Sunday 9 February 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 09.02.2014

Kurt Asle Arvesen
(image credit: Heidas CC BY-SA 3.0)
Kurt Asle Arvesen
Kurt Asle Arvesen, who was born in Nesset, Norway, on this day in 1975, has been his nation's Road Race Champion five times (Under-23 in 1997, as an Elite in 1999, 2002, 2009 and 2009)  and Time Trial Champion twice (2001 and 2006). Unusually for a rider who can ride time trials at his level he was also a very talented climber, winning the Mountains classification at Paris–Corrèze in 2002, and could hold his own in a sprint too - he won the Points competition at the Danmark Rundt the same year. Other than National Championships, the majority of wins on his palmares have come from one-day races, but he's enjoyed a smattering of stage wins in the Grand Tours too, including two at the Giro d'Italia (Stage 10 in 2003 and Stage 8 in 2007) and Stage 11 at the 2008 Tour de France.

In 2009, it was announced that Arvesen would be joining the new Team Sky for their first season. His first race with them was the 2010 Tour of Qatar, in which he rode alongside fellow Norwegians Edvald Boasson Hagen and Lars Petter Nordhaug. However, he was forced to abandon with a broken collar bone after a crash in Stage 2, one of several throughout his career that may have prevented him from realising his full potential.

At the start of the 2011 season, Arvesen announced that it would be his last as a professional cyclist. Later on in the year, a further announcement revealed that he would be continuing with the team in a new role as directeur spotif.

Costante Girardengo
Costante Girardengo, who died on this day in 1978, is regarded as one of the greatest Italian cyclists of all time, by some more so than Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi. Veteran fans still maintain that he was more popular than Mussolini prior to the Second World War and claim that whereas children in Italy's remote villages could not recognise the fascist dictator when shown a photograph, they all knew Girardengo. His successes were so many and so admired that all express trains passing through his hometown Novi Ligure would stop, a peculiar Italian honour reserved usually for the upper echelons of great statesmen. Had he not been robbed of his best years by the First World War, which broke out just a few years after he turned professional and during which he very nearly died after contracting Spanish 'Flu (he had a battle getting a racing licence afterwards, as his team manager believed that a rider who had been so ill would no longer be competitive), he might well have become known as the greatest road racer of all time.

During the early years of his career, exceptionally long at 24 years, he was nicknamed "The Ligure Runt" on account of his diminutive stature. Later, he became "Campionissimo," the champion of champions, and had a range of motorbikes named after him. Born on the 18th of March in 1893, his first major win was in 1913 when be became National Champion, a title he would retain for two years, then hold again from 1919 through to 1925.

As was commonly the case in his time, due to the difficulties involved in foreign travel, most of Girardrengo's wins were in his own country. He competed in the Tour de France just once, in 1914 when he was involved in numerous crashes during Stages 5 and 6 and abandoned the race. His record at home, meanwhile, was spectacular overall even though he had bad years as well as good in the Giro d'Italia - that same year, he won the longest stage the race has ever seen, 430km from Lucca to Rome. Racing came to a halt during the war, but he returned in 1918 and won Milan-San Remo - the first of six occasions that he claimed that victory, a record that would remain unbroken until Eddy Merckx topped it five decades later.

All in all, he would win the Giro d'Italia twice, Milan-Torino five times, Milan-San Remo six times, the Giro dell'Emilia five times, the Giro di Lombardia three times, the Giro del Piemonte three times, the Giro del Veneto four times. He began racing professionally with the Maino team, remaining with them for a year before riding with a number of other outfits over the next eleven years and then returning to them for 1923, his best year when he won 15 major races. He then went to Wolsit-Pirelli for three years from 1925, returning to Maino from 1928 to his retirement in 1936. Afterwards, he stayed on as the team's coach; later performing the same role for the Italian national team and coaching Gino Bartali to his 1938 Tour de France win.

Zinaida Stahurskaya
Zinaida Stahurskaya is widely considered to have been the most promising cyclist Belarusia has yet produced. Born on this day in Vitebsk in 1971, she managed to finish the Elite Road Race at the 1992 Olympics in 16th place despite being only 21 years of age, then won the Krasna Lipa Tour Féminine two years later. In 1999, she won Stage 3 at the Giro Donne and came 2nd in Stages 2 and 11. The next year brought even more success when she became World Champion and won the Giro della Toscana Internationale Femminile. She would win Stages 2, 4 and 6 of the Giro Donne in 2001, the year that also brought her first failed anti-doping test resulting in a four-month ban.

In 2003, she won more Giro Donne stages - and failed another drugs test, this time being banned for two months in 2003. Once the ban was expired, she returned. From this point, she became less successful for a while and was limited to two stages wins at Giro del Trentino Alto Adige - Südtirol in 2004. Then, she suddenly returned to prominence for 2005, winning several stages and the overall General Classification at the Tour Féminin en Limousin, the Giro di San Marino and the Grand Prix di San Marino - and failed another drugs test. She was charged in 2006, when the world was starting to understand the full ramifications of  Operación Puerto and cycling bodies finally realised how much work they would have to do to stamp out doping, her previous offences were taken into account and she received a two-year ban which, as she was now 35, effectively ending her professional career at the top level of women's cycling.

Stahurskaya was killed by a car that hit her during a training ride of the 25th of June 2009. Eye-witness reports stated that the car's driver appeared to be asleep when she hit the rider, who was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Bruce Bursford's Ultimate
(image credit: FixedGearWales)
Bruce Bursford
Today marks the anniversary of the death of Bruce Bursford, a British cyclist who set nine speed records whilst still at school. He retained his record-breaking ambitions in adulthood and began studying the technology used in Formula 1 racing and aerospace, combining streamlining and new materials in an effort to create the ultimate speed-record-breaking bike - one of which he named Ultimate, the other Millennium. Millennium's silica tyres were inflated with helium and its wheels span on ceramic bearings to reduce weight and friction to the barest minimum. It was on this bike that Bursford set his record in 1995, reaching 334.6kph (207.9mph) under simulated conditions on rollers, beating the previous record by 88kph. Ultimate would later win him a design award. In 1999, he set a new World Time Trial record, beating the previous best time set by Chris Boardman earlier in the same year.

Bursford was killed during a training ride on the A47 in Norfolk, not far from his hometown Dereham.

Jurgen van de Walle, and ex-Junior National Champion and top ten stage finisher at the Tour de France (7th, Stage 16, 2010), was born on this day in 1977 in Eeernegem, Belgium. 2013, van de Walle's 15th season, was to be his last - after riding one final Grand Tour (the Vuelta a Espana), he retired.

Uroš Murn, born on this day 1975 in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, was a professional cyclist who enjoyed some respectable results early on his career when he was part of the Krka and then Mobilvetta Design-Formaggi Trentini teams, sufficient for him to be picked up by Phonak in 2004, when he became National Champion. The next year was not so good and he departed for Discovery, remaining with them for one year before heading to a UCI Pro Continental team sponsored by Adria Mobil, a manufacturer of camper vans and tourism services provider based in his home town. He announced his retirement in December 2010.

Other cyclists born on this day: Patrick du Chau (Belgium, 1959); Bjørn Stenersen (Norway, 1970, died 1998); Dyton Chimwaza (Malawi, 1957); Pierre Peinaud (France, 1890, died 1962); Claude Buchon (France, 1949); Virgilius Altmann (Austria, 1913, died 1943).

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