Wednesday 9 May 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 09.05.12

Pino Cerami
(image credit: Ken's Bike Shop)
La Flèche Wallonne took place on this day in 1960, the 24th edition of the race. It ran from Liège to Charleroi for the first time, having been run in the opposite direction for the previous eleven years, and covered 208km. The winner was Giuseppe 'Pino' Cerami, who had taken Belgian citizenship in 1956 and as such was not the second Italian winner of the race despite being born in Sicily (the Italians didn't have to wait long, however - Roberto Poggiali won in 1965 and since then Italian riders have won another sixteen times, making them the second most successful nation in this race after the Belgians).

The Giro d'Italia began just once on this day, in 2009. The race took an unusual course around Italy's most historic cities and missed most of the climbs that have made it famous, yet it was marked by near-tragedy when the Basque rider Pedro Horrillo crashed into a ravine during Stage 8. He fell 60 metres, breaking his neck, knee cap, both femurs and puncturing a lung. After regaining consciousness in the ambulance as he was taken to hospital, medics placed him in an artificially-induced coma. In time, Horrillo made a full recovery; but has not returned to racing. The next day saw riders protesting at safety conditions, refusing to race until they came to the final sprint - which drew criticism from fans and organisers - and the stage was neutralised. Denis Menchov was overall winner, followed by Danilo di Luca who would subsequently be stripped of his result in a doping scandal.

Matthew Bushe
(image credit: Fanny Schertzer CC BY-SA 3.0)
The term "meteoric" doesn't do justice to American rider Matthew Busche's rise to the top levels of professional cycling: in August of 2008 he joined the ProContinental Kelly Benefit Strategies team and by the beginning of the next year he was riding with RadioShack, one of the best-financed and most successful teams in the history of the sport. Having enjoyed a successful career as a cross-country winner during which he won two NCAA National titles, he switched allegiance to cycling and joined the amateur ISCorp team in 2007 and finished in third place for Stage 2 at the St. Louis Gateway Cup with them. He then began racking up a series of top ten results in National Championships and other races before turning professional and moving on to European stage races, where he also did well. He then won the National Championship road race in 2011 and was entered into his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, where he came 113th overall. His contract was extended following RadioShack's merger with LeopardTrek late in 2011, and the world will be watching closely in 2012 to see if Johan Bruyneel's faith in him is deserved.

Vincenzo Borgarello was born in Cambiano, Piedmont on this day in 1884. In 1911, he won Stage 2 at the Giro d'Italia, followed by Stages 2, 7 and 9 at the Giro and 8 and 14 at the Tour de France the following year. He led the race after Stage 2 - and thus became the first Italian to lead the General Classification in the history of the Tour, though he eventually finished in 13th place overall.

Though Rubens Bertogliati - who was born in Lugano, Switzerland on this day in 1979 - has twice been National Time Trial Champion (2009/10), he is better known as an all-rounder; a combination which has seen him record some impressive results in the Grand Tours. He won the opening time trial at the 2002 Tour de France, then rode well enough the next day to keep the yellow jersey, and in 2010 he was second in the mixed-terrain Stage 6 at the Giro d'Italia.

Flavio Giupponi was born in Bergamo on this day in 1964. In 1989, he won Stage 14 at the Giro d'Italia and finished the overall General Classification in second place, 1'15" behind Frenchman Laurent Fignon.

Svein Tuft
Canadian cyclist Svein Tuft was born in British Columbia on this day in 1977. He would leave school at the age of 15 and spent the next few years mountain climbing and cycling, completing a 4,000km ride to Alaska and back whilst still a teenager, then began racing in 1999. His results were immediately good and he found himself with a contract to ride for Symmetrics team which, while virtually unknown in Europe, could be found competing in many of North America's most prestigious cycling events and which reached a wider audience when it was the subject of a Marvel comic, in which Tuft is portrayed as having enormous muscles. Upon seeing the picture, he told reporters "We're all a bunch of sissies really!"

Tuft has become highly respected as a time trial specialist, winning the National Championship in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010 - which earned him the offer of a contract with the ill-fated Team Pegasus which fell by the wayside after sponsorship issues. Instead, he joined Spidertech-C10 for 2011 and with them won another National Time Trial and the National Road Race for the first time. In August that year, he announced that he had been offered a place with the new Australian team GreenEDGE which was at that time hoping to be given a UCI ProTeam licence, which it subsequently received - so this year, we are likely to see how Tuft copes with a Grand Tour.

Iñigo Landaluze
Iñigo Landaluze
(image credit: McSmit CC BY-SA 3.0)
Basque rider Iñigo Landaluze was born on this day in 1977, turning professional with Euskaltel-Euskadi in 2001 and remaining with them for the rest of his career. He appeared on the cusp of making a breakthrough into the upper echelons of the sport with victory at the 2005 Critérium du Dauphiné, but shortly afterwards it was announced that anti-doping controls had discovered an unusually high level of testosterone in his samples.

However, he was cleared on a technicality when it was shown that correct laboratory procedure had not been followed during the test - whereas the Court of Arbitration for Sport concluded that the rider "probably had" intentionally doped, it found that there was no grounds to prosecute as the UCI had failed to satisfy the burden of proof by failing to provide evidence to support claims that procedure violations would not affect the outcome of the test. Since he became free to return to racing in 2006, anti-doping laws and regulations have changed considerably and it is believed that had the case have been tried today Landaluze would have been sanctioned.

On the 17th of July 2009, he failed two anti-doping tests, one at the Critérium du Dauphiné again and another a few days after the race ended - this time for Continuous Erythropoietin Receptor Activator or CERA, a blood-boosting drug that combines the notorious EPO with other drugs designed to increase its effectiveness and longevity within the body. He was provisionally banned by the UCI pending investigation and has not yet returned to the sport.

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 mighty 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 Alcyon through 1910 and won three stages at the Tour that year, coming 2nd overall behind team mate Octave Lapize and 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.

Faber was 28 years old when he died on this day in 1915 at the Battle of Artois. His regiment came under attack and lost 1,950 men from a total of 2,900, and though Faber survived the first waves of the attack unharmed he saw that one of his comrades was lying injured in no-man's land. He climbed out of the trench, went to the fallen man and had carried him part of the way to safety when he was fatally shot in the back. Later, he was posthumously awarded the Médaille militaire for his bravery. That very morning, he had received a telegram informing him that his wife had just given birth to their first child, a daughter.

Wouter Weylandt
On this day in 2011, at the Giro d'Italia which just one year previously had been disrupted when riders protested against safety conditions, LeopardTrek's 26-year-old Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt was killed as he descended the Passo del Bocco at 80kph. According to Manuel Antonio Cardoso, who was behind him at the time, Weylandt had looked over his shoulder to see if other riders were catching him and lost control, hitting a guardrail before being catapulted 10m across the road and landing heavily on his face. The race's chief medical officer was nearby in a car and saw the accident take place: "he was already and clearly dead upon impact. I had never seen such a thing before, such a sudden death," he later told reporters. The impact when he hit the wall would have been sufficient to end his career even had he have fallen there - an autopsy found that his left leg had been so badly damaged it would have required amputation. His death was attributed to skull and facial injuries and massive damage to his internal organs - it was noted that the impact when he hit the road had stopped his heart instantaneously and there would not have been time for him to suffer. His girlfriend, An-Sophie, was five months pregnant when he died.

The following stage was neutralised and church bells rang along the route, riders wearing black armbands taking turns to lead the peloton. Weylandt's race number, 108, is no longer assigned to riders in the Giro and became an integral part of the team's kit design, as well as a common sight at many races where fans and riders alike display it to show their respects.

Wouter Weylandt, 27.09.1984 - 09.05.2011
(image credit: Dzipi CC BY-SA 2.0)
Other births: René Rillon (France, 1892, died 1956); Jean-Marie Joubert (France, 1932); Nobuhira Takanuki (Japan, 1938); Karl-Dietrich Diers (East Germany, 1953); Hans Michalsky (West Germany, 1949); Constantin Stănescu (Romania, 1928); Vid Cencic (Uruguay, 1933).

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