Sunday 18 December 2011

Daily Cycling Facts 18.12.11

Lizzie Armitstead (image credit: johnthescone CC BY 2.0)
Lizzie Armitstead
Happy birthday to Lizzie Armitstead, the British track and road cyclist who in her three years as a professional had built up a stunning palmares and become one of the most respected female cyclists in the sport's history. Among Lizzie's many successes are the National Road Under-23 Champion title in 2010 - the year she also came second in the UCI Track World Omnium and Team Pursuit events and Commonwealth Games Road Race, won three stages at the Tour de l'Ardèche and one at the La Route de France.

In 2011 she won one stage and came second overall in the Tour of Chongming Island, won two events at the British Track Championship, one stage and the overall Points classification at the Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen and became British Road Race Champion. She was born in 1988 in Otley, Great Britain and will doubtless add many more trophies to her collection.

Janez Brajkovič
Janez Brajkovič, born in the Slovenian town Metlika on this day in 1983, became World Junior Time Trial Champion in 2004 which earned him a neo-pro contract with the Discovery Channel team despite the fact that, due to obligations to his previous team, he couldn't ride for them for the first half of his first professional year. In 2005, he won the World Time Trial Championship.

In 2007, he won both the General Classification and the Youth Category at the Tour de Georgia and one year later the World Time Trial Championship, then the National Time Trial Championship in 2009. The next year, he won the Critérium du Dauphiné and entered the Tour de France for the first time, finishing in 43rd place. He was expected to do better at the Tour in 2011 but was forced to abandon following a crash in Stage 5.

Choppy Warburton
Choppy with some of his cyclists. The very short one in
the middle is Jimmy Michael, the others appear to be the
Linton brothers (Arthur in the fleur-de-lys jersey?)
James Edward "Choppy" Warburton, who died on this day in 1897, was perhaps the first soigneur in cycling - and also the first to introduce the sort of nefarious activities that would culminate in the arrest of his spiritual descendant Willy Voet, born one century later.

Choppy was born on the 13th of November 1845 in Coal Hey, Lancashire and inherited his nickname from his father, a sailor who when asked how the conditions on his latest voyage had been would always reply "choppy." He came to note as a runner, turning professional at the late age of 34 (sports at that time being the pursuit of wealthy gentlemen, which Choppy - raised single-handed by his mother after his father died - was not) and went to the USA in 1880 where he won 80 races.

Anti-doping tests of those times were non-existent, so the sport relied on athletes and trainers being caught red-handed. Choppy never was and neither were any of the cyclists he trained, but there is some apparent evidence against him. A writer named Rudiger Rabenstein stated that Choppy's star rider Arthur Linton was "massively doped" during the 1896 Bordeaux-Paris race, and biography of the cyclist written after his death by an anonymous author who claimed to have known him well agreed. Also, Choppy's cyclists seem to have had a tendency to die young - very young, in some cases. Linton was only 24, his death being recorded variously as typhoid or strychnine poisoning (strychnine in small doses acts as a stimulant) and, eventually, considered the first doping-related death in any sport. Arthur's younger brother, also a cyclist, was 39 when he died, the cause once again being recorded as typhoid. Jimmy Michael, the Welsh-born 1895 World Champion, was also in Choppy's care, was 28 when he died in mysterious circumstances. No link to any form of doping, administered by the soigneur or otherwise, was ever proved (nor has been since) and at least one modern researcher has concluded that the deaths were in fact down to typhoid; but suspicions were sufficiently high for him to be banned from working in any capacity within professional cycling.

Vélodrome Buffalo by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
On the bike - Jimmy Michael; with hat and greatcoat - sports
journalist Frantz Reichel; bending over to look in bag: the
notorious Choppy Warburton.
He died in Wood Green, Haringey, North London. Choppy appears in a sketch made by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in preparation for an advertising poster commissioned by Jimmy Michael's sponsor Simpson Chains and which also features the rider. The sketch, of which Toulouse-Lautrec made and sold many lithograph copies, is still popular and frequently reproduced to this day.

Canadian Michael Barry, born in Toronto on this day in 1975, won the 1997 National Under-23 Road Race Championship. He has also won stages at the Volta a Catalunya, Vuelta a Espana, Österreich-Rundfahrt (where he also won the Points classification), Tour de Romandie and Tour of Missouri.

Other births: Guglielmo Pesenti (Italy, 1933, died 2002); Brian Walton (Canada, 1965); Agustín Alcántara (Mexico, 1946, died 1979); Ruslan Ivanov (Moldova, 1973); Bechir Mardassi (Tunisia, 1929); Henri Duez (France, 1937); Benny Schnoor (Denmark, 1922); Algot Lönn (Sweden, 1887, died 1953); Narihiro Inamura (Japan, 1971); Claus Martínez (Bolivia, 1975); José Andrés Brenes (Costa Rica, 1964); Nelson Mario Pons (Ecuador, 1967); Raymond Reaux (France, 1940); Jiří Háva (Czechoslovakia, 1944); Mitsugi Sarudate (Japan, 1962); Hong Seok-Han (South Korea, 1975); Adan Juárez (Mexico, 1969); Takafumi Matsuda (Japan, 1951); Iván Álvarez (Spain, 1981).

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