Sunday 22 April 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 22.04.12

Davide Rebellin
(image credit: Diane Krauss CC BY-SA 3.0)
La Flèche Wallonne has fallen on this date twice - the 35th edition in 1971 and the 73rd in 2009. 1971 covered 225km and ran for a seventh consecutive year between Liège and Marcinelle. The winner was Roger De Vlaeminck, called the most talented Classics rider of his generation - yet this was his only victory in this race. The 2009 edition ran for a twelfth consecutive year between Charleroi and Huy, covering 195.5km - which makes it the second shortest edition ever after 1961 which was 193km. The winner was Davide Rebellin, his record-equalling third victory, after he out-sprinted Andy Schleck to the line. Seven days later, the International Olympic Committee announced that Rebellin was one of six athletes under investigation after failing anti-doping controls at the 2008 Games in Beijing and, in 2010, he received a backdated two-year suspension from competition: the first time an Italian Olympic medal winner had ever failed a drugs test. Fortunately, it was decided that his ban would begin as of late April 2009 - allowing to hold onto his Flèche Wallonne victory.

The twelfth edition of La Flèche Wallonne Féminine also took place on this day in 2009, covering a 109km loop that started and ended at Huy. The winner for a third consecutive year was Marianne Vos, who in doing so equalled the record set in the men's race by Marcel Kint in 1947. Since 1999, the race had formed a round of the UCI Women's World Cup; and in 2009 Vos became the second rider to win that as well as La Flèche - Nicole Cooke had managed it in 2003 and 2006.

The Vuelta a Espana began on this day in 1975, 1980 and 1986. 1975 covered 3.104km in 19 stages and was won by Agustin Tamames, his penultimate major victory - having won the Spanish National Championship a year later, his success dried up and he retired in 1977. 1980 covered 3,225km in 20 stages with Stages 1, 2, 14, 17, 19 and 21 being won by the Irish rider Sean Kelly who took the Points competition and finished fourth in the General Classification, 3'31" behind winner Faustino Rupérez. 1986 went to Álvaro Pino, who covered the 3,666km and 21 stages in 98h16'04". Other than Breton Bernard Hinault's victories, it was perhaps the best ever Grand Tour for Celtic riders - the Scotsman Robert Millar was second and Sean Kelly was third.

Carlos Sastre
Sastre at the Tour de France, 2008
(image credit: Bjarte Hetland CC BY 3.0)
Carlos Sastre was born in Leganés, near Madrid, on this day in 1975. His career in cycling began as a climber, but when training revealed he could also ride devastatingly effectively against the clock to win time trials, he immediately became a Grand Tour general classification contender.

Sastre's father Victor established the Fundación Provincial Deportiva Víctor Sastre, a cycling academy in El Barraco with the intention of providing a way for children from poor families to get into the sport. Carlos was also inspired by Francisco Ignacio San Román, a cyclist who lodged with the Sastre family whilst completing his military service and later became a professional rider. After getting his own professional contract, he served for five yeaes as a domestique at ONCE; getting few opportunities to go for victories but impressing other riders and team bosses with his performance in the the mountains of the 2000 Vuelta a Espana. Having left for Bjarne Riis' Team CSC in 2002, he was given further opportunity to shine as team captain at the Vuelta and then, in 2003, he won Stage 13, a tough parcours between Toulouse and Ax 3 Domaines, at the Tour de France and finished a surprise 9th overall. Ivan Basso joined the team from Fassa Bortolo a year later and the two men trained extensively together. Their directeur sportif decided Basso was the stronger rider and gave him the captaincy for the 2005 Tour, thus relegating Sastre to domestique duties again - Basso proved a wise choice, as he came 2nd behind Lance Armstrong. However, Sastre was then selected to lead the team at the Vuelta and came 3rd - a result that was later increased to 2nd following Roberto Heras' disqualification when he tested positive for EPO.

Sastre in 2010
(image credit: Haggisnl CC BY 3.0)
In 2006, he announced that he would ride for Basso at the Giro d'Italia and Tour, then again lead at the Vuelta. The Giro went as planned and Basso won but then, just days ahead of the Tour, the Italian was provisionally suspended from the team after he was implicated in Operación Puerto (and would later receive a two-year ban after it was shown that he had attended a clinic operated by Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes with the intention of receiving blood doping, but had not in fact undergone the procedure). This was Sastre's great opportunity to prove his capabilities, which he did by demonstrating that he was easily the strongest climber in the race. Unfortunately, he didn't do so well on the 57km time trial and came 20th, sufficient to put him down to 4th place behind Floyd Landis, Oscar Pereiro and Andreas Klöden. Once again, his result improved when another rider was caught doping - this time, it was Landis.

In the 2008 Tour, Sastre was widely regarded favourite alongside Cadel Evans. Realising that Evans was a strong rider on the climbs and even better in a time trial (the combination that would prove to be Andy Schleck's undoing in 2011 when Evans won the General Classification), the Spanish rider knew that he would need to pace himself very carefully, conserving energy in order to be able to attack at the moment it would do his opponent the most damage. In fact, he was so reserved as the race made its way through the Pyrenees that quite a large number of fans began to wonder if he was unwell, while crueler ones decided he'd had his day and was in decline. However, when the peloton reached the Alpe d'Huez, Sastre blew the race apart; attacking with savage strength right from the foot of the mountain and refusing to let up until he blasted over the finish line for the stage win and the yellow jersey. In the end, Evans simply couldn't find the reserves he needed to make up the 1'32" advantage Sastre now had over him in the time trial, and Sastre won the Tour.

Robert Hunter, who was born in Johannesburg on this day in 1977, won Stage 1 at the Vuelta a Espana in 1999 and Stage 17 in 2001 then in 2004, he won the Points competition at the Tour de Suisse. In 2007 he won Stage 11 at the Tour de France - the first stage win by a South African rider in the history of the race. At the Tour the next year, anti-doping officials permitted the world a brief viewing of their human side by allowing Hunter out of their control so he could fly to Switzerland to be with his wife Claudia as she gave birth to Mandy Inga, their first child.

Wilfried David, born on this day in 1946 in Bruges, won the Tour of Belgium in 1968, 2nd overall at the Vuelta a Espana in 1971 and the Tour de Romandie in 1973.

Francis Castaing, born in Bordeaux on this day in 1959, became National Track Champion in 1981 and won Stage 6 at the 1985 Tour de France.

Other births: Scott Davis (Australia, 1979); Linn Torp (Norway, 1977); Tom Larsen (Norway, 1972); Jeong Jeom-Sik (South Korea, 1968); Matthias Wiegand (East Germany, 1954); Giovanni Tonoli (Italy, 1947); Pedro Vaca (Bolivia, 1961); Dudley Hayton (Great Britain, 1953).

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