Wednesday 25 January 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 25.01.12

Denis Menchov
Denis Menchov
(image credit: Petit Brun CC BY-SA 2.0)
Born on this day 1978 in Oryol, USSR, Denis Menchov began his professional career with Banesto and, almost always a sign of a great-rider-to-be, won the Tour de l'Avenir in 2001. The following year he took the Mountains Classification at the Critérium du Dauphiné, thus revealing himself as having the potential to become a Tour de France contender. He moved on to Rabobank in 2004 and became the team's leader following the departure of American Levi Leipheimer, remaining with them for two seasons and serving as their main General Classification rider in the 2005 Tour; but finished in 85th place due to a chest infection contracted during the race. However, he had made a full recovery by the time of the Vuelta a Espana, repaying Rabobank's faith with his first Grand Tour win, the Combination classification and two stages.

He won one stage and finished in 6th position at both  the 2006 Tour and Critérium du Dauphiné, then concentrated on the Vuelta for 2007 where he won the Mountains and Combination classifications, a stage and the General Classification. He was back at the Tour in 2008 and managed 4th overall, having already finished 5th at the Giro d'Italia earlier in the year. He went back to the Giro the next year and won two stages, the Points classification and overall. In 2010, his last year with Rabobank, he came 2nd in the Vuelta a Murcia and Tour di Romandie, then moved his Tour record up another notch by coming 3rd overall. For 2011, he went to Geox-TMC but didn't have such a good year, his only podium finish being 3rd at the Vuelta a Murcia. He rode the Vuelta a Espana again but this time came 5th, his team mate Juan José Cobo winning overall after a fabulous ascent of Alto de l'Angliru in which he made the infamously hard climb - the steepest in any Grand Tour - look easy.

At the end of the 2011 season sponsor Geox suddenly announced that it would be withdrawing from cycling immediately, leaving the team unable to continue. Riders have since been trying to obtain new contracts elsewhere and Menchov has been fortunate enough to find a space with Katusha.

Rene Pottier, 1879-1907
René Pottier
By all accounts, René Pottier was the finest climber of his day and was the fastest man up the 1,171m Ballon d'Alsace when he entered the Tour in 1905, beating Hippolyte Aucouturier, Louis Trousellier and Henri Cornet to the summit - the first time that a mountain had featured in the race. Despite his climbing ability, he lost his lead to Hippolyte Aucouturier after a puncture in his only remaining spare tyre caused by fans who had spread 125kg nails on the road - but fortunately for him, Aucouturier was a gentleman and generously handed over one of his own even though the puncture would have put his closest rival out of the race and so he was able to finish. The next day, he abandoned after a crash.

Pottier entered for a second time in 1906 and won five stages  from the total thirteen. He led the race after Stage 1, having wrested it away from Emile Georget and was once again the first man up Ballon d'Alsace - but this year luck was on his side and he finished the stage a full 48 minutes ahead of the next rider. He remained race leader throughout the remainder of the event.

With the Tour won, he competed in the Bol d'Or 24 hour race at the famous Buffalo Stadium (so named because the first velodrome on the site had once hosted Buffalo Bill Cody's traveling Wild West Show) and completed 925.29km to win. However, life was to take an awful plunge for Pottier - some time early in the next year, he learned that while he'd been away winning the Tour his wife had been unfaithful to him. He entered a deep depression and, on this day in 1907, he hanged himself from the hook upon which he usually hung his bike at their home in Lavallois-Perret. He was 27.

There is a memorial to Pottier, erected by Henri Desgrange, at the top of the Ballon d'Alsace.

British mountain biker Dan Atherton was born today in 1982 near Salisbury. Originally interested in BMX, Atherton took up mountain biking when he was 16 and, by 2004, was National 4X Champion. He came 2nd in a round of the World Downhill Championship a year later before adding numerous good results over the next two seasons. In 2008, he became the World 4X Champion. Dan is the older brother of  World Downhill Champions Gee (2010) and Rachel (2008).

Other births: Brett Aitken (Australia, 1971); Luke Roberts (Australia, 1977); Elisabet "Elsbeth"van Rooy-Wink (Netherlands, 1973); Alan Danson (Great Britain, 1933); Sandra Temporelli (France, 1969); Alayna Burns (Australia , 1980); Harrie Jansen (Netherlands, 1947); Tomokazu Fujino (Japan, 1967).

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