|Crupelandt in 1912|
However, at some point after being demobilised - there is a lack of clarity concerning the dates which vary from 1914 to 1917 to three years after the war ended - he was charged with a crime and sentenced to two years in prison. In response, the Union Vélocipédique handed him a lifetime ban, almost certainly after being pressured into doing so by Crupelandt's rivals. He was able to continue racing under the aegis of another organisation and won the unofficial National Championships in 1922 and 1923, but it spelled the end of what had been a very promising career - one that Henri Desgrange once predicted would lead to victory in the Tour de France - and which led to the eventual destruction of his life and health. When he died in 1955 - at Roubaix - both his legs had been amputated and he was blind. To mark the centenary of the race in 1996, the commune of Roubaix laid a 300m stretch of cobbles along the centre of the Avenue Alfred Motte on the final approach to the velodrome that hosts the finish line. Set among the cobbles are inscribed stones commemorating all of the winners int he first 100 years of the race, which has led to the section's unofficial name Chemin des Géants, Road of Giants. The official name is Espace Charles Crupelandt.
For a while in 1936, nobody was quite sure who had won. The Belgian rider Romain Maes was very clearly seen to be first over the finish line (which was located for the second and final time at the Flandres horse racing track), but the judges then declared Georges Speicher - who, completely coincidentally, happened to be French - the winner. The crowd were not impressed, with many of the French fans seemingly every bit as angry at the injustice as the Belgians. Things began to look ugly but, suddenly and for no obvious reason, they settled down and accepted the result. The Belgians may have been cheated out of a win, but they were apparently content in the knowledge that their men had taken 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th place.
Germain Derycke turned professional in 1950 and, just a year later, took 2nd place at Liège–Bastogne–Liège - a sure sign of a Classics specialist if ever there was one. He won Paris-Roubaix in 1953 and would have taken 1st place at the World Championships that year too had it not been for Fausto Coppi, then at the height of his powers and near unbeatable. One year later he won La Flèche Wallonne and the Dwars door Vlaanderen, then added Milan-San Remo in 1955, 1st place at Liège–Bastogne–Liège in 1957 and the Ronde van Vlaandered in 1958. The Giro di Lombardia was the only Monument that remained out of his grasp.
Noël Foré won Paris-Roubaix in 1959, a year his victory in the Tour of Belgium and two years after he won the Dwars door Vlaanderen. Four years later, he added Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne and the Ronde van Vlaanderen to palmares that totalled 53 professional wins. 1970 brought the second of Eddy Merckx's three Paris-Roubaix victories and his winning margin over Roger De Vlaeminck - 5'21" - remains the largest in the history of the race. De Vlaeminck got his revenge, however: seven years later he topped Eddy's three wins when he became the first and to date the only man to have won the race four times.
|Even The Badger suffered at Paris-Roubaix|
(public domain image)
Eric Vanderaerden won in 1987, but sadly his victory did him few favours as, when taken into consideration alongside his earlier success in the other Classics and the Grand Tours, it served to confirm the belief among Belgian fans that he was destined to be the successor to their hero Eddy Merckx. Unfortunately, though an enormously talented cyclist, Vanderaerden was only a man; Merckx had seemed something greater. Knowing that he could never live up to their expectations, his career went into a decline in the following years and although his subsequent results were impressive (three editions of the Three Days of De Panne, a Tour of Ireland, the Dwars van Vlaanderen and Stage 17 at the 1992 Vuelta a Espana are pretty good by anyone's standards) it' generally agreed that he could have achieved much more. That year saw the first appearance of the 2.2km cobbled section from Troisvilles to Inchy, often one of the hardest sections as the road is frequently covered in mud that runs off the surrounding fields, despite the planting of a hedge in an attempt to keep it back. After the race, 1984 and 1986 winner Sean Kelly told the press: "A Paris–Roubaix without rain is not a true Paris–Roubaix. Throw in a little snow as well, it's not serious."
1992 brought the first of Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle's two wins - almost ten years after he'd formed a part of a breakaway that included Hennie Kuiper and Francesco Moser and which led to Kuiper's 1983 victory. Templeuve - Le Moulin de Vertain Pt 1 "Templeuve L", a 0.2km cobbled section was used for the first time and a 1.1km section from Bourghelles to Wannehain was added to the Cysoing to Bourghelles section that had first been used when Hinault won eleven years earlier, thus creating the Cysoing to Bourghelles to Wannehain stretch that, since the addition of an extra 0.km of cobbled leading to Bourghelles in 2006, is now cobbled for the full 2.5km length. Bourghelles to Wannehain had been discovered previously, but was not used in the race due to poor condition - however, it had been repaired using serviceable pavé taken from the old Péronne-en-Mélantois section that had featured in the race during the 1950s before falling into a state of irretrievable disrepair.
(image credit: Eric Houdas CC BY-SA 3.0)
La Flèche Wallonne fell on this day in 1984, 1989, 1995 and 2000. 1984 was the 48th edition and it began at Charleroi and ended at Huy, as all editions have done 1998, covering 246km in between. The winner, Kim Andersen, was the first Dane to achieve victory in this event. 1989 was the 53rd edition, covering a 253km between Spa and Huy - the longest since 1947. It was won for a second time by Claude Criquielion, who had also won four years earlier. 1995 brought the 59th edition, which covered 205.5km between Spa and Huy - there has not been a longer parcours since. Laurent Jalabert won the first of his two victories, in the same year that he would win Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. The 64th edition, which took place in 2000, started in Charleroi and ended in Huy and covered 198km. The winner was the Italian Francesco Casagrande.
2000 also brought the third edition of La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, won that year by the Canadian rider Genevieve Jeanson. Jeanson's victory is probably undeserved - on the 25th of July 2005, she failed a test for EPO. Initially, she denied having ever doped and retired early in 2006 before being served a back-dated two-year suspension from the date of her failed test. In 2007, she admitted to a journalist that she had used the notorious blood-boosting drug "more or less continuously" since she was 16. As she was 19 when he won La Flèche, it seems likely that she did so with illegal chemical assistance.
Arsène Alancourt, born in Clichy on this day in 1904, was a French professional cyclist who rode in the Tour de France in 1922, 1923 and 1924. He won Stage 13 in 1924, with help from a dog that ran under the wheels of Ottavia Bottechia who led the General Classification throughout the entirety of the race and caused him to crash, and finished in 7th place overall. He'd done better the previous year when he was 5th.
Christophe Moreau, who was born in Vervins on this day in 1971, was a rider who spent much of his career with a very great weight upon his shoulders - he was France's greatest hope for a Tour de France win, which they had not had since Bernard Hinault's final victory in 1985.
(image credit: Eric Houdas CC BY-SA 3.0)
In 2000, he managed 4th place overall and fans began to wonder if he was the man who would bring them the glory they hadn't felt for fifteen years. He won the prologue a year later and was in the top ten for Stages 10 and 11 but abandoned soon afterwards, then abandoned again in 2002 after disappointing results. 2003 saw a return to form and he was 8th overall, then 12th in 2004 and 11th in 2005. In 2006, he finished the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2nd place and won the Mountains Classification - a sure sign that a rider has the potential to win the Tour, as was confirmed that same year with 7th place.
Unfortunately, he was now 35 - beyond the age at which most cycling careers begin to trail off. He rode again in 2007 and was 37th, then again in 2008 and once more abandoned, again in 2009 and was 29th (in fact, a respectable result all things considered) and for a final time in 2010. That last year, when he was 39 years old, he was 22nd overall and 2nd in the King of the Mountains; leaving no doubt that, a decade before, he could have won a Tour had it not have been for one unfortunate factor: his date of birth. He'd simply had the misfortune to have been born at a time that meant his best years coincided with those of Lance Armstrong. If they had come five years earlier or five years later, when Armstrong wasn't around and the other riders were not driving themselves beyond the limits in order to keep up, the French would in all likelihood have had the winner they've wanted for so long.
Moreau tested positive for anabolic steroids at the Critérium International. However, team manager Bruno Roussel supported him, telling the team's lawyers that the rider had been tricked into taking the drugs by a member of the support staff (a not-unknown occurrence, support staff having sometimes been paid by rival teams to "nobble" riders over the years). The court found in favor, and Moreau was not suspended - which would almost certainly have been the end of that story had in not have been 1998, the year that Festina soigneur was caught as he tried to cross the French-Belgian border in a car filled with enough drugs to open a small pharmacy. Investigators discovered a massive, organised doping regime in the team and began looking again at the history of Festina riders during the Tour; which led Moreau, Armin Meier and Laurent Brouchard to confess they had used EPO and, in response, they were disqualified from continuing the race. He received a six-month suspension.
Other cyclists born on this day: Mauricio Mata (Mexico, 1939); Eric Vermeulen (France, 1954); Peter Jonsson (Sweden, 1958); Pavel Soukup (Czechoslovakia, 1965); Henning L. Larsen (Denmark, 1955); András Mészáros (Hungary, 1941); Jim Rossi (USA, 1936, died 2005); Michael Lynch (Australia, 1963).