Thursday 6 March 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 06.03.2014

Paris-Nice began on this day in 1988, 1994, 2005 and 2011. The 1988 edition brought a record seventh victory for the Irish rider Sean Kelly. Unlike Jacques Anquetil's five wins - which he'd equaled in 1986 - Sean's seven ran consecutively and as such are likely to be never equaled, let alone broken. The start line was moved to start Villefranche-sur-Saône after two years in Paris.

In 1994 Tony Rominger became the third Swiss rider to win the event, then Bobby Julich was the first from the USA in 2005. Tony Martin, the German rider by then well on his way to taking the unofficial World's Fastest Cyclist from Fabian Cancellara, won in 2011.

Gerrie Knetemann
Gerrie Knetemann, born in Amsterdam on this day in 1951, shares the Dutch record for Tour de France stages won (10) with Jan Raas and Joop Zoetemelk. His career took off in 1974 with victory at the Amstel Gold Race; then he won Stage 12 at the Tour in 1975 and journalists discovered he was their dream come true - not only was he showing signs of being a great rider, he was also highly intelligent with a fully-operational and razor-sharp sense of humour. Before long, he was the star of special features during Dutch coverage of the Tour and other races, giving a unique and frequently very funny take on the event.

The next year, he won the first of his four triumphs at the Ronde van Nederland (also 1980, 1981, 1986) and a string of other races including the Vuelta a Andalucia and in 1977, the Four Days of Dunkirk and Stages 19 and 21 at the Tour. 1978 saw him take victory at the Six Days of Ghent, Six Days of Maastricht, the Tour Méditerranéen and Paris-Nice, also winning Stages 18 and 22 on the Champs-Élysées at the Tour where he wore the race leader's yellow jersey for two days, and the World Road Race Championship. He wore yellow again at the 1979 Tour, this time for one day and won the prologue and Stage 22; then achieved a similar result in 1980 with a win in Stage 12. He didn't win any stages in 1981 but wore the jersey for four days, suggesting that he had the makings of a General Classification contender as well as being capable of bagging stage wins, then won Stages 4 and 12 (and the Stage 9a team time trial) a year later. The Dutch fans wondered if, sooner or later, he might live up to that GC promise.

Then in 1983, having already won the year's Tour Méditerranéen, he was badly injured in a crash at the Dwars door Vlaanderen and took months to recover. He returned in 1984 and won a few races, but it was obvious at the Tour de France that something was wrong - the sparkle was no longer there, either when he raced or when he was interviewed. He seemed a different, less lively character altogether.

The following years brought some success - another Amstel Gold Race, the Six Days of Madrid, a Postgirot Open and of course his fourth Ronde van Nederland - but a part of him never recovered from the crash, and he retired in 1989. Having won 127 races over his 17 professional years, he was too valuable to be allowed to vanish from the cycling world and found employment as the national team coach. On the 2nd of November in 2004, he was mountain biking with three friends in Bergen, Noord-Holland when his bike threw its chain. He dismounted and, as he bent down to put it back on the chain ring, suffered a heart attack and died. He was 53. The Grote Prijs Gerrie Knetemann in Gelderland, Netherlands, was named in his honour and his daughter Roxanne is a professional cyclist with Skil-Koga.

Zak Carr, born in Norwich, Great Britain on this day in 1975, held National Time Trial titles for 50 miles, 100 miles and 12 hours and was to compete in the 2008 Paralympics as pilot to a blind stoker when he was killed by a car on the A11 near his home in Attleborough. The car's driver was later found guilty of negligence, having tried to drive home following an overnight flight which had caused him to fall asleep at the wheel and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Freddie Grubb
Freddie Grubb, who died on this day in 1949, was called "the most talked-of cyclist in Great Britain" in 1910 after he set a new 100 mile time trial record, covering the distance in under five hours - on road, riding a fixed-wheel bike without normal brakes. One year later he entered a 12-hour competition on a 210 mile course near Liverpool, that distance being judged impossible by the event's organisers. They had to extend it by 10.5 miles because Grubb ran out of road.

Review of an F.H. Grubb bike, 1920
Grubb could be seen as one of the forefathers of the Straight Edge movement that has many followers among BMX and mountain bike riders - he never smoked, refused to consume alcohol and was strictly vegetarian at a time when few had even heard of such a concept and the general wisdom was that cyclists should consume vast amounts of meat before a race (Maurice Garin famously got through 45 cutlets of meat during a 24-hour race 17 years before Grubb's 100 mile record).

In 1912, he competed in the Olympics and won two silver medals, then turned professional in 1914. Cycling wrote, "He is 25 years of age, and scales 12st stripped, and when he gets accustomed to the Continental methods there is no reason he should not shine as a star of the very first order in the professional ranks." However, his professional racing career (which - who knows? - might have led to the first British success in the Tour de France) didn't last long - not, as was the case with so many riders of the day, due to war; but because he found European ways not at all to his liking - he said that the Continental riders would "stick an inflator [pump] in your spokes as quick as look at you" - and hankered to return home. He must really have hated it, because the National Cycling Union had banned road racing in Britain and the rules of the time stated that once a rider had competed as a professional, he or she could not downgrade to amateur status nor compete against amateurs. Thus, a return to Britain effectively spelled the end of his competitive career, yet he did it anyway.

Perhaps that made him bitter. After the First World War (during which he abandoned a bike shop he'd set up in 1914 and had to give up his vegetarianism or starve while serving in the Royal Navy), he went into business with a man named Ching Allin and, supported by funds from a member of his cycling club, the two men set themselves up as Allin & Grubb, a bike manufacturer based at 132 Whitehorse Road in Croydon, South London (the building, much altered, is still there and is now occupied by a firm of safe engineers. According to historian Mick Butler, Grubb was an intensely dislikable man who, among other things, demanded to be given sole credit for the quick release system they'd invented since he was the firm's chief designer and despite the fact that the system appears to have actually been invented by Charley Davey, the man who had provided the funds to start the business (incidentally, the quick release was the first example of its kind, predating better-known systems by several years). Customers found Grubb hard to deal with, so before long Allin was handling sales and relations while his partner concentrated on design.

Advert for Grubb bikes (£12!) from
Cycling, 22.05.1925
Nevertheless, the pair fell out: by 1920 Allin & Grubb had changed its name to A. H. Allin and was selling bikes under the Davey brand. Grubb, meanwhile, set up a new business based at 250 London Road in West Croydon (an advert in Cycling, 04.03.1920, lists F.H. Grubb at the address as having "no connection to any other company," suggesting that the split had been far less than amicable and that the two men were keen to distance themselves from one another - the very imposing building is still there, but is now an ice cream shop), moving to Twickenham in 1926, and by 1924 had a shop in Brixton. That company produced what is believed to be the first British recumbent bike and lasted until 1934 when it went into liquidation - not only had it lasted fourteen years, it must also have been financially successful because when Grubb set up a new company under the name FHG, he re-employed 20 of his old staff at a new premises located at 147a Haydon's Road in Wimbledon, South-West London (that building is long gone, replaced by ugly low-rose flats). His family kept the business going after his death, then sold it in 1952 to Holdsworth, one of the most famous British bike manufacturers of the times. Holdsworth continued to produce Freddie Grubb-branded bikes right up until 1978 (Holdsworth, incidentally, remained in operation at 132 Lower Richmond Road in Putney and became an institution on the British cycling scene; the shop sadly closed after 86 years in October 2013).

Servais Knaven
Servais Knaven
(image credit: Ralf Seger CC BY-SA 3.0)
Henricus Theodorus Josephus "Servais" Knaven, born in Lobith, Netherlands on this day in 1971, was National Track Pursuit Amateur Champion in 1991 and 1992, then began to concentrate primarily on road racing and became National Road Racing Champion at professional Elite level in 1995. He won numerous criterium races and one-day classics, including Paris-Roubaix in 2001 and is one of only two men to have entered and finished the notoriously dangerous race sixteen times (the other was Raymond Impanis). He also won Stage 17 at the Tour de France in 2003. Since retiring at the end of the 2010 season, Knaven has worked as a directeur sportif at Team Sky.

Tomasz Marczyński, winner of the Polish National Championships in 2007, was born in Kraków on this day in 1984.

Charles Moss, born in Ascot, Great Britain on this day in 1881, competed with Freddie Grubb at the 1912 Olympics Team Road Race in which they won a silver medal.

On this day in 2012, Mario Cipollini made the surprising claim that at the age of (very nearly 44) he was planning to return to professional cycling and would take part in that year's Giro d'Italia riding for Farnese Vini-Selle Italia. The UCI responded by pointing out that any rider returning to competition must have been subject to six months' doping tests, which Cipollini had not; meanwhile, fans wondered if the whole story might be nothing more than a ploy to advetise the Italian sprinter's bike range - which seemed more likely when Farnese Vini-Selle Italia bosses told the press they knew nothing about the plan. The fact that the Lion King never did make his return suggests those fans were correct.

Other cyclists born on this day: Nelson Oliveira (Portugal, 1989); Mikel Pradera (Euskadi, 1975); Carlos Cardet (Cuba, 1951); Romain De Loof (Belgium, 1941); Yevgeny Kovalyov (Russia, 1989); Jean Hansen (Denmark, 1932, died 1987); Bruno Bulić (Yugoslavia, 1958); Hans Goldschmid (Austria, 1914); Ainhoa Artolazábal (Spain, 1972); José Magnani (Brazil, 1913); John Musa (Zimbabwe, 1950); Jack Mourioux (France, 1948); Leslie King (Trinidad and Tobago, 1950); Henning Jørgensen (Denmark, 1949); Meng Lang (China, 1984); Gaston Delaplane (France, 1882, died 1977); Kim Cheol-Seok (South Korea, 1960); Imre Géra (Hungary, 1947); Koku Ahiaku (Togo, 1963).

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