Thursday 31 May 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 31.05.12

The World's First Bike Race
On this day in 1868, a small group of cyclists gathered at the fountains in Paris' Parc de St Cloud, then at 3pm raced their machines to the park fence and back again - a distance of 1.2km on gravel. It was, so far as anybody knows, the world's very first organised bike race (the world's first unorganised bike race would of course have happened the first time that there were two bikes on the same stretch of road).

Right: James Moore; left: second place
hean-Eugène-André Castera
The winner was James Moore, an Englishman who had been born in Bury St. Edmunds and moved to Paris as a child with his parents. Some time later, a group of cycling officials that included Géo Lefèvre (the man who first came up with the idea of the Tour de France) decided that a commemorative plaque was in order, and one was commissioned and put into place. It's since vanished, presumably stolen (hopefully as a souvenir, in which case it may still exist, rather than for its scrap metal value), but Moore's bike can be seen in the City Museum in Ely, Cambridgeshire.

Moore is also lost - though he lived until 1935, nobody knows exactly where he was buried. His grandson believes he probably lies near the Welsh Harp Reservoir in North London - where, coincidentally, Britain's first bike race was held one day after the race in Parc de St Cloud.

According to the Cycling Record, the riders travelled "at the speed of lightning" - though Moore's winning time of 3'50" reveals his average speed to have been 18.78kph or a little over 11.5mph. Perhaps lightning was slower in those days?

(There is some - rather persuasive, if we're honest - evidence that at least five bike races had been organised and taken place in France prior to Moore's victory. You can believe what you wish, but facts should never be permitted to get in the way of a good story.)

Robert Gesink
Robert Gesink

Born in Varsseveld on this day in 1986, Robert Gesink signed to Rabobank's Continental squad after a few years with amateur teams, then progressed to the ProTour team after rapidly revealing that he had the makings of a General Classification rider and has stayed with the team ever since.

After coming to the world's attention with eighth place in the time trial and sixth in the road race at the 2004 Junior World Championships, Gesink was invited to join Löwik Meubelen but, just a year later, had won the Under-19 National TT title, which brought Rabobank to his door. In his first year with them he won the General Classifications at the Circuito Montañés and the Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda - but, better still, he was second at the Tour de l'Avenir, a race that serves to highlight young riders who may one day be destined for Grand Tour success. The following year, racing in the ProTour team, he won the Youth classifications at the Tours of California and Germany and then in 2008 he was fourth at the Paris–Nice, the Flèche Wallonne and the Critérium du Dauphiné and seventh overall in the Vuelta a Espana, an amazing first attempt at a Grand Tour.

Gesink at the Tour of
California, 2008
Having now confirmed himself as a rider with serious potential, he went to the Tour de France in 2009 but left with a broken wrist after crashing in Stage 5. Later the same year he would come sixth in the Vuelta and many certain that had be have enjoyed better fortune he'd have finished the Tour in the top ten - and he proved himself capable of doing so in 2010, when he was sixth. 2011 seems less impressive with 33rd overall, but the fact that he beat Fabian Cancellara in an individual time trial at the Tour of Oman early in the year is evidence of the master plan: keep up his already prodigious talent in the mountains (as seen when he won Stage 6 at the 2010 Tour de Suisse) and as an all-rounder while also developing and improving as a time trialist, then go after the big prizes.

At the time of writing, Gesink is on the cusp of turning 26, the age at which most cyclists enter their best years. There is a very high likelihood that he will have won a Vuelta, a Giro d'Italia or a Tour within five years.

Track cyclist Sally Hodge, born in Cardiff on this day in 1966, won the Points Race and the Pursuit at the 1988 World Championships. In 1987 and 1988, she won silver medals in the British Road Race Championships.

Primož Čerin, born in Ljubljana on this day in 1962, won the Tour of Yugoslavia in 1983 and two stages of the Österreich-Rundfahrt in the years before he turned professional with the Italian team Malvor-Bottecchia-Vaporella in 1986. With them, he entered the Tour de France that year - his results (19th, Stage 12; 33rd overall) didn't set the world alight, but he was the first Eastern Bloc rider to compete.

John Allis, born in the US of A on this day in 1942, began cycling while at Princeton University and led the US team at the 1963 World Championships in Ronse, Belgium. They finished outside the time limit in the road race and were 20th in the TT, but had become the first US team to manage any sort of presence in European since the days of Major Marshall Taylor at the turn of the 20th Century.

Schultheis and Sprinkmeier
Sandra Sprinkmeier, born in Mainz, Germany on this day in 1984, is one half of the two-woman team that has held the World Artistic Cycling Championship title since 2007. Her team mate is Katrin Schultheis. (Artistic cycling, incidentally, is a form of gymnastics performed on fixed-gear bicycles - not enormously different to flatland BMX but, dating back to 1888, much older.)

Born in Berchtesgaden, Germany on this day in 1952, Karl Bartos was, for fifteen years between 1975 and 1990, a member of Kraftwerk, the band that created cycling's anthem, Tour de France - he is credited as co-writer on the record. Fritz Hilpert, who joined the band in 1987 (four years after Tour de France was released) was born in Amberg on this day in 1956.

Frans Brands, born in Berendrecht, Belgium on this day in 1940, won Stage 18 at the 1963 Tour de France, Stage 8 at the 1965 Giro d'Italia and eight place overall at the Tour the same year and won the Tour of Luxembourg in 1967. With numerous criterium and one-day race wins on his palmares, he should be far more well-known that he is. However, few cycling fans will have noticed when he died on the 9th of February in 2008.

Other births: Carlo Scognamiglio (Italy, 1983); Yuri Barinov (USSR, 1955); Johnny Dauwe (Belgium, 1966, died 2003); Aleksandr Sharapov (USSR, 1971); Edward Barcik (Poland, 1950); Alex Wrubleski (Canada, 1984); Shaun O'Brien (Australia, 1969); Masoud Mobaraki (Iran, 1953); Alfred Tonna (Malta, 1950); Éric Louvel (France, 1962).

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