Tuesday 5 June 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 05.06.12

The eleventh edition of La Flèche Wallonne took place on this day in 1947, the last time that the race was ever held in June and the longest since the Second World War at 276km - modern editions are around 200km. It began for the eighth consecutive year at Mons and ended for the second consecutive year at Liège. The winner was Ernest Sterckx, who would also become the first - and, so far, only - rider to win three editions of the Omloop Het Volk.

René Pottier
René Pottier, who was born in Moret-sur-Loing, Seine-et-Marne on this day in 1879, was by all accounts the finest climber of his day. He 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. The next day, Pottier abandoned after a crash.

Pottier, nearest the camera
He entered for a second time in 1906, won five stages from the total thirteen 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 the 25th of January 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.

Jesper Worre
Jesper Worre, born in Frederiksberg on this day in 1959, became Junior Road Race Champion of Denmark in 1977 and in 1984 he was the winner of Stage 1 at Tirreno-Adriatico. He went on to win the Post Danmark Rundt in 1986, when he was also third on Stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia, and he won both the Postgirot Open and the Tour of the Americas in 1988. That earned him a place at the Tour de France in 1989, but he was never rider with any hope of doing well at that level and came 88th overall. In 1990 he was the surprise winner of Stage 6 at the Vuelta a Espana, then Stage 11 at the Vuelta a Argentina one year later. The Argentine victory was to be his last, however - his powers were fading and he turned to doping in an attempt to squeeze out another couple of years, but he was caught and given a conditional ban as he made a full confession without prompting.

Today, Worre is the president of the Danmarks Cykle Union and is known for the zero-tolerance line he takes against doping.

Kenny de Ketele
Kenny de Ketele, born in Oudenaarde on this day in 1985, got his first taste of cycling glory in 2003 when he won the Under-19 Championships for both the Pursuit and the Points race. A year later, he was National 1km and Pursuit Champion as well as European Madison Champion (shared with partner Iljo Keisse), which he then lost in 2005 but won back in 2006. Just in case anyone hadn't noticed his arrival on the European track racing scene, in 2007 he was  U23 European Points race Champion and Belgian Points, Derny, Team Pursuit, Madison, Kilometre and Omnium Champion. De Ketele has not been so successful since, but in 2012 he took his first World Champion title, for Madison and shared with partner Gijs Van Hoecke.

Australian Ronald Baensch, born in Melbourne on this day in 1939, was a track cyclist who specialised in sprint events and represented his country at the 1960 Olympics, where he finished fourth. He had better luck in the World Championships, winning a bronze medal as an amateur in 1961; then after he turned professional a silver in 1964, a bronze in 1965 and another silver in 1966. The following year, he was disqualified and fined 2,000 guilder after testing positive for ephedrine. Baensch remained in Europe for a while after retiring from competition and, having never made much of a living from cycling, found work as a truck driver. He returned to Australia in 1974 and worked on oil rigs, but still found the time to enter a few amateur races right up until he decided to give up racing altogether in 1980. He won his final race.

Frederick Henry "Harry" Wyld was born in Mansfield on this day in 1900. In 1924 he was selected to ride for Britain at the Olympics, where he won a bronze medal; he rode again in 1928 in the Team Pursuit, this time with his two brothers Percy and Lewis (who preferred to be known by his middle name, Arthur) and George Southall, brother of Frank Southall who also rode in the Individual Road Race (where he won a silver) and in the Team Road Race where he teamed up with Jack Lauterwasser (see yesterday's Daily Facts for more on the remarkable life of that very remarkable character) and won another silver - though only after the Italian team had been disqualified. They set a new Team Pursuit World Record that year, beating the previous one by 9.2 seconds, but another team shaved another second off that the following day. Ralph, an older brother, set up a bike shop at 61 Nottingham Road in Mansfield in 1928 and all the brothers worked there, as they would continue to do after it moved up the road to 95 five years later. Harry Wyld died on the 5th of April, 1976; the shop outlived him by almost 20 years and shut down in 1995. The building is still there and is now occupied by a carpet shop.

It was on this day in 2008 that Shane Perkins, a successful professional track rider, was found guilty of "misconduct to the detriment of Cycling Australia and the good reputation of the sport of cycling" after he'd been involved in a drunken fight outside a pub in Adelaide just over a year earlier. Three days later, the Australian Federation banned him from competition for three months, fined him Aus$1,000 and barred him from the Victorian Institute of Sport for a period of six months, later reduced to four.

Other births: Fabio Taborre (Italy, 1984); Tang Kam Man (Hong Kong, 1955); Theo Polhaupessy (Indonesia, 1933); Alberny Vargas (Colombia, 1969); Martin McKay (Ireland, 1937); Francesco Malatesta (Italy, 1907); Dušan Popeskov (Yugolavia, 1969).

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