Friday 6 July 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 06.07.12

Maurice Moritz
The eighth edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest of the Monuments that make up the five most prestigious Classic races, was held on this day in 1913. The winner was Maurice Moritz who crossed the line just ahead of the twelve other men in the final sprint and recorded a time of 7h23' - virtually nothing else is known about him. This was the only time the race was ever held in July and it was the last edition until 1919, racing in Europe being brought to a temporary halt by the First World War.

The Tour de France has started on this date three times - 1932, 1991 and 2002.

21 stages, 4,479km.
The number of stages and overall distance was reduced. Henri Desgrange was still concerned that the sprinters suffered more in the mountains than the climbers did on the plain stages, so the bonification system was overhauled once again - whereas the previous year the winner had received a bonus of three minutes, now he would receive four minutes plus an extra three if he finished more than three minutes ahead of second place, while second place earned two minutes and third one minute.

Jean Aerts
Antonin Magne and Charles Pélissier stayed away, but with a team that included André Leducq, Marcel Bidot, Maurice Archambaud and Georges Speicher the French remained favourites. Their biggest rivals were the Belgians, whose Jean Aerts won the first stage; the team suffered however from internal rivalry between the French-speaking Walloons and the Flemish - when the Walloons failed to support Aerts in Stage 2 the maillot jaune passed to Kurt Stöpel (thanks to bonification), who thus became the first German rider to have ever led the Tour. The next day, Stöpel was 57th but didn't lose a great deal of time as 52 of those riders finished together, finding himself 1'45" behind stage winner Leducq, who now held the yellow jersey and, with help from his team and by making good use of his excellent descending skills to regain time lost on the climbs to come, kept it throughout the remainder of the race. Leducq finished 1'09" after Stage 4 winner Georges Ronsse, but his advantage over Stöpel remained intact and then grew by 10" on Stage 5 despite Leducq finishing 3'53" after the winner. During that stage, Spanish Vicente Trueba - who would become the very first King of the Mountains the following year - was first over the Aubisque. Like many climbers he disliked descending, lacking the weight required to prevent the bike skipping all over the road at high speed, so French touriste-routier Benoît Fauré was able to catch him on the way to the Tourmalet and got to the top first- but was denied a stage win by the Italian Antonio Pesento who caught him on the way down and then beat him in a sprint to the finish.

In the mountains, 1932
Leducq got into difficulties during Stage 6 when the race climbed Les Ares, Portet d'Aspet, Port and Puymorens, but once again he was able to use his descending skills and managed to come second with the same time as winner Frans Bonduel, thus adding another minute to his lead over Stöpel. Bonduel and Leducq were first and second on Stage 7 too, so Leducq got another minute, then increased it to 6'05"despite finishing in the same time group as the German on Stage 8 and it remained the same after Stage 9. On Stage 10, Francesco Camusso got away (and became virtual leader for a while) on the Braus and Castillon climbs and won the stage. Stöpel went after him but tired, eventually finishing in fourth place with a time 2'38" greater, but Leducq was 16th and 5'30" down - his overall lead dropped to 3'13", but on Stage 11 it increased to 7'13". He could have won now by riding safely, remaining with the peloton and making sure he had his team around him ready to chase down any breaks that might have a chance of putting a dent in his lead, but he'd developed a taste for the ecstatic French fans that greeted him with every win so he chose to go for a more glorious win and kept contesting stages - he won Stage 13, once again through his descending skills which he used this time to catch Camusso who had escaped in a snowstorm on Galibier, after which he led by 13'03"; then came third on Stage 14 to increase it by another minute. He won Stage 15 too, adding another four, and he would have won even more when he was first over the line on Sage 18 had judges not have noticed that he'd received illegal help in the form of a push from Albert Barthélemy (who was not, as many people imagine, related to Honore Barthélémy - note the very small variation in their surnames). As punishment he was relegated to 21st, taking a place among a group of riders that received the same stage time as new winner Rafaele di Paco but missed out of bonuses. Stöpel was third and won back a minute, but with three stages to go it made no difference; especially when Leducq won Stages 20 and 21 as well, taking his eventual overall advantage to 24'03".

1932 wasn't the only time Leducq got a helpful push from a
team mate - he's seen here in 1933 receiving assistance from
Georges Speicher
Organisers could not miss the fact that all 24 of those minutes came from the total of 31 awarded to Leducq; since Stöpel had been awarded seven, without the bonus system the gap between the two riders would have been just 3", which would have been the smallest winning margin before or since. This, they felt, would have been fairer; perhaps more importantly it might have made for a more exciting race - the following year, it was changed again and the winner alone received a bonus, reduced to two minutes.

Top Ten Final General Classification
1  André Leducq (FRA) France 154h 11' 49"
2  Kurt Stöpel (GER) Germany/Austria +24' 03"
3  Francesco Camusso (ITA) Italy +26' 21"
4  Antonio Pesenti (ITA) Italy +37' 08"
5  Georges Ronsse (BEL) Belgium +41' 04"
6  Frans Bonduel (BEL) Belgium +45' 13"
7  Oskar Thierbach (GER) Germany/Austria +58' 44"
8  Jef Demuysere (BEL) Belgium +1h 03' 24"
9  Luigi Barral (ITA) Touriste-routier +1h 06' 57"
10  Georges Speicher (FRA) France +1h 08' 37"

22 stages (Stages 1 and 2 held on the same day) + prologue, 3,914.4km.
Thierry Marie
Thierry Marie wore the maillot jaune in Stage 1 after winning the prologue, but nobody was surprised when Greg Lemond got into a breakaway on Stage 1 and grabbed sufficient time bonuses to take it away. Having won in 1986 and then, after making an incredible come-back following a near-fatal shotgun accident, in 1989 and 1991 as well, Lemond was favourite among the public and riders; all that remained to be seen was whether he'd now keep the jersey for as much of the race as possible or let it go in a few days and then take it back later on in the race. In fact, he had it for only 42 minutes - that very afternoon, the Ariostea team beat his Z team in the team time trial and the jersey went to Rolf Sørensen. Sørensen  lost it again in Stage 5 when he crashed hard enough to destroy his bike. A domestique was on hand to supply him with a new one but, very obviously in a great deal of pain, he finished in 90th place. X-rays revealed that he'd smashed his collarbone. Marie got another two days in yellow after breaking away after 25km in Stage 6 and then staying away for the rest of the day. At 234km, it's the second longest solo break in the history of the Tour.

Stage 8, the first of two individual time trials, was expected to the where the General Classifications contenders would begin their assualts on overall victory and this proved to be the case: all of them (with the exception of Claudio Chiappucci who, if he was going to win, would do so in the mountains) fought hard for good times. Miguel Indurain used his enormous physical strength to win, but Lemond came in just 8" slower and became race leader with an advantage of 1'13". That remained the same the next day, then dropped 4" after Stage 10, the stage in which the PDM's team Tour came to a premature end: Nico Verhoeven and Uwe Raab were both unable to start due to a fever, then three of their team mates abandoned later that day. On Stage 11, the remaining four PDM riders also left the race; which immediately led to allegations of doping. However, no proof was ever found; we must, therefore, accept the official line that their illness was caused by an injection of a contaminated but legal food supplement.

Urs Zimmerman
Stage 12 started with a protest as riders refused to move for forty minutes after the race was officially started, showing solidarity for Urs Zimmermann who had been rather pettily disqualified for travelling between Stage 11 and Stage 12 by car rather than aeroplane because flying frightened him. Eventually officials relented - Zimmermann was allowed back into the race and his Motorola team manager was barred instead for failing to get permission from race organisers. The riders were also not happy about a new rule requiring them to wear helmets: there had been a strike at Paris-Nice earlier in the year, now two thirds of the peloton handed their helmets over to race officials at the start of the stage and refused to take them back until the end - which doesn't sound a particularly effective protest unless one remembers that this meant the organisers now had to look after 150 helmets and transport them from the start town to the finish. Over the last few days it had become apparent that all was not well with Lemond - and the other riders spotted it, just as any predator notices weakness: when a break consisting of Luc Leblanc, Pascal Richard and Charly Mottet looked to have a good chance of staying away in Stage 12, he found that nobody was willing to help him catch them - three stages earlier he was still le patron, but now he was an also-ran and his word no longer carried weight. Mottet took the maillot jaune, Leblanc the stage. Meanwhile, a Spanish rider named Miguel Indurain who had come tenth the year before clawed back 8". It got worse the next day: Lemond somehow got to the top of Tourmalet only a few seconds behind the race leaders, but Indurain was already long gone and even managed to catch Chiappucci on the final climb up Val Louron. As the better climber, the climb took less of a toll on Chiappucci and he was able to get back ahead and win the stage by 1", but Indurain was now in yellow - with an advantage of 3'.

Indurain on his way home, with trophy
Lemond won back a few seconds later in the race. It wasn't enough to make any meaningful difference in the General Classification, but it turned the race into a defeat rather than a crushing one. Indurain had as good as won now and could have taken things relatively easy, but instead he kept on increasing his overall time by first managing to stay within 1" of Gianni Bugno when he launched a blistering attack on the hallowed Alpe d'Huez, then won the Stage 21 time trial by 27". Never in Tour history has there been such a sharply-defined transfer between two eras.

Top Ten Final General Classificiation
1  Miguel Indurain (ESP) Banesto 101h 01' 20"
2  Gianni Bugno (ITA) Gatorade-Chateau d'Ax +3' 36"
3  Claudio Chiappucci (ITA) Carrera +5' 56"
4  Charly Mottet (FRA) RMO +7' 37"
5  Luc Leblanc (FRA) Castorama +10' 10"
6  Laurent Fignon (FRA) Castorama +11' 27"
7  Greg LeMond (USA) Z +13' 13"
8  Andrew Hampsten (USA) Motorola +13' 40"
9  Pedro Delgado (ESP) Banesto +20' 10"
10  Gerard Rué (FRA) Helvetia +20' 13"

20 stages + prologue, 3,277.5km.
The Saeco team's wildcard invite was revoked shortly before the race began when news emerged that Gilberto Simoni, who had won the Giro d'Italia in 2001, had tested positive for cocaine on two occasions; Jean Delatour being invited in their place.

Ventoux, 2002
Lance Armstrong won the prologue, then settled back into the prologue for the first week with absolutely no concern when the maillot jaune went to Rubens Bertogliati after Stage 1, then Erik Zabel and then Igor González. Everyone expected him to take the lead in the Stage 9 time trial, despite the time he'd lost when he got stuck behind a crash earlier in the race. In fact he came second, making up only 8"; which, had it have been any other rider, would not have drawn comment - but it wasn't any other rider; it was Lance. Did this mean - could this mean - that after three victories his reign was coming to an end? Armstrong couldn't explain it, he chose instead to wait for the Pyrenees in Stages 11 and 12.

He won both, taking back the yellow jersey on the first day and soaring past Laurent Jalabert and Richard Virenque on the final climbs as they fought one another in their own private battle for King of the Mountains. The peloton had seriously understimated him - Lance wasn't finished, he was just getting started.

Richard Virenque
Stage 14 climbed Mont Ventoux, an opportunity for Virenque - his best years were gone, but a decisive victory on the most hallowed mountain in cycling would secure him his position among the greatest climbers of all time. He won the stage by 1'58", which was a good result but not the sort of glorious mountain triumph enjoyed by the likes of Gaul and Bahamontes. He'd won the King of the Mountains five times by this point and he'd win it two more times; but he wasn't in the same league as the Angel and the Eagle. What's more, Ventoux had tested him and he had been found lacking - he didn't look well when he arrived at the finish line. Armstrong rode wisely - he knew that Ventoux can end a rider's Tour, career and even life, so he got himself up without demanding too much from his body and finishing 2'20" later in third place. It was more than sufficient and he added almost two minutes to his lead over second place Joseba Beloki in the General Classification, then when the race left the mountains behind and went to the last time trial he won and his advantage went up to 7'17" - the time by which he won overall a day later.

Top Ten Overall General Classification

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service 82h 05' 12"
2 Joseba Beloki (ESP) ONCE +7' 17"
3 Raimondas Rumsas (LIT) Lampre +8' 17"
4 Santiago Botero (COL) Kelme +13' 10"
5 Igor González (ESP) ONCE +13' 54"
6 José Azevedo (POR) ONCE +15' 44"
7 Francisco Mancebo (ESP) +16' 05"
8 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank +17' 11"
9 Roberto Heras (ESP) US Postal Service +17' 12"
10 Carlos Sastre (ESP) Team CSC +19' 05"

Cyclists born on this day:Tiffany Cromwell (Australia, 1988); Tea Vikstedt-Nyman (Finland, 1959 Jeremy Yates (New Zealand, 1982); Henry Anglade (France, 1933); Jeremy Yates (New Zealand, 1982); Fortunato Baliani (Italy, 1974); René Le Grèves (France, 1910); Phạm Văn Sau (South Vietnam, 1939); Marcin Karczyński (Poland, 1978); Tiemen Groen (Netherlands, 1946); Son Hui-Jeong (South Korea, 1987); Adam Laurent (USA, 1971); Fitzroy Hoyte (Trinidad and Tobago, 1940, died 2008); Joseph Geurts (Belgium, 1939); Luis Laverde (Colombia, 1979); Al Sellinger (USA, 1914, died 1986).

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