Thursday 26 January 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 26.01.12

François Faber
Though François Faber was born in France (Aulnay-sur-Iton, 26th January 1887), his father was from Luxembourg and as a result François had Luxembourgian nationality. However, he insisted throughout his life that he was French, despite his Luxembourg passport and as such would not have been at all pleased had he have known he would find his place in history as the first foreigner to win the Tour de France.

When he began cycling, he rapidly gained the nickname The Giant of Colombes because, at 1.88m tall and weighing 88kg, he was considerably larger than the average man of his day and enormous in comparison to most cyclists. Photographs show a man who looks phenomenally strong - as indeed he was, his natural physique honed by hard labour as a removal man and docker. He began his professional cycling career with Labor in 1906 and entered his first Tour with them, but did not finish. Two years later, he moved on to Peugeot and entered again, this time winning four stages and achieving 2nd overall, then won the Giro di Lombardia. He departed for the mightly Alcyon in 1909, the most successful team in Tour history and it was with them that he not only won the race but, battling through some of the worst weather ever recorded during the event before or since, also won five consecutive stages (six in total) - a record that has not yet been broken after more than a century. He remained with them through 1910 and won three stages that year, coming 2nd overall behind team mate Octave Lapize, also winning Paris-Tours. Now one of the most respected and sought-after riders in the world, he was tempted away to Automoto and spent a quiet two years with them and Saphir Cycles before returning to Peugeot for the next two years, winning Paris-Roubaix, one stage at the Tour of Belgium and a total of four at the Tour de France during the period.

The First World War put paid to European racing until conflict came to an end, and Faber signed up with the Foreign Legion almost as soon as hostilities were declared. He was attached to the 2nd Régiment de Marche of the 1st Regiment, FFL, promoted to the rank of corporal. On the 9th of May 1915, the first day of the Battle of Artois near Arras, his regiment came under attack and lost 1,950 men from a total of 2,900. Faber survived the first waves of the attack unharmed, but then saw that one of his comrades was lying injured in no-man's land. He climbed out of the trench, went to him and had carried him part of the way to safety when he wa fatally shot in the back, later being posthumously awarded the Médaille militaire for his bravery.

François Faber was 28 years old when he died. Earlier that same day, he had received a telegram informing him that his wife had just given birth to their first child, a daughter.

Kirkpatrick Macmillan, who was born on the 2nd of September 1812 in Keir, Scotland, died on this day in 1878. While not the inventor of the bicycle - the most deserved claimant of that title will probably never be known - he is often credited as the first to come up with the idea of providing some means of driving the rear wheel, bikes until then being powered by scooting the feet along the ground. He achieved this by means of treadles mounted to a central axle, connected to the rear wheel by con-rods. The wooden frame and heavy iron wheels sound rudimentary today, but the machine was possibly the very first example of what we recognise as a bicycle.

Ercole Baldini, an Italian cyclist who set the Hour Record in 1954,  was born on this day 1933 in a village called Villanova di Forli; and he was so fast he became known as The Forli Train. In 1956, he set another Hour Record after his previous one had been beaten by none other than Jacques Anquetil. The following year he won the Trofeo Barrachi with Fausto Coppi and became National Champion. Then, for 1958, he won the overall General Classification at the Giro d'Italia, beating the legendary climber Charly Gaul in the mountains (though to be fair, Gaul wouldn't have been enjoying the hot Italian weather at all). But even that wasn't enough, so later in the same year he became the World Champion. In 1959, his success began to slacken off a bit, though he was still able to win a stage and come 6th at that year's Tour de France before winning the Grand Prix des Nations and Coppa Placci before requiring surgery on his leg that ended his seventeen year professional career in 1964.

Rigoberto Uran
(image credit: Laurent Brun CC BY-SA 2.0)
Rigoberto Urán was born on this day in Urrao, Columbia, in 1987. He began cycling at the age of 14, but almost had to give it up when he was forced to take up a job selling lottery tickets three months later when his father was accidentally killed in a gunfight involving drug dealers. Fortunately, it soon became evident that he had talent and by the age of 16 he'd turned professional with the Orgulla Paisa team and gained an impressive collection of Under-17 and, later, Under-19 National titles. Three years later, he'd made enough of a name for himself to go to Europe and sign a contract with Italy's Tenax, then a year later he joined Unibet, won Stage 8 and came 9th overall at the Tour de Suisse. In 2008, he left the world in no doubt that he had the potential to become a great, coming 3rd in the Giro di Lombardia and 2nd in the Volta a Catalunya. He was 5th in the Tour de Romandie in 2009and improved his Tour de Suisse finish to 7th overall in 2010. A rider who begins his palmares with results such as these is heading in the direction of the Grand Tours - and once he'd signed up with the British Team Sky, he was entered in the Tour de France. He won no stages (few do in their first Tour), but wore the white jersey for leading the Youth Classification in four stages and may have kept it longer - perhaps even winning the category overall - if he hadn't contracted an illness. Nevertheless, he finished 24th overall, a result with which any Tour debutante who had ridden the race in perfect health would be happy.

Juan José Haedo, the Argentinian cyclist currently with Saxobank-SunGard, was born on this day in 1981. Known as a lightning-fast sprinter who can battle his way through the peloton to the line, Haedo has achieved podium finishes in most of the races he has entered and has won many of the biggest events in one-day racing as well as stages at the Tour of California, the Vuelta a Murcia, the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Vuelta a Espana.

On this day in 2011, toy manufacturer Hornby announced a new product in its famous Scalextric range - a Chris Hoy-inspired velodrome racing set. Cyclists aged four to - well, every age really - got excited and rushed out with their Christmas money. Then the complaint started coming in. Apparently, quite a few sets either didn't work or broke within minutes.

Other births: Kim Gyong-Hui (North Korea, 1970); Klaas Buchly (Netherlands, 1910, died 1965); Ivan Cerioli (Italy, 1971); Rafaâ Chtioui (Tunisia, 1986); Nedyalko Stoyanov (Bulgaria, 1955); Jim Nevin (Australia, 1931); Mira Kasslin (Finland, 1978); Lionel Cox (Australia, 1930, died 2010);  Yury Trofimov (USSR, 1984); Jože Valenčič (Yugoslavia, 1948); Maarten den Bakker (Netherlands, 1969); Aleksandr Dokhlyakov (USSR, 1942); Gerrit van Wees (Netherlands, 1913, died 1995); Mieczysław Nowicki (Poland, 1951); Gao Min (China, 1982); Raphael Glorieux (Belgium, 1929, died 1986); Pak Chun-Hwa (North Korea, 1968); Roman Humenberger (Austria, 1945).

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