Friday, 2 May 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 02.05.2014

La Flèche Wallonne was held on this date in 1937. It started for the second of three consecutive years at Tournai and covered 280km to Ans, making it the joint longest edition ever - 1938 was also 280km, but finished at Rocourt. The winner, Adolphe Braeckeveldt, was having the best year of his career and would also win the Tour of Belgium and Stage 17b at the Tour de France. The race was held on this date again in 1953, when it covered 220km between Charleroi and Liège and was won by the Belgian Stan Ockers.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the most venerated of the Monuments, took place on this day in 1926. It was 16th edition of the race and the winner was Dieudonné Smets who that same year became Belgian Independent (semi-professional) Road Race Champion.

Pia Sundstedt
Pia Sundstedt
(image credit: Phoyote - where you can find an interview with the rider)
Pia Sundstedt, born in Kokkola on this day in 1975 is a professional cross-country skier and cyclist who competes in road racing and mountain biking. She began winning road races in the late 1990s, taking both the Road Race National Championship and Giro del Trentino in 1997, then won stages at the Giro d'Italia Femminile and twice finished La Flèche Wallonne in second place over the following three years.

Sundstedt would become National Road Race Champion again in 2001, 2002 and 2005, at which point she began to concentrate on mountain biking with especial emphasis on cross-country marathons (XCM) - in 2005, she won the European XCM title and came fifth in the World Championships. The year after that, she couldn't improve at the Worlds but became National XCM Champion and won the XCM World Cup, as she would again in 2007 and 2008.

As of 2011, fourteen years after her professional career began, Sundstedt has once more begun to make herself known in road racing: she won the National Time Trial and Road Race Championships that year, in addition to a fourth XCM World Cup and fourth place at the World Championships. She announced her retirement at the end of the 2012 season.

Jean-François Bernard
(image credit: Eric Houdas CC BY-SA 3.0)
Jean-François Bernard
Jean-François Bernard, who was born in Luzy, France on this day in 1962 and in the early part of his career was considered by many to be the successor to Bernard Hinault. He turned professional on the 1st of August 1984 with Hinault's La Vie  Clair team after winning a series of prestigious amateur races including a National Championship, then proved he could mix it with the pros in 1985 by winning stages at the Tours de Suisse and Limousin and finishing on the podium in several other races.

1986 brought greater success with eleven victories, including overall at the Tour Méditerranéen and Stage 16 at his first Tour de France. A year later he rode in both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour, winning Stage 19 at the former and 18 (a Mont Ventoux time trial) and 24 at the latter, on both occasions taking the yellow jersey. For the fans, this cleared any doubts that they might still have - this was the man that would continue what Hinault started. Then, the following year, things went badly wrong: Bernard crashed heavily whilst racing through a tunnel at the Giro, badly injuring his back. He seemed sufficiently recovered to enter the Tour but didn't do well, then miraculously came second for Stages 13 and 14 - however, he abandoned soon afterwards, then lost out on much of 1989 due to an operation on his knee. In 1990, he entered the Tour again but once more was forced to abandon and underwent another operation, then returned to win Stage 15 at the Vuelta a Espana, which would prove to be his last Grand Tour triumph.

Bernard would ride in one more Giro (1991, abandoned) and five more Tours (1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995) and finished in a respectable position, but gradually - and despite his victories elsewhere, for example at the 1992 Critérium International which he won outright - it became apparent that his best years had coincided with those he missed through injury. His results were not helped by the fact that he had developed a taste for the finer things in life, often favouring good food, expensive wine and exotic cars to training; but it was nevertheless a realisation that would have been harder on him were it not for the fact that despite 53 professional victories, Bernard never let France's hopes that he was a potential Tour winner convince him that he was even nearly equal to Hinault and instead he was content to ride as a superdomestique: ""I'll never be a leader," he told L'Equipe, the newspaper that now employs him as a race consultant. "I can't be someone that you can count on 100%, and if you ask that of me I lose half my power."

Filippo Savini was born in Faenza, Italy on this day in 1985. In 2011, he won Stage 3 at the Vuelta a Castilla y León.

Other cyclists born on this day: Kieran Page (Great Britain, 1983); Muriel Sharp (Great Britain, 1953); Oscar Pezoa (Argentina, 1933).

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