Monday 12 December 2011

Daily Cycling Facts 12.12.11

Happy 56th birthday to Eddy Schepers, the Dutch ex-professional cyclist who won the 1977 Tour de l'Avenir and provided back-up in Stephen Roche's 1987 Tour de France victory.

Johan van der Velde
Schepers' countryman Johan van der Velde was born one year later. Johan was twice National Road Race Champion, three times winner of the Points classification at the Giro d'Italia and won a Youth Classification and three stages in the Tour de France - results that suggest he may have had the potential to be one of the all-time greats had be not succumbed to addicitions for amphetamines, gambling and petty theft, his lowest moment coming when he was found guilty of breaking into post office vending machines to steal the stamps in order to raise the funds he needed to feed his addiction.

Van de Velde
(image from: Cycling Art Blog)
Unfortunately for van der Velde, judges at the time failed to understand that drug addicts need help to kick their habit rather than a spell of incarceration (many still fail to understand this) and he received a prison sentence. Having lost their income, his wife was forced to sell their home while he was locked up and, by the time he was released, they had nothing. This is the point at which many newly-freed addicts give up, commit a crime and buy their next fix, but van der Velde realised he needed to break the cycle. He signed himself up to a hospital programme designed to help addicts give up drugs and stuck with it, despite the despair of living in low-cost flats and tiny houses after having tasted the high life. He worked as a labourer on building sites to make ends meet, keeping his identity and past life as secret as possible and, in time, regained his life.

Van der Velde's most famous cycling moment came in 1983 when he misjudged a bend on the way down from the Col de le Madeleine and plunged over the edge. Spectators and Tour officials tentatively looked down, expecting to see a mangled corpse if anything at all - but for once in his life, fortune had been on his side. He'd landed on a ledge just a few metres down and escaped with just minor cuts and bruises. Nowadays, van der Velde has becomea common sight at junior races, in which his son competes.

Happy birthday to Mathieu Ladagnous who was born in 1984 in Melbourne. The FDJ rider, who also rides in track events, won Stage 1 at the Tour de Wallonie in 2011.

Today would have been the birthday of British-born Paul Medhurst, co-winner of a bronze medal for New Zealand in the tandem sprint event at the 1974 Commonwealth Games. He died in Belgium on the 26th of September, 2009.

Other births: Ferenc Keserű (Hungary, 1946); José Errandonea (Spain, 1940); Greg Randolph (USA, 1972); Grete Treier (Estonia, 1977); Frank Williams (Sierra Leone, 1964); Pasi Mbenza (Congo, 1966); Peter Glemser (Germany, 1940); Toshimitsu Teshima (Japan, 1942); Christian Meyer (Germany, 1969); Anita Valen (Norway, 1968); Bengt Fröbom (Sweden, 1926); Ayele Mekonnen (Ethiopia, 1957); Ingus Veips(Latvia, 1969); Kurt Schein (Austria, 1930).

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