Monday 2 February 2015

I'm getting very lazy, and because of all the other (women's cycling) stuff I do online these days I haven't got the time (trans: I can't be bothered) to update this blog and keep it current. So, do the hard work for me by simply entering today's date - hell, any date, live a little) into the search box up to the top left there to find out loads of fascinating stuff that happened on that day. 

In the mean time, here's a photo of Helen Wyman wot I took. Helen's really cool (and has been National Champion nine times), so if you don't already follow her click that link.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 28.09.2014

Léon Devos
Today is the anniversary of the 1919 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the ninth ever held and the latest calendar date in the 120-year history of the race - as the first in the wake of the First World War, many of the riders who had been on the start lines before racing in Europe was halted by the conflict were no longer around. The parcours was 237km in length and winner Léon Devos also spelled De Vos, took 9h20'30" to complete it after battling through snow to get there.

Trixi Worrack
Born in Cottbus, East Germany on this day in 1981, Trixi Worrack became Junior World Individual Time Trial Champion in 1998, then came third in the same event and second in the Junior World Road Race Championship a year later.

In 2000, she signed her first professional contract with Red Bull Frankfurt and finished Stage 4 of the Women's Challenge in third place. She remained with the team the following year and won Stage 7 at the Women's Challenge, was third at La Flèche Wallonne and fourth in the National Elite ITT Championship. From 2003 to 2009 she rode for Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung; in 2003 she became National Road Race Champion and was second in the Holland Ladies' Tour, then in 2004 she won the Tour de l'Aude, the Krasna Lipa and the Giro della Toscana. In 2005 she won the Primavera Rosa (the women's version of Milan-San Remo); in 2006 he was second at the Holland Ladies' Tour for a third time, also coming second in the World Road Race Championship; in 2007 she was second at the Tour de l'Aude; in 2008 she became National Points Race Champion and in 2009 she won Stage 8 at the Giro Donne and the National ITT Championship.

Worrack at the Thüringen-Rundfahrt, 2012
Worrack joined German team Noris Cycling for 2010 and dominated the Czech Tour, winning all five stages and the General Classification; then in 2011 she raced for AA and came fourth at the Trophée d'Or Féminin and won Stage 5 at the Giro della Toscana. She moved on to Specialized-Lululemon for 2012 and has been an instrumental rider in a spectacular first year for the team, starting off the season with a Stage 2 victory and second place overall at the Tour of Qatar, then came third at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and won Stage 3 at the Gracia Orlova and Stages 3 and 4 and second place overall at the Thüringen-Rundfahrt. She also rode with Lululemon's victorious squad at the World Team Time Trial Championship and took eighth place at the World ITT Championship. At the London Olympics, she was ninth in the ITT.

In 2013, Worrack became National Cyclo Cross Champion. On the road, still with Lululemon, she came second on Stage 2 and fifth overall at the Tour of Qatar and second at the Classica Cita di Padova during the Spring races, then came second in the time trial and first in the road race at the National Championships and was sixth overall at the Boels Rental Ladies Tour. Lululemon quite literally dominated the team trials in almost every race they entered throughout 2013, frequently beating even their nearest rivals Orica-AIS and Rabobank-Liv/Giant by large margins; Worrack was an integral part of the squad, riding with them in their successful time trials at the Open de Suede Vargarda, the Lotto-Belisol Belgium Tour, the Boels Rental Ladies Tour and again at the World Team Time Trial Championships, where they beat Rabobank into second place by 1'11.09".

Anthony Ravard, born in Nantes, France on this day in 1983, won three stages at the Tour de Normandie in 2008, his first professional year. In 2011 he won Etoile de Bessèges and finished the World Road Race Championships in 13th place and in 2012 he was fourth at the GP Fina - Fayt-le-Franc.

Broadcaster and journalist Jon Snow is familiar to Britons as the presenter of ITN's flagship 10 o'clock News. He is less well-known as a cyclist, except to members of the Cyclists' Touring Club - having become president of the organisation in 2007. Snow was educated at the University of Liverpool but was rusticated (expelled) due to his part in an anti-apartheid protest. He once found himself seated next to a sleeping Idi Amin aboard a Ugandan presidential jet and seriously considered taking the revolver from Amin's belt and killing him with it; stopping only because of the risk to other passengers.

Frances Willard
Frances Willard, born in Churchville, New York on this day in 1839, was a suffragist, social activist and temperance campaigner who, in addition to her work towards getting women the right to vote, was involved in the fight for free school meals, benefits for the poor, workers' rights to join trade unions, municipal organisations devoted to public health and sanitation, state-funded education for the children of poor families and limitations on the hours employees could be made to work, as well as backing new laws against child abuse and rape. Like Susan B. Anthony, she was also a keen advocate of the bicycle which she saw as means of enabling women to travel when and where they wished. In 1895, she wrote A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle, in which she describes her own cycling journeys and the stories of other women she met while completing them. Although it suffers a little from a typically Victorian tendency to ramble, the book is often funny, always interesting and still well worth a read today; best of all, it's out of copyright and can be read online and downloaded free.

Other cyclists born on this day: Jesús Hernández (Spain, 1981); Guus Bierings (Netherlands, 1956); Paweł Kaczorowski (Poland, 1949); Eddie Fiola (USA, 1964); Robert Thompson (Great Britain, 1882); Waldemar Bernatzky (Uruguay, 1920); Maurice Renaud (France, 1900, died 1968); Francesco Del Grosso (Italy, 1899, died 1938); Carlos Coloma (Spain, 1981); Piet Peters (Netherlands, 1921); Paul Réneau (Belize, 1960); Walter Martin (USA, 1881); Jean Brun (Switzerland, 1926, died 1993); Martin Willock (Canada, 1954); Gilbert de Rieck (Belgium, 1936).

Saturday 27 September 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 27.09.2014

Clara Hughes
Hughes at the Thüringen Rundfahrt, 2012
Born in Winnipeg, Canada on this day in 1972, Clara Hughes - in common with so many other riders - began her career as an athlete in speed skating, which she took up at the age of 16 after seeing Gaétan Boucher win gold at the 1988 Olympic Games. A year later she started cycling; only three years later, in 1992, she became National Road Race Champion. In 1994 she won the Women's Challenge, one of the hardest and most prestigious events in the sport, then in 1995 she was fourth overall at the Tour de France Féminin and won the National Individual Time Trial Championship and in 1996 she won bronze medals in the Road Race and the Individual Time Trial at the Olympics.

Hughes took a hiatus from cycling and returned to speed skating as the 1998 Winter Olympics approached, concentrating on it for several years and winning more Olympic medals - she thus became the second woman and one of only four athletes to have won medals in both the Summer and Winter Games, and in 2006 became the only athlete to have won more than one medal at both Games. In 2005, she set a new 10,000m World Record at 14'19.73" - it has since been beaten, but remains a Canadian record at the time of writing. Following the 2006 Winter Games, she took inspiration from fellow speed skater Joey Cheek who had donated his gold medal to Right To Play and gave $10,000 of her own money to the humanitarian organisation.

Hughes at the 2012 Olympics
At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Hughes worked as a cycling commentator for CBC. This inspired her to make a return to cycling, which she did in 2010; less than a year later at the PanAmerican Games she won the Road Race with an advantage of 1'18" and the Individual Time Trial with 28", then the National Individual Time Trial Championship by 28". She also won the Tour of the Gila and La Visite Chrono du Gatineau, then came fifth at the World Individual Time Trial Championship, but for many fans her most impressive achievement was her long solo breakaway at the World Road Race Championship, enlivening a race that many found otherwise boring. Having won La Flèche Wallonne and another National ITT Championship in 2012, Hughes qualified for the Olympics and was fifth in the Individual Time Trial.

Alongside Cindy Klassen, another speed skater from Winnipeg, Hughes is the joint most successful Canadian Olympian of all time. In recognition of her athletic achievements and humanitarian activities she has been awarded the Order of Manitoba, is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has two honourary degrees from the Universities of Manitoba and New Brunswick.

Wouter Weylandt
Wouter Weylandt, 27.09.1984 - 09.05.2011
Born in Ghent, Belgium on this day in 1984, Wouter Weylandt scored some good results prior to 2004, then that year came third at the Under-23 Paris-Roubaix and earned himself a trainee contract with QuickStep-Davitamon. In 2005, riding with a full professional contract from the same team, he won the GP Briek Schotte after starting the season with mononucleosis; then in 2006 the Points competition at the Tour of Poland. In 2007 he won seven races and in 2008, having been third at Gent-Wevelgem, he rode the Vuelta a Espana - his first Grand Tour, where he won Stage 17. The following year started with a tragedy when his close friend Frederiek Nilf, aged just 21, died of a heart attack while he slept between stages at the Tour of Qatar; later in the season Weylandt nearly repeated his earlier Vuelta success when he was second on Stage 4 but he left the race after Stage 16, then in 2010 he won Stage 3 at the Giro d'Italia.

He was, in the opinion of his fellow riders and fans, a rider destined for greatness; if not a Grand Tour victory, at least a Grand Tour Points competition. When he signed for 2011 to LeopardTrek - a new team consisting of some of the most promising young riders in the world, including Andy Schleck who was hotly tipped to win the Tour de France that year, some of the established greats including Fabian Cancellara, and some highly experienced older riders such as the legendary Jens Voigt - it seemed that there really couldn't be a better place for a rider such as him to develop his talents and learn the fine art of winning bicycle races.

On the 9th of May, at the Giro d'Italia which just one year previously had been disrupted when riders protested against poor safety conditions, he was killed as he descended the Passo del Bocco at 80kph. According to Manuel Antonio Cardoso, who was behind him at the time, Weylandt had looked over his shoulder to see if other riders were catching him and lost control, hitting a guardrail before being catapulted 10m across the road and landing heavily on his face. The race's chief medical officer was nearby in a car and saw the accident take place: "he was already and clearly dead upon impact. I had never seen such a thing before, such a sudden death," he later told reporters. The impact when he hit the wall would have been sufficient to end his career even had he have fallen there - an autopsy found that his left leg had been so badly damaged it would have required amputation. His death was attributed to skull and facial injuries and massive damage to his internal organs - it was noted that the impact when he hit the road had stopped his heart instantaneously and there would not have been time for him to suffer. His girlfriend, An-Sophie, was five months pregnant when he died.

Pedro Horrillo
It's often said - with some truth - that academic qualifications are few and far between in the men's professional peloton (the same is very much not true among the women: since few female cyclists will ever make a living from their sport, few ever considered it as a future occupation and only took it up while at university). Pedro Horillo, born in Eibar on this day in 1974, is a retired Basque cyclist and an exception: he had already earned a degree in philosophy from Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, the Basque national university, when he became a professional rider with Vitalicio Seguros-Grupo Generali in 1998 and after his retirement he became well-respected for his intelligently-written articles on cycling and doping.

Horrillo at the 2009 Tour of California
Horrillo spent his first three years with Vitalico Seguros and, in his second, rode in the Tour de France for the first time and scored a handful of decent stage finishes for a debutant, including 18th on Stage 1, then came 135th overall. In 2001 he went to Mapei-QuickStep and finished four stages at the Vuelta a Espana in the top ten; then in 2002, with the same team, he won Stage 2 at Paris-Nice and was third on Stage 13 at the Vuelta. The following year he went to Rabobank, with which he would spend the remainder of his career; he won Stage 3 at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya that year and Stage 1 at the Sachsen Tour the next. While he had many more good results (and rode the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta in 2007), they would be the final victories of his career.

He retired in 2009 following a horrific crash at the Giro in which he hit a railing and plunged over it into a ravine, falling 60m and suffering a broken neck, knee and thigh as well as a punctured lung. He was unconscious when the medics got to him, then awoke while in the ambulance and was placed in an induced coma. The following day - when riders mounted a protest at safety conditions in the race, just as they would the following year and again following the death of Wouter Weylandt in 2009 - he was brought back to consciousness for scans which, thankfully, revealed no brain injuries. He spent the next five weeks in hospital, then made a full recovery but never took part in another race, finding that he was no longer able to perform at his previous level. However, he still follows cycling and is especially keen on the Hell of the North, Paris-Roubaix: ""If I could only have ridden one race as a pro, that would have been it - and if possible, in the rain because that's the real Roubaix when it rains," he says.

Beth Heiden
Elizabeth Lee Heiden Reid, known as Beth Heiden, was born in Madison, Wisconsin on this day in 1959 and is probably the only World Road Race Champion who wasn't really a cyclist. She played tennis and soccer while at school, then also took up running in 1975 and set a national record for her age group that same year. She was also a speed skater and, the following year, qualified for the Olympics where she was 11th in the 3,000m. In 1979, she became World Speed Skating Champion after winning all four of the constituent races.

Left to right: Sara Doctor, Connie Carpenter, Beth Heiden
Many cyclists have competed in speed skating in the past, with Marianne Vos and Clara Hughes being perhaps the two most famous examples; but invariably they concentrated on cycling after discovering their proficiency at it. Heiden did not: she took up cycling as part of her cross-training preparation for the speed skating events at the 1980 Winter Olympics and never fell in love with the bike, nor became a true cycling, like Vos and Hughes did - in fact, when she became the first ever American to win the UCI World Road Race Championships in 1980, beating Greg Lemond by three years, she did so almost as an afterthought. Having done so, she returned to speed skating, then took up cross-country skiing and never went back to cycling again. Who knows what she might have achieved if she had done?

Born in Australia on this day in 1974, Nigel Barley fell three metres from a roof and landed on a hammer; aged 26, he was a paraplegic. After spending a year learning what he could do - and techniques to do what he couldn't - he decided to take up handcycling, then two years later set a new handcycle World 24-hour record when he covered 462km; three years after that he rode the 4,437km between Perth and Sydney. In 2009 he won the Road Race and the Individual Time Trial at the National Championships. Silver and bronze at the 2011 World Cup and several good results during the first half of 2012, as part of the World Cup and the Paracycling Tour, qualified him for the Paralympic Games in London, where he won silver in the Individual Time Trial.

Alfred Haemerlinck, the most successful
rider you've never heard of
Alfred Haemerlinck, born in Assenede, Belgium on this day in 1905, won Stages 1 and 6 at the Tour de France in 1931, which earned him the maillot jaune for a single day. Those two stages were the most prestigious victories of his decade-long professional career, but he is chiefly remembered for the enormous number of smaller, less-well-known races that he entered and won: according to some apparently reliable estimates, as many as 493 - higher than some estimates for Eddy Merckx.

Benoni Beheyt, born in Zwijnaarde, Belgium on this day in 1940, won Gent-Wevelgem and the World Road Race Championship in 1963 and Stage 22a at the Tour de France, the General Classification at the Ronde van België and the National Road Race Championship in 1964.

Ángel Casero, born in Albalat dels Tarongers on this day in 1972, was Spanish Road Race Champion in 1998 and 1999. In 2000 he was second overall at the Vuelta a Espana, then in 2001 he won it.

Giovanni Fidanza, born in Bergamo, Italy on this day in 1965, won the overall Points competition at the Giro d'Italia and Stage 20 at the Tour de France in 1989, then Stage 2 at the Giro in 1990.

Heinz Wengler, born in Germany on this day in 1912, shared victory for Stage 17b (a 37km road race) at the 1937 Tour de France with the Adolph Braeckeveldt. His nickname was Herr Schmal on account of his diminutive stature and five years later, when he was 30, he was killed in action on the Eastern Front.

Enrico Zaina, born in Brescia on this day in 1967, won Stage 17 at the Vuelta a Espana in 1992, Stage 11 at the Giro d'Italia in 1995 and Stages 9, 20 and second place overall at the 1996 Giro.

Other cyclists born on this day: Raúl Saavedra (Colombia, 1969); Cosme Saavedra (Argentina, 1901, died 1967); Chartchai Juntrat (Thailand, 1951); Alexey Kolessov (Kazakhstan, 1984); Mauno Uusivirta (Finland, 1948); Rebecca Henderson (Australia, 1991); Mitsuteru Tanaka (Japan, 1971); Michael Andrew (Malaysia, 1943); Kris Gerits (Belgium, 1971).

Sunday 24 August 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 24.08.2014

Roger de Vlaeminck
Classic de Vlaeminck territory - on the Koppenberg
Some riders specialise in sprints, others in the mountains and others on the long, flat sections that make up the bulk of the total distance of many races. Some excel in time trials; some perform well on two or more types of stage and may win Grand Tours as a result. A few achieve their victories through their ability to absorb pain, to keep going and attacking in conditions that have other riders fighting simply to survive - at which point, having ridden themselves to the point of exhaustion, they attack again, knowing that this is the point at which they can hurt their opponents the most. They are the Flandriens. Briek Schotte was the toughest of them all, so tough that many claim he was the only Flandrien - but if anyone came close, it was Roger de Vlaeminck.

Born on this day in 1947 into a family of traveling clothes merchants (hence his later nickname, "The Gypsy"), de Vlaeminck's childhood love was football; but if a youngster wanted to make his name as an athlete in Belgium cycling was the way forward, and the best place to start was in cyclo cross. Encouraged by older brother Erik - who by this time had already won 17 races of his own - he began racing cross as a junior in 1965. He won two races that year, both cross, and one cross and one road race in 1966. Then in 1967 he won 14 and reached the podium in ten more.

Having won Belgium's International Amateurs and the World Amateurs Cyclo Cross Championships, the General Classification at the Ronde van Belgie and Stages 10a and 10b at the Tour de l'Avenir in 1968, de Vlaeminck turned professional with Flandria-De Clerck-Krüger in 1969. Most riders find themselves overwhelmed by the increased level of competition in their first professional year, but not de Vlaeminck: he won 21 races, including the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the National Road Race Champion, and he was second at Milan-San Remo and Gent-Wevelgem. It was already obvious that here was a potentially great Classics rider, but few suspected just how great he would become. There were more clues the following year, when he won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Scheldeprijs, then more in 1971 with another Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne victory followed by wins at the E3 Harelbeke and Waalse Pijl.

De Vlaeminck remained a professional for 20 years and, for a decade, seemed all but unbeatable in the Classics: his remarkable palmares includes Milan-San Remo (1973, 1978, 1979), two Milano-Torino (1972, 1974), two Giri di Lombardia (1974, 1976), two Omloops Het Volk (1969, 1979) and two Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (1970, 1971), Scheldeprijs (1970), the E3 Harelbeke (1971), Liège-Bastogne-Liège (1970), La Flèche Wallonne (1971), the Ronde van Vlaanderen (1977) and Paris-Brussels (1981) in addition World Cyclo Cross Championship (1975), two National Road Race Championships (1969, 1981), General Classification and six stage wins at the 1975 Tour de Suisse, six consecutive overall General Classification victories at Tirreno-Adriatico between 1972 and 1977 and 22 stage wins (including seven in 1975 alone) plus overall Points competition triumphs at the Giro d'Italia between 1972 and 1979.

De Vlaeminck's pavé on the Chemin des Géants leading
to Roubaix velodrome
However, impressive though his achievements in all of those races are, de Vlaeminck will not be remembered for them. His place in history, as befits his Flandrien status, was earned at the hardest race of them all - Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North. Some of the hardest men in cycling - Merckx, Hinault - found Paris-Roubaix and its cobbles that shatter bikes, bones and careers with ease simply too much and, after proving that they could win, preferred to stay away from what has been variously described as "a circus," bullshit," "bollocks," "the true definition of hell... I don't know if it's really necessary to impose it on us" and "the most beautiful race in the world." It could have been made for a rider like de Vlaeminck. Before him, only four men had won three editions since it was first held in 1896 - he won four, in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1977. Only Tom Boonen has equaled that record, but there are many (including de Vlaeminck) who will say that Boonen had no real competitors in 2012.

De Vlaeminck is estimated to have won some 257 races during his career, though the figure may be higher as he continued to race small criterium events the results of which sometimes go unrecorded. He is still involved in cycling today, coaching the cyclo cross stars of the future at his farm near Kaprijke, and he is regularly approached for comments by journalists who know that his passionate and sometimes controversial opinions on modern cycling are always good value.

Cuban Women's Team, Pan-Am Championships 2005.
Second from the right: Yuliet Rodríguez Jiménez
Cuban Yuliet Rodríguez Jiménez, who was born on this day in 1977, became National Time Trial Champion in 1995 then  in 1996 defended the title and added the National Road Race title - she would keep the former until 2001, then win it back from 2003-2006 and the latter until 1999 before winning it back in 2001 and 2004-2006. She also won overall at the Tour of Guadeloupe in 1996 and 1997,  the road race at the 1997 Pan-American Championships and the Points and Scratch races at the National Track Championships in 2004.

José Antonio Hermida, born in Puigcerdà, Spain on this day in 1978, was European Mountain Bike Champion in 2002, 2004 and 2007, National Cyclo Cross Champion in 2007 and 2008 and World Cross Country MTB Champion in 2010.

Romain Hardy, born in Flers, France on this day in 1988, has been riding for the pro continental Bretagne-Schuller team since 2010 - the year that he won Stage 4 at the Tour de l'Avenir.  In 2013, he will be moving up a step to Cofidis and may make his first appearance at the Grand Tours.

Other cyclists born on this day: Matthew Glaetzer (Australia, 1992); Cyrille Monnerais (France, 1983); Mohamed Mir (Algeria, 1963); Wang Yan (China, 1974); Edward Salas (Australia, 1965); Aurélie Halbwachs (Mauritius, 1986); Nguyễn Văn Châu (South Vietnam, 1940); Fredy Arber (Switzerland, 1928).

Saturday 23 August 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 23.08.2014

Johan Bruyneel
Bruyneel in 2007
Born in Izegem, Belgium on this day in 1964, Johan Bruyneel has been one of the highest-profile figures in professional cycling for almost a quarter of a century - as a rider and as a manager, and for good reasons and bad.

Bruyneel got his first taste of racing glory when he took third place at the Juniors' Trofee van Vlaanderen Reningelst in 1983. Three years after that he won the Amateur Ronde van België, then turned professional with SEFB in 1987 and remained with them until 1989, the year that he won Stages 2 and 9 at the Tour de Suisse. In 1990, riding for Lotto Superclub, he won the Tour de l'Avenir and marked himself out as a man to watch in future Grand Tours; he also rode his first Tour de France that year and - remarkably, for a debutant, finished Stage 17 in second place and was 17th overall. He was not as fortunate at the Tour in 1991 with 35th overall, but he won Stage 12 at the Vuelta a Espana in 1992 and triumphed at the GP des Nations. 1993 was his real break-through year: he not only won Stage 6 at the Tour, but did it at an average speed of 49.417kph - then a record, and since bettered only twice - and was seventh overall. Two years later he won Stage 7, though he would later express disappointment at how he'd won: having launched an attack early on in the stage, he'd found himself desperately hanging to Miguel Indurain's back wheel for much of the parcours before getting the better of him in a sprint. Most riders and fans would claim that simply keeping up with Indurain - especially when the five-time Tour winner was going all-out to win time on his rivals - was sufficiently worthy to make the victory morally his, but Bruyneel apparently felt that since he'd been in Indurain's slipstream for so much of the day he had an unfair advantage in the final sprint to the finish line. At the following Tour he came within centimetres of a career-ending injury when he lost control during a descent on Stage 7, coming off the road and plunging into a ravine. As ever when such things happen, spectators fell silent and for a moment or two, then a few people peered over the edge - just as the rider clambered back up to the road and onto his bike to complete the stage (he abandoned a few days later). He stayed away from the Tour in 1997, then abandoned after Stage 9 in 1998, which would be his last year as a professional rider.

With UCI president Pat McQuaid
Whilst Bruyneel's riding career would be the envy of any cyclist, it was as a manager that he found his greatest success. Immediately after retiring, he was invited to manage US Postal - the team that counted among its number a young American rider who, after showing promise for some years, had finished that year's Vuelta a Espana in fourth place. His name was Lance Armstrong, and he welcomed the new manager's plans to knock the team into shape: US Postal was, according to Armstrong, "the Bad News Bears, a mismatch of bikes, cars, clothing, equipment" and the team was run on an annual budget of "only" $3 million (directeurs sportif and managers of women's professional teams will doubtless be wondering how the team ever made ends meet). At the time of writing, we have reason to doubt the methods Bruyneel used to get his riders race-ready - he is at the centre of a doping investigation that, if he and others are found guilty, could prove to be a greater scandal than the Festina Affair or Operacion Puerto - but there is no doubt at all that when it comes to the logistics and practicalities of running a professional cycling team, he is extraordinarily talented: within a year, US Postal had been transformed from a rag-tag bunch of gifted mavericks into one of the most polished, well-drilled teams ever seen in cycling. Armstrong, of course, went on to win an unprecedented seven consecutive Tours; Alberto Contador won another - his first - in 2007 and the other riders on the team were victorious at a huge number of races during the decade that Bruyneel controlled the outfit.

In 2007, Bruyneel announced that he was going to leave cycling. However, he was then approached by representatives of the Kazakhstan government and offered a position managing the Astana team which, earlier that year, had been accused of running a doping ring and was thrown out of the Tour. Apparently not a man to back down from a challenge (nor, one assumes, a fat cheque), he accepted. Levi Leipheimer and Contador went with him; the team was again blocked from the Tour in 2008, but Contador won the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana while Leipheimer was second at the Vuelta and won the Tour of California. Astana was allowed back into the Tour in 2009 and Contador won in superb style with Armstrong, who had decided to return from retirement, taking third; they also won the team classifications at the Tour and the Giro, another Tour of California (Leipheimer), Paris-Nice (Contador) and numerous other races.

With the ONCE team
Bruyneel left Astana at the end of 2009, but he still wasn't ready to retire and became manager of RadioShack, a team part-owned by Armstrong. With eight members of the 2008 Tour-winning Astana squad also making the move (Contador, who had gone to SaxoBank, was the only one that did not) and several very talented riders from elsewhere signed up to the team, RadioShack looked a force to be reckoned with in 2010 and did indeed win an impressive 23 times, but the season was not without setbacks - in May, it was revealed that Bruyneel was being investigated by the Belgian Federation due to an accusation made by Floyd Landis that he ran a doping ring whilst manager of US Postal and, though RadioShack won the teams classification at the Tour (the second time an American team did so; the other being, of course, US Postal in 2009). At the end of the year rumours that RadioShack and LeopardTrek would merge for 2012 were confirmed, though Leopard owner Flavio Becca claimed that his team was taking over RadioShack's sponsors and some of its riders, thus making it sound more like a corporate take-over than a merger. The resulting team was to be called RadioShack-Nissan, its aim was to propel Andy Schleck to a Tour win - and the differences in how Bruyneel and Becca described its birth were the first indication of friction.

Andy Schleck, along with older brother Frank and several other members of the team, performed considerably less well than expected in the first few months of 2012 - only Fabian Cancellara seemed to have good form, but he ended up out of action after suffering a quadruple collarbone fracture at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Hints began to emerge that the riders were not happy: Andy dropped heavy hints he wasn't happy about Bruyneel's decision to keep the Schleck's preferred directeur sportif Kim Andersen away from the Tour (and even indicated that he would remain in touch within him during the race), while Frank was understandably not impressed to be accused of "letting the team down" when he abandoned the Giro with an injured shoulder. Jakob Fuglsang openly criticised team management and was not selected for the Tour squad as a result; it was later reported that his salary had been with-held as a punishment, and few fans will have been surprised when he announced that he would be leaving for Astana at the end of the year. Before long, there were rumours that the Schlecks would be going too, either to an existing team or to a newly-formed one: a dangerous situation for Bruyneel, because the brothers had done the same before when they left SaxoBank - and had asset-stripped it of good riders in doing so.

The biggest controversy of the year came in May at the Tour of California - as Bruyneel stepped off the plane onto US soil, he was met by USADA officials who served him with a subpoena as part of their own investigation into doping at US Postal. Further details soon became public, revealing that the scale and scope of the investigation was enormous: in addition to Bruyneel, US Postal's official doctor Pedro Celaya, the notorious Dr. Michele Ferrari and a number of other figures were being investigated, including Lance Armstrong. The case has not yet reached its conclusion as important questions, such as how did Armstrong - who was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories, did not bother contesting the decision to do so and eventually confessed to using EPO - manage to avoid being caught out when he had been submitted to so many anti-doping tests still need to be answered.

For the time being at least, though, Bruyneel's career in professional cycling is over: in April 2014, he was banned from having any involvement whatsoever in professional cycling for ten years, and extraordinarily long sanction that reflects the serious nature of the fraud.

Manfred Donike
Born in Köttingen, Germany on this day in 1933, Manfred Donike was a highly successful cyclist during the 1950s and 1960s when he rode for a number of professional teams including Bismarck, Express, Altenburger, Feru-Underberg and Torpedo; with the exception of Feru, which was based in Switzerland, he spent his career with German teams. In 1954 he won the National Amateur Madison Championship with Paul Vadder, he would also win the Elite Professional madison at the Nationals three years later with Edi Gieseler and reached the podium in numerous other races, though not at the Tours de France he rode in 1960 and 1961.

Donike's influence on professional cycling has been far greater than his race results suggest, however: after retiring from competition at the end of 1962, he was offered a place at the University of Cologne where he studied chemistry and graduated in 1965 - and then dedicated his life to the fight against doping. In 1972, he perfected the gas chromatography and mass spectrometry method of detecting traces of performance-enhancing drugs and masking agents in samples of riders' urine; it remains the most accurate method available today. Five years later, he became the director of the German Sports University's Institute of Biochemistry.

Donike died of a heart attack aboard an aeroplane traveling between Frankfurt and Johannesburg in 1995, whilst on his way to act as chief of the anti-doping program at a race in Zimbabwe, and the Manfred Donike Institute of Doping Analysis at the German Sports University was named in his honour a short while later. His oldest son, also named Manfred and a successful cyclist in his own right had died of a heart attack two years earlier; his younger son Alexander also enjoyed race success and subsequently worked for the UCI.

Eddie Smart, born in Cardiff on this day in 1946, rode for Wales at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in the kilo, pursuit, scratch, sprint and road races - his best result was 15th, in the kilo. Later, he became co-ordinator for the Welsh federation's track team and assisted annually in the organisation of the Junior Tour of Wales. Smart was killed on the 6th of February in an accident on the M4 motorway; a memorial fund was set up to raise money for the restoration of the Maindy track in Cardiff and a shield commissioned in his honour and named after him is awarded to the most successful Welsh rider each year.

Hennie Top, born in Wekerom on this day in 1956, was Dutch Road Race Champion in 1980, 1981 and 1982 and, in 1985, won Stages 1 and 16 at the Tour de France Féminin. She later became coach to the US National Women's team.

Russell Downing
Russell Downing, born in Rotherham, Great Britain on this day in 1978, won numerous races between 2002 and 2009, then found fame by winning the Tour of Ireland. In 2010, he joined the new Team Sky and became their first victorious British rider when he won Stage 2 at the Critérium International that same year. He went on to win the General Classification at the Tour de la Région Wallonne later that summer and had his contract extended to cover 2011, when he rode his only Grand Tour - the Giro d'Italia, where he finished Stage 18 in eighth place before coming 140th overall. In 2012 he joined Continental team Endura Racing and, so far, has achieved six victories over the season including the prestigious Lincoln International. He also won a silver medal at the National Criterium Championships. Downing is the younger brother of Dean, who is also a successful cyclist; the both rode for NFTO in 2014 - the year that Russell came fourth in the road race at the Commonwealth Games.

Other cyclists born on this day: Kemal Küçükbay (Turkey, 1982); Enrico Poitschke (Germany, 1969); Mike Gambrill (GB, 1935); Janildes Fernandes (Brazil, 1980); Hubert Seiz (Switzerland, 1960); Tulus Widodo Kalimanto (Indonesia, 1965); George Van Meter (USA, 1932, died 2007); Majid Naseri (Iran, 1968); Anatoly Stepanenko (USSR, 1949); Edwin Mena (Ecuador, 1958); Andrea Faccini (Italy, 1966); Cristóbal Pérez (Colombia, 1952); Manu Snellinx (Belgium, 1948); Werner Weckert (Switzerland, 1938); Mouhcine Lahsaini (Morocco, 1985).

Friday 22 August 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 22.08.2014

Tatiana Guderzo
Guderzo at the 2012 Olympics
Born in Marostica, Italy on this day in 1984, Tatiana Guderzo came second at the World Junior Independent Time Trial Championhips in 2002, then became famous in the cycling world with overall General Classification victory at the Eko Tour Dookola Polski, a gold medal at the European Under-23 Independent Time Trial Championship and a silver in the World Elite Road Race Championship in 2004. She turned professional with Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Hausbrandt Caffé for the 2005 season, and her name has been a regular inclusion among the top results of many of the most prestigious women's races in the world ever since.

In 2005, Guderzo became Elite National ITT Champion but missed out on another gold at the European U-23 ITT Championships, taking the silver instead; in 2006 she won Stage 2 at the Emakumeen Bira - one of the most important races on the women's calendar, was third in the National ITT Championship and the European U-23 Pursuit Championship and second at the European U-23 Road Race and ITT Championships, then in 2007 she won the Elite National Pursuit Championship. In 2008, she won a bronze medal at the Olympics when she came third in the road race, and one year later she became World Road Race Champion when she beat three of the most legendary riders in the history of the sport - Marianne Vos, Noemi Cantele and Kristin Armstrong - by 19 seconds at Mendrisio, Switzerland. She won the National ITT Championship again and was third in the Giro Donne (the last women's Grand Tour, equal in importance to the Tour de France) in 2010; then in 2011 she was fourth at the Giro Donne and won the pursuit race at the National Track Championships. She won the National ITT Championship again in 2012, then returned to the Giro with her MCipollini-Giordana team in 2012 and came seventh overall.

Guderzo remained with MCipollini for 2013 and got her season off to a good start with another National Time Trial Championship victory and second place overall at the Giro del Trentino Alto Adige-Südtirol, then took four top ten stage finishes and second place overall at the Giro Rosa (the new name for the Giro Donne), a stage win (7) at the Thuringen Rundfahrt and fourth overall at the Route de France. She is with the same team, now called Ale-Cipollini, in 2014.

Theo Bos
Bos takes on Chris Hoy, World
Track Championships 2008
Born in Hierden, Netherlands on this day in 1983, Theo Bos is one of the few sprinters active today able to take on - and beat - Mark Cavendish. He has become, therefore, one of the most popular riders in the modern professional peloton. His older brother Jan has also had some success in cycling, but is better known as a speed skater.

Bos was enormously successful as an amateur, winning the Junior World Track Championship 1km in 2002, then the 1km and Sprint at the European Under-23 Track Championships and at the National Championships, where he competed at Elite level, in 2003; a year after that he became World Elite Sprint Champion, then successfully defended his Sprint title and added the National Keirin title at the Nationals. In 2005 he won the 1km at the World Championships, in 2006 the Sprint and Keirin events at both the Worlds and the Nationals; at the Moscow round of the World Cup that year he also broke the 200m world record, which had stood for eleven years (a faulty computer originally gave him a time of 9.086", which would have been superhuman, his actual time of 9.772" was still enough). He would keep the World Sprint Champion and both National titles in 2007 and won the European Omnium Championship in 2008.

Bos at the 2008 Olympics
In February 2009, having joined the Rabobank ProContinental team, Bos won the 160km Prémio de Abertura road race - his first major success away from the track. He followed it with victory at the Ronde van Noord-Holland and the Omloop van Kempen, then won Stages 1, 2 and 4 at the Olympia's Tour (now very much a sprint specialist, his results on the other stages were far lower and as a result he didn't place in the overall top ten, despite the team also winning the Prologue) - the year brought controversy as well as glory, however: at the Tour of Turkey, he was involved in a crash during the final sprint of the last stage. The UCI subsequently decided that Bos had caused the accident by grabbing hold of Daryl Impy, then levied a fine and banned him for one month; Bos admits that he did come into contact with Impy, but says that he did so not to try to slow him down but to push him away as the South African was forcing him into the crowd barrier alongside the road.

The following year he moved to the Cervélo Test Team and rode his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, where he twice broke into the top ten with ninth place on Stages 5 and 13. These results earned him a contract with Rabobank's top World Tour team for 2011 and, ten years after his first victory, Bos moved to the top level of road cycling. He won two stages at the Tour of Oman (beating Cavendish into second place on Stage 1) that year and took third place stage finishes at the Tours of Britain and Beijing, and to date in 2012 he has won the Dwars door Drenthe, two stages at the Tour of Turkey, one stage at the Benelux Tour and the 197km Veenendal-Veenendal road race. In 2013, Bos won Stage 2 at the Volta ao Algarve, Stages 1 and 2 at the Tour de Langkawi, Stage 1 at the Criterium International, Stage 3 at the Tour of Norway and Stage 2 at the Ster Elektrotoer; in 2014 he won the General and Points Classifications at the World Ports Classic, four stages at the Tour de Langkawi and one stage at the Tour of Poland.

Omer Huyse
Omer Huyse, born in Kortrijk, Belgium on this day in 1898, won Stage 5 at the eventful 1924 Tour de France, when he raced as a second class rider (sponsored, but deemed unlikely to win stages or overall) for the O. Lapize team. He was ninth overall that year, then returned in 1925 to come seventh and again in 1926 when he was thirteenth.

Jokin Mújika, born in Itsasondo, Euskadi on this day in 1962, won Stage 7 at the Tour de l'Avenir in 1986 and was Spanish Cyclo Cross Champion in 1994 and 1996

New Zealander Des Thomson, who was born on this day in 1942, represented his nation in the road race and the independent time trial at the Olympics in 1964, then the road race and 100km team time trial in 1968, but was unable to take home medals in either instance. He was far more successful at the Commonwealth Games of 1966, where he won the silver medal in the road race.

Erik Hoffman, born in Windhoek, Namibia on this day in 1981, won the National Road Race Championship in 2007.

Other cyclists born on this day: Marcelo Arriagada (Chile, 1973); Richard Trinkler (Switzerland, 1950); Gianluca Brambilla (Italy, 1987); Endrio Leoni (Italy, 1968); Haakon Sandtorp (Norway, 1911, died 1974); Oleg Bondarik (Belarus, 1976).

Thursday 21 August 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 21.08.2014

Keetie van Oosten-Hage
Keetie van Oosten-Hage
Keetie van Oosten-Hage
Born in Sint-Maartensdijk, Netherlands, on this day in 1949, is one of four cycling siblings: her sisters Ciska van Velzen-Hage, Heleen Hage and Bella van de Spiegel-Hage were also successful riders (as, for that matter, is nephew Jan van Helzen) - Keetie, Heleen and Bella all rode for the Beck's Bier team in 1977.

1966 was her first really good year with nine criterium wins and her first National Championship title, in Individual Pursuit, plus a silver medal at the National Road Race Championship; and the year after that she won fourteen crits and successfully defended her title. Then in 1968 she won ten crits, defended the Pursuit again - and won the World Road Race Championships. She kept the Pursuit title until 1978, when she took the silver, and was World Pursuit Champion in 1975, 1976, 1978 and 1979; she also won the National Road Race Championship form 1969 to 1976 and the National Omnium Championship in 1979.

Van Oosten-Hage retired in 1979, not because she was tired but because of the lack of races available to her - women's cycling didn't feature in the Olympics at that time and women's Grand Tours the Giro Donne, Tour de l'Aude and Tour de France Féminine did not yet exist (she said later that she'd have loved to have ridden the latter event). "I had won all the races there were," she explained.  "They included six world championships and several Dutch championships and a big race in America. There comes a point when it makes your ambitions less. I was still winning, but I had done it all." It is very easy to make a comparison here with that other Dutch superstar Marianne Vos, who has won so many races that her Rabobank team reportedly considered entering her into men's races simply to prevent her becoming bored.

Also like Vos, van Oosten-Hage faced accusations that she was too good, that her vast number of races wins left other riders feeling they could never beat her; fortunately most people are now agreed that a rider of such calibre is good for cycling because her success encourages other riders to strive harder, but in time van Oosten-Hage came to agree with her detractors: "Usually I won. A lot of people said at least now you have gone it will give other people a chance and we can use different tactics and so on. I can understand the other girls getting disillusioned because I usually won, and I suppose in retrospect that is not necessarily so good for the sport." It is a very great shame that she has been made to feel regretful about a great career during which she must have inspired many other women to start cycling.

The world was beginning to wake up to the existence of women's cycling by the early 1980s and, as they so often are, the Dutch KNWU national federation was at the vanguard; they gave her a job  running a program designed to ensure younger women would take her place and continue bringing trophies back to the Netherlands. However, the national team coaches - in some cases with good intentions and in others, no doubt, out of resentment that a woman had been given a responsible position in "their" sport - would frequently undo her hard work. She found this frustrating and, by 1985 considered becoming a coach herself but ultimately decided that at the age of 36 the training and examinations were more than she was willing to take on (some contemporary reports also claimed that the KNWU took steps to block her - they hadn't progressed quite that far, it seems).

In the years after her professional career, van Oosten-Hage gave away all her National and Worlds jerseys. "At the time they are nice to have, but then they are not so important and they mean more to other people," she says. "Now, of course, I regret it, but it is too late."

Erik Dekker
Erik Dekker at the Tour, 2005
Born in Hoogeveen, Netherkands in this day in 1970, Hendrik "Erik" Dekker entered his first race when he was eight. He didn't win that one, but it wasn't long before he started winning others; when he turned 15 he was selected for the National Juniors Track Team, and two years later he won a silver medal at the World Juniors Championships.

By the time he won a silver at the National Amateur Championships in 1992, Dekker had already won stages at the important Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda and Olympia's Tour races - this promising track record, combined with two stage wins at the Österreich-Rundfahrt, a prologue victory at the GP William Tell, Stage 10 at the Tour de l'Avenir and first place at the Rund um Köln in the wake of his Nationals medal made him an obvious choice for the Olympic team and entered for the road race. He, together with Fabio Casartelli and a third rider managed to break away from the peloton during the event and could not be caught - Casartelli won, but Dekker's exuberance as he crossed the line earned him many new fans. He had begun riding for the Buckler team at the start of the year (managed by Joop Zoetemelk and Jan Raas, no less) and at the end he was given a full professional contract.

Dekker in 2011
1993 passed quietly, as tends to be the case when a rider first begins to compete at the top level, then in 1994 he won the Postgirot Open and a stage at the Tour of the Basque Country. He was also picked for the team's Tour de France squad and survived the race; he was 101st overall, but two 20th place stage finishes and one in 15th are respectable for a debutant. He won the Postgirot again the following year and managed to improve his Tour finish to 70th place, then slipped a few places in 1996 with 74th, racing that year in red, white and blue as National Independent Time Trial Champion. He performed less well again in 1997 with 81st, but got into the top ten on three stages, including coming near to the podium with fifth place for Stages 17 and 20. 1998 had to be written off due to injuries suffered in a crash, which may also account for 107th place in the 1999 Tour (it might have inspired him to seek a little chemical assistance towards proving he still had the ability to win too, because he got into a spot of bother with a suspiciously high haematocrit reading - indicating possible EPO use and/or a blood transfusion - and as barred from competition until his red blood cells had returned to an acceptable level); but he found better form than ever before in 2000 - after riding his first Giro d'Italia (and coming 121st), he went back to the Tour, won Stages 8 and 17, came 51st in the General Classification and fifth overall in the Points competition.

2001 was, overall, every bit as good: his Tour result slipped to 91st with victory in Stage 8, but he won the Road World Cup, the Vuelta a Andalucia, the Amstel Gold Race, the Profronde van Surhuisterveen and the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt. In 2002 he won Tirreno-Adriatico and another National Time Trial Championship, but 136th at the Tour seemed to be show that any chance he might once have had of breaking into the top ten overall or even winning the Points competition were now gone; also, new injuries badly affected his performance towards the end of the year and throughout the next. Nevertheless, after winning the National Road Race title in 2004 he was back in France and riding faithfully for the team, settling for 133rd place for himself and then cheering himself up with overall victory at the Ronde van Nederland; then he rode the Tour again in 2005 and for a final time in 2006.

Faithfulness to the team is very much the keyword when describing Dekker's career. Buckler picked up a new sponsor in Dekker's second year, becoming WordPerfect for two seasons; then became Novell for 1995. In 1996, it changed to Rabobank and is still known as such, the Dutch bank being one of the few sponsors who got involved in cycling and stuck with it (they also back women's cycling and other sports, being that very rare thing - a company that sponsors sports not only for advertising, but because it actually cares). Dekker stayed with them throughout, for his entire career, and since retiring from competition he has continued to serve them as a team manager.

Jessica Allen, born in Brecon, Wales on this day in 1989, earned a place on British Cycling's Olympic Development Programme in 2006 after being discovered by the Welsh Talent Team; that year she also won the Junior National Time Trial Championships for the first of two  consecutive years and came second at the Welsh National Road Race Championships, then in 2007 she won the Points race at the National Track Championships. In 2008 Allen competed in both the Under-23 and Elite National Road Race Championships, taking second place in the former and fourth in the latter as well as coming third in the National Individual Time Trial Championship.

Maria Blower, born in Leicester, Great Britain on this day in 1964, was third in the National Road Race Championship of 1982; second at the Nationals, third at the Tour of Norway and 29th at the Olympics of 1984; third at the Nationals and eighth at the Olympics of 1988 and third at the Nationals in 1989.

Settino "Timo" Sabbadini, born in Monsempron-Limos, France on this day in 1928, turned professional with Terrot-Wolber in 1950 and retired in 1964 after nine years with Mercier. He won numerous criterium races, but occasionally showed up on the podium in stage races too, sometimes in the most prestigious ones: in 1956 he won Stage 4 at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and in 1958 Stage 5 at the Tour de France.

Businessman Manfred Neun,who was born Heidenheim, West Germany on this day in 1950, and began his career  working in a bank and managing two businesses, one of them a horticultural firm and the other a bike manufacturer. A keen cyclist himself, he currently serves as President of the European Cycling Federation, where his knowledge of cycling and politics has allowed him to act as an effective bridge between cyclists and government. Under his leadership, the ECF has taken an increasingly scientific approach in its mission to promote cycling as sport and as a method of transport, allowing it to back up programs designed to improve cycling infrastructure with accurate studies and facts.
"Cycling means happiness, cycling is community building and as everyone can have a bicycle, cycling is democracy. We can be an example for the whole world. So let us all live like examples." - Manfred Neun
Other cyclists born on this day: Ross Reid (Great Britain, 1987); Preeda Chullamondhol (Thailand, 1945); Koji Fukushima (Japan, 1973); Rodolfo Guaves (Philippines, 1953); Ferenc Stámusz (Hungary, 1934); Carlos Mesa (Colombia, 1955); Samuel Hunter (Great Britain, 1894); Bernhard Eckstein (Germany, 1935); Carlos Alcantara (Uruguay, 1948); Daniel Steiger (Switzerland, 1966).