Saturday 29 September 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 29.09.12

Felice Gimondi
Felice Gimondi
Italy has produced very many great cyclists, among them some of the best to have ever lived - but only Coppi and Bartali (others might add Moser and Pantani) come close to Felice Gimondi, who was born in Sedrino on this day in 1942.

Like many riders who later became great, Gimondi owed the strength in his legs to the heavy delivery bike he rode in childhood - in his case, helping his mother, who worked as a mail carrier, to make her rounds. In 1964 he won the Tour de l'Avenir and came 33rd in the Road Race at the Olympics, which earned him his first professional contract the following year with Salvarani. He was still there when the team became Bianchi-Campagnolo in 1973 and stayed with them until his retirement in 1979. In the months immediately after signing the contract, Gimondi won four important races and came second at La Flèche Wallonne; however, as the Tour de France is generally considered too difficult for a ride in his first professional year, he was selected to take part only at the last moment when a team mate became unable to ride. He won Stages 3, 18 and 22 and took first place in the General Classification and third in the Points competition; one of only 11 riders to have won the race after a first attempt in the history of the Tour, immediately becoming a national hero as a result.

Gimondi would never win another Tour, but victory at Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Brussels and the Giro di Lombardia, a stage win at the Tour de Romandie plus a stage win and fifth place overall at the Giro d'Italia proved that his earlier unexpected success was not a fluke and that he was a rider of prodigious talent. He confirmed it the next year by winning seven races early in the season, then won the General Classification at the Giro d'Italia, which would become the scene of his greatest moments: he won it again in 1969 and 1976, came second twice and third four times - a record nine podium finishes. In 1968 he won the National Road Race Championships (as he would again in 1972) and the Vuelta a Espana and thus became te second man in history to have won all three Grand Tours; to this day only three other riders have been added to the list. He was also third at the Giro that year despite failing an anti-doping test (he would fail another at the Tour de France in 1975 but was again allowed to continue and came fifth overall).

Gimondi later in his career
Gimondi's 1966 wins at Paris-Roubaix - the frequently nightmarish race that many riders call the most difficult and dangerous of them all -  and the Giro di Lombardia suggested that he also had the potential to be a successful Classics rider, including in the very tough Northern Cobbled Classics that, according to tradition, Italians could not win (despite the fact that by Gimondi's era several had). He began entering more of them in 1968 and that year he was third at Gent-Wevelgem; then in 1969 he was second at the Ronde van Vlaanderen - like Paris-Roubaix, a Monument race on account of being one of the hardest and most prestigious Classics. In 1970 he was second at the Giro di Lombardia, then second at Milan-San Remo in 1971 and at Gent-Wevelgem and third in the Giro di Lombardia in 1972. In 1973 he was third at Milan-San Remo, but his talent at one-day races came to the fore at the World Championships where he won the Road Race and he finished the season with another triumph at the Giro di Lombardia. In 1976 he won Milan-San Remo and Paris-Brussels, a semi-Classic.

Estimates vary as to how many races Gimondi won, but approximately 160 seems likely. Numerous riders have won more, but few have been as successful in so many of the most important races. Now aged 70, he is still involved with competitive cycling as the president of the TX Active-Bianchi Mountain Bike team.

Óscar Sevilla
Born in Ossa de Montiel, Spain on this day in 1976, Óscar Sevilla turned professional with Kelme-Costa Blanca in 1998 and won Stage 4 at the Tour de Romandie the following year. In 1999 he went to the Giro d'Italia and came 16th overall, but his big break came in 2001 when he was seventh overall at the Tour de France - and second overall at the Vuelta a Espana. In 2002 he was fourth overall and third in the Points competition at the Vuelta.

Sevilla in 2004
Despite such remarkable early promise, Sevilla never did win a Grand Tour - he was 12th at the Vuelta in 2003 (and missed several races following a crash at the World Championships, which left him with an injured back); 24th at the Tour and 22nd at the Vuelta in 2004 and 18th at the Tour and sixth at the Vuelta in 2005. Having been blocked from entering the Tour in 2006 when he was linked to Operacion Puerto (he was also fired by T-Mobile, but found a new contract with Relax-GAM), he began looking to the shorter stage races and one-day events and was immediately successful, winning the Vuelta Ciclista Asturias in 2006, the Route du Sud in 2007, second place in the National Road Race Championship and first in the Colombian Clásico RCN in 2008, the Cascade Classic, the Vuelta a Cundinamarca and the Vuelta Chihuahua Internacional in 2009 when he signed for two years with Rock Racing.

Rock spent much of 2010 racing in Central and South America with Sevilla winning one race in Mexico and seven in Colombia, including the Vuelta a Colombuia where he failed an anti-doping test that detected Hydroxyethyl starch, a blood plasma expander that has been used as a masking agent in an attempt to hide the presence of EPO. He was given a provisional ban but returned with Gobernación de Antioquia-Indeportes Antioquia in 2011, then won several further Colombian races and was fourth overall at the Tour of Utah. In 2012 he won the Vuelta y Ruta de Mexico and the Colombian Vuelta a Boyacà.

Leonardo Piepoli
Piepoli at the Tour de Romandie, 2007

Born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland on this day in 1971, Leonardo Piepoli holds the record for winning the Subida a Urkiola with four victories (1995, 1999, 2003 and 2004). In 1994 he won the Baby Giro, which led to his first professional contract the following year when he signed to Refin; in addition to the Urkiola he won twice at the Trofeo dello Scalatore climbers' competition that year, then in 1996 he was 17th overall at the Tour de France.

Piepoli developed into one of the most respected climbers of the late 1990s and early 21st Century, enabling him to take good results in the Grand Tours. He was 14th at the Tour in 1998, eighth in the Vuelta a Espana in 1999 and tenth in the Giro d'Italia in 2000; then had a few years in which he tended to finish out of the top 20. At the 2006 Giro he won Stages 13 and 17, then came 11th overall and was 13th at the Vuelta; in 2007 he won Stage 10 and the King of the Mountains at the Giro. However, after his Saunier Duval-Scott pulled out of the 2008 Tour following Riccardo Riccò's positive test for EPO, he was sacked amid accusations that he had violated the team's ethical code; El Pais, the Spanish newspaper, claimed that he had confessed to using EPO, but he denied that such a confession had ever been made while testifying at a court hearing into doping allegations made against Riccò. In October, news emerged that two of the samples he provided at the Tour had tested positive for CERA, a form of EPO that has a more long-lasting effect and can thus be used in lower doses in an attempt to escape detection. Three months later, he admitted to using the drug during "a moment of weakness." A short while after that, he was banned from competition for two years

Ben Berden, who was born in Hasselt, Belgium on this day in 1975, came third at the World Under-19 Cyclo Cross Championship in 1994 and was National U-23 Champion two years later. He won numerous cross and road races over the subsequent years and was second at the Elite Cyclo Cross Nationals in 2003 and, in 2009, he won the Nationals for Elite riders without contracts. Early in 2005, Berden failed a doping test: as he immediately made a full confession, he was given a ban of 15 months rather than two years.

British rider Chris Newton, born in Middlesborough on this day in 1973, has been steadily winning races since 1994 when he rode with the silver medal-winning Pursuit team at the Commonwealth Games. He has won numerous events on the road and on the track - his road successes including the National Individual Time Trial Championship in 1999 and 2000, the National Criterium Championship in 2001, the Tour de la Manche in 2002, the Rás Tailteann in 2003 and 2005 and the Tour Doon Hame and Lincoln International in 2010; on the track he has won eight National Championships (Points, Scratch and Team Pursuit), two World Championships (Points 2002, Team Pursuit 2005) and a total of seven events at the World Cup. In 2008, he won the bronze for the Points race at the Olympics.

Vasco Bergamaschi
Vasco Bergamaschi, born in San Giacomo delle Segnate, Italy on this day in 1909, won Stage 1 at the Tour de France in 1934, Stages 1, 11 and the General Classification at the Giro d'Italia and Stage 13a at the Tour de France in 1935 and Stage 1 at the Giro in 1939. He might well have won more had his career not coincided with the end of Alfredo Binda's and the start of Gino Bartali's.

Antonio Bailetti, born in Bosco di Nanto, Italy on this day in 1937, won Stage 4 at the Giro d'Italia and Stage 9 at the Tour de France in 1962 and Stage 21 at the Giro and Stage 5 at the Tour in 1963.

Michael Schär, born in Geuensee, Switzerland on this day in 1986, was National Under-19 Time Trial Champion in 2004 and National Under-23 Time Trial Champion in 2005

Jules Merviel, born in Saint-Beauzély, France on this day in 1909, won Stage 7 at the Tour de France in 1930 and Stage 1 at Paris-Nice in 1934, when he was also second overall at the Critérium International. In 1935 he won bronze at the National Road Race Championships but later rode into the back of a truck at the Tour de France and was unable to compete again until the Tour de Picardie the following year. He continued racing until 1944, but won no further victories.

Laurens de Vreese, born in Ghent on this day in 1988, won the Under-23 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2008 and was second in 2010, when he also became National U-23 Road Race Champion. In 2012 he won the overall Combativity award at the Eneco Tour.

Luca Barla, born in Bordighera, Italy on this day in 1987, became National Under-19 Road Race Champion in 2005.

Other cyclists born on this day: Lucien Dirksz (Aruba, 1968); Igor Sumnikov (USSR, 1966); Gilbert Bischoff (Switzerland, 1951); David Grylls (USA, 1957); Frank Orban (Belgium, 1964); Jürg Luchs (Switzerland, 1956); Lex van Kreuningen (Netherlands, 1937); Wang Qingzhi (China, 1968); Aage Myhrvold (Norway, 1918, died 1987).

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