Nikolai Matvejev (USSR, 1923, died 1984).