The Giro d'Italia has started on this date three times - 1924, 1931 and 2003 1931, the 20th edition, covered 3,012km in 12 stages and was won by Francesco Camusso, a rider who remains ranked among Italy's best climbers today. 2003 covered 3,472km in 21 stages, its longest stage at 236km roughly equal in distance to 1931's third shortest at 234km. The winner was Gilberto Simoni, fortunate in being able to enter after he was cleared by the Italian Federation of wrong-doing in the wake of a positive test for cocaine in 2002 and withdrawn from the race.
The 1924 Giro d'Italia
16.03.1891 - 13.09.1959
Her name was Alfonsina Strada, nee Morini, but she entered under the name Alfonsin so that organisers thought she was a man until it was too late; because in those days, despite the fine work done by the Suffragettes in other nations who had taken the bicycle to heart, women in conservative, Catholic Italy were not supposed to take part on bike races. Though stories of her early life have probably been somewhat embellished over the years, many state that she faced severe opposition when she began cycling and villagers would cross themselves as she rode by, leading to her nickname Devil in a Dress. Her mother apparently did all she could to persuade her to give up cycling and learn to sew, but her father - who deserves as much praise as she does - seems to have thought differently, and when she was ten years old he bought her a bike of her own for the princely sum of ten chickens. Three years later, she won her first race. The prize was a pig.
Strada did considerably better than anybody expected, finishing the first stage an hour after the winner - which in those days was considered a reasonably close result. Misfortune struck later on when her handlebars snapped in a crash during a stormy 304km stage, but a peasant (perhaps realising that Strada came from the same background) cut off a length of broom handle and pushed into the half still attached to the bike, thus permitting her to carry on. Nevertheless, she was unable to finish within the time limit.
Consequently, they were not willing to let her go. Having checked the rules, they decided that she would be allowed to continue with them paying her expenses but without being awarded a place in the classifications and ineligible for a prize. The next day, when she finished the stage, a vast crowd of fans carried her and her bike in their shoulders around Fiume, the Italian name for what is now Rijeka in Croatia. Motivated to go on, Strada became one of only 38 riders to finish the race that year - 28 hours behind Enrici but 20 ahead of Telesforo Benaglia in last place. Her fame was so great that an appeal to provide her with a prize raised 50,000 lire.
He began racing with the Rover Racing CC in 1902 and rapidly became a very talented track cyclist, winning 60 races in 1908 alone including the 660 yard sprint at the Olympics, held that year in London. He'd have had a second gold medal for the 1000 yard sprint too, had a puncture not seen to it that he took second place. A year later he set three World Records at the Herne Hill Velodrome in London - the quarter mile, three quarters of a mile and one mile. The quarter mile stood as a World Record for 21 years and as a British Amateur Record until 1948 when a change to UCI rules forced a slower time to be accepted instead. Johnson died at Sutton Coldfield in the 23rd of June in 1951, when he was 68 years old.
On this day in 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, bringing several of Europe's most prestigious cycling races to a temporary halt.
Priska Doppman, winner of the Tour de France Féminin in 2005 in addition to two gold and multiple silver and bronze medals at the Swiss National Road Racing Championships, was born in Cham on this day in 1971. In addition to her Tour and National Championships (1999, 2001), Doppman won the GP des Nations in 2004, the Chrono des Herbiers in 2006 and numerous stages at other races.
On the very same day as Doppman and less than 50km away at Altdorf, Beat Zberg was born. Having won several National Under-19 titles, he became Swiss Road Racing Champion in 2007. They were not the only successful Swiss cyclists born on this day - there was also Karl Burkhart in 1908 (died 1976) and Ralph Näf, born 1980 and still riding with Multivan-Merida mountain bike team. So, if you happen to be Swiss and wish to become the parent of a professional cyclist, you need to keep your diary clear for the 10th of August.
|Agostinho leading the 1972 Tour de
France. Behind him are Raymond
Poulidor and Lucien van Impe.
(image credit: Memoire-du-Cyclisme CC BY-SA 3.0)
Joaquim Agostinho, born on the 7th of April in 1942, became the first Portuguese stage winner at the Tour de Frace when he won Stage 5 and 14 in 1969. He was the fastest man up the Alpe d'Huez a decade later and rode in a total of 13 Tours, finishing 12 of them. On this day in 1984, while leading the Volta ao Algarve, he was killed after colliding with a dog.
Other cyclists born on this day: Vera Andreyeva (Russia, 1988); Norberto Oconer (Philippines, 1965); Manuel Youshimatz (Mexico, 1962); Robin Croker (Great Britain, 1954); Imelda Chiappa (Italy, 1966); Son Yak-Seon (South Korea, 1966); Vladas Jankauskas (Lithuania, 1903, died 1969); Anatoliy Chukanov (USSR, 1954); Daan van Dijk (Netherlands, 1907, died 1986); Gunnar Asmussen (Denmark, 1944).