Saturday 13 April 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 13.04.2013

Rik van Steenbergen
(public domain image)
Paris-Roubaix was held on this date in 1952, 1958, 1969, 1975, 1980, 1986, 2003 and 2008. The 1952 winner was Rik van Steenbergen, who had also won in 1948 when he had won the Ruban Jaune, a prize established by Henri Desgrange to recognise the rider who set the fastest average time in a race more than 200km long during any one year (he chose yellow for the same reason the leader's jersey in the Tour de France is yellow: his L'Auto newspaper was printed on yellow paper), with an average speed of 46.612km - a new record, which stood for another three years after his 1952 triumph.

The 1958 winner was Leon Vandaele. The race that year was notable for two reasons: firstly, it took the unusually long time of just over eight hours to be completed, and secondly because it finished in a 23-man sprint - the largest in Paris-Roubaix history. 1969 was won by Walter Godefroot who achieved the very rare distinction of beating Eddy Merckx, who was 2'39" behind as Godefroot crossed the line. 1975 brought the second of Roger de Vlaeminck's record four wins and he too beat Merckx into second place.

Carrefour de l'Arbre
(image credit:  John.john59 CC BY-SA 3.0) 
In 1980, the Italian Francesco Moser became the second man in the history of the race to win in three consecutive years. The full 1.7km  cobbled section between Orchies, Chemin des Prières, and Chemin des Abattoirs (a fitting name for a Paris-Roubaix cobbled section if ever there was one) was used for the first time that year, the final 0.7km having been ridden in the opposite direction since 1977. Four entirely new cobbled sections made their first appearances: the first was a 1.4km stretch of the Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes to Sars-et-Rosières, to which another 1km would be added two years later; the second was the 1.2km Auchy-lez-Orchies to Bersee; the third was the 1.8km Camphin-en-Pévèle with a right corner that is often covered in mud and considered one of the most dangerous along the parcours and a final 300m made up of some the roughest cobbles anywhere in the race; the fourth was the notorious 2.1km Camphin-en-Pévèle to Carrefour de l'Arbre, considered to be the most difficult and dangerous section after the Trouée d'Arenberg and the place where many subsequent editions have been won and lost.

Sean Kelly, who had become the only Irish rider to win the race two years earlier, won for a second time in 1986. The same year, he won Milan-San Remo and would do so again in 1991, and he won Liège–Bastogne–Liège the same year as his first Paris-Roubaix and again in 1989 and the Giro di Lombardia in 1983, 1985 and 1991 (plus the amateur version in 1976), making him the joint third most successful Classics rider of all time. For the first time, the finish was relocated to the Avenue des Nations-Unies outside the offices of the race's main sponsor, mail order company La Redoute; where it would remain until 1988.

Frans Bonduel in 1932
Peter Van Petegem won in 2003, a week after he'd won the Ronde van Vlaanderen which had been held on the 6th of April that year - and thus became one of only ten men to have won both races in a single year. Tom Boonen scored the second of his three wins in 2008 after beating Alessandro Ballan and Fabian Cancellara in a final sprint. For the first time in three years, Paris-Roubaix did not form part of the UCI ProTour series - instead, the UCI wanted to include it in a new Historical Calendar series (since absorbed into the WorldTour series), a proposal that was at first resisted by race organisers the Amaury Sports Organisation until they eventually conceded two weeks before the race was due to take place. The first 100km of the race were covered in two hours, one of the fastest intermediate average speeds every recorded in the race and the overall average of 43.406kph was the fastest since 1964.

The Ronde van Vlaanderen fell on this day in 1930 when it was won by Frans Bonduel, the rider who went on to win Stage 17 and finish in 7th place overall at the Tour de France later that year. Bonduel enjoyed an unusually lengthy professional career that lasted for twenty years between 1928 and 1947. He died on the 25th of February in 1998 when he was 90 and there is a street in Baasrode, the town in which he was born, named after him.

In 1936, the first ever edition of La Flèche Wallonne was held on this day and covered a distance of 236km from Tournai to Liège. It was won by Philemon De Meersman (15.11.1914-02.04.2005), a Belgian rider who was professional for just three years up until the outbreak of the Second World War. The next time it was held on this date was in 1949, when started at Charleroi and stretched for 231km, once again to Liège. The winner was Rik Van Steenbergen, and he would win again nine years later. The race would not fall on this date again for four decades, the next time being 1988 when the 243km parcours between Spa and Huy was covered fastest by Rolf Gölz - a German rider who seems to be largely forgotten a quarter of a century later, despite having held amateur Worlds and professional Nationals titles as well as winning Stage 8 at the 1988 Tour de France and numerous other races. It has not been held on this date since.

Nicole Cooke
Nicole Cooke at La Flèche Wallonne, 2010
(image credit: Les Meloures CC BY-SA 3.0)
Nicole Denise Cooke, born in Swansea, South Wales in this day in 1983, is one of the most successful British cyclists of all time and, arguably, the most successful Welsh cyclist in history. Cooke began to cycle competitively with the amateur Cardiff Ajax CC - of which she is still a member - when she was 11, and was successful right from the start. He first major win was the National Road Race Championship, at Elite level, in 1999 - as she was 16 at the time, she is the youngest rider to have ever won the title. Two years later, she became the youngest woman to win the British Elite Cyclo Cross Championship. In that same year, she won the World Junior titles in mountain bike, time trial and road race - a unique achievement.

Cooke turned professional in 2002 and won a third National Road Race Championship, then added a Commonwealth Games gold medal. She was National Champion again in 2003 and won the World Road Cup and the Amstel Gold Race as well as the bronze medal at the World Championships, then in 2004 she won her fifth National title and the Giro Donne. A sixth National title came a year later, and a seventh in 2006 along with the General Classification at the Tour de France Féminine, then the greatest women's race in the world.

All in all, Cooke has won 10 National Championships, making her the second most successful rider in the event after the legendary Beryl Burton with 12 victories. She won the World Junior Road Race twice and the World Elite once, the Tour de France Féminine twice; with a total of 68 victories to her name to date. 2010 and early 2011 were not good for Cooke and poor results a she struggled to recover from an illness led to much of the British cycling press (that small part of it that takes notice of women's cycling, at any rate) to write her off, declaring that her career was over.

Fifth place at the Waalse Pijl, sixth at the GP Elsy Jacobs, second in the National Road Race Champions, first place on Stage 5 at the Giro Donne and fourth at the World Championships in Copenhagen (leaving her the best-placed British woman) in 2011 suggested the press had been wrong and more good results in 2012 - Stage 5 victory and eighth place overall at the Energiewacht Tour, which was emerging as one of the most popular and prestigious events in women's cycling, gave fans hope that Cooke was finding form once again.

However, early in 2013 she announced her immediate retirement. "I am very happy with my career. I have many happy memories over what's been a life's work," she said, then went on to launch a scathing attack on doping, revealing that she had been offered drugs when racing her first Tour de France: "I was invited into a team camper and asked what 'medicines' I would like to take to help me and was reminded that the team had certain expectations of me during the race and I was not living up to them. I said I would do my best until I had to drop out of the race, but I was not taking anything." She also attacked the injustice that women's cycling, although doping is far less prevalent in it, suffers enormously from doping in men's cycling: "Every scandal on the men's side has caused sponsors to leave on the women's side. With such thin budgets, the losses have a greater relative impact on what survives."

Olaf Ludwig
Olaf Ludwig was born in Gera - then East Germany - on this day in 1960. He began riding with the snappily-named SG Dynamo Gera/ Sportvereinigung (SV) Dynamo whilst still a teenager, riding on the winning teams in two World Junior Team Time Trial Championships in the late 1970s, and remained an amateur until 1990 when the Reunification allowed him to sign a professional contract with Panasonic. A sprinter of considerable repute who by this time had won numerous stages at the Tour de l'Avenir, an Olympic gold medal, several National Amateur Championship titles and a record 38 stages at the Peace Race, it came as no great surprie when he won Stage 8 and the overall Points competition of the Tour de France in his inaugural professional year.

Olaf Ludwig
(image credit: Etixer CC BY-SA 3.0)
Like many sprinters, Ludwig suffered badly on the climbs and as such was never a contender for the General Classification of the Grand Tours or many of the other stage races, but in a flat race with a straight finish he often seemed unbeatable - so much so that comparisons are frequently made between him and Mark Cavendish, whose technique closely resembles that of Ludwig.

In 1991, Ludwig was ranked 9th in the world by the UCI, won Stage 7 at the Tour de Suisse, Stages 2 and 5 at the Tour of Ireland and stood on the podium of the Tour de France six times, this time coming 3rd in the Points competition. In 1992, he won Stages 5 and 10 at the Tour de Suisse and the World Road Race Championship, the Four Days of Dunkirk, the Dwars door Vlaanderen and Stage 21 at the Tour de France, this time coming 4th on Points. In 1993, he won Stage 13 at the Tour but abandoned after the next stage; then a year later he won Stage 4 at the Tour of Britain as his career began to wind down, victories coming fewer and further between before his retirement in 1996.

In retirement Ludwig was employed by Telekom, the team with whom he spent his last four professional seasons, as a public relations agent. Later, when the team became T-Mobile, he would become a manager but ended his association with the organisation in 2006.

Tadej Valjavec
Tadej Valjavec
(image credit: McSmit CC BY-SA 3.0)
Tadej Valjavec, born in Kranj on this day in 1977, won the Slovenian National Road Race Championships in 2003 and 2007 and has achieved consistently good results in a variety of races including 4th at the 2003 Tour de Romandie and 7th at the 2009 Tour de Suisse. His Grand Tour results have also been good, with 17th, 19th and 10th overall at the Tour de France between 2006 and 2008 and 9th, 15th and 34th overall at the Giro d'Italia from 2004 to 2006 (including, in 2004, 2nd place on the Queen Stage 14) and 13th and 8th in 2008 and 2009.

On the 4th of May 2010, the UCI announced that Valjavec was among a number of riders under investigation for suspicious blood values - usually an indication that a rider has been found to have an unusually high red blood cell population, indication of either undetected EPO use or blood transfusions rather than a failed anti-doping test. He strongly denied that he'd cheated and continues to do so, claiming that an illness he'd failed to report to the testers was the cause of the suspicious results. The Slovenian Federation found in favour and declined to charge him, also criticising the UCI's use of biological passports (a system that aims to keep an accurate record of a rider's test history). The UCI, meanwhile, disagreed and referred the case for appeal at the Court for Arbitration in Sport which subsequently over-ruled the Slovenian decision, found him guilty and banned him on the 22nd of May 2011, effective as of the 20th of January 2011, and disqualified his results between the 19th April and 30th of September 2009 - including the 8th place finish at the 2009 Giro, his best ever Grand Tour result.

Alex Steida, born in Belleville, Ontario on this day in 1961, became the first North American cyclist to lead the General Classification of the Tour de France in Stage 2, 1986. He was also leading the Mountains, Points and Youth Classifications. Unfortunately, the remainder of the race did not go his way and he finished in 120th place overall, then never entered again.

Juan Carlos Domínguez, born in Íscar, Spain on this day in 1971, won the General Classification, Mountains Classification and Stage 5 at the Vuelta a Murcia in 1997 and numerous Spanish races until 2007. That year, he recorded an unusually high haematocrit level of greater than 50% - evidence of possible EPO use or illegal blood transfuion - at the 2007 Eneco Tour of the Benelux and was banned for fifteen days.

(Copyright unknown)
Dino Bruni, born in Portomaggiore on this day in 1932, won a silver medal at the Olympic Games of 1952 and competed again in 1956. He won Stages 4 and 16 at the 1959 Tour de France - but, due to much poorer results on other stages (especially the mountain stages) was 64th overall with only Louis Bisilliat finishing after him - and Stage 21 in 1962, also Stages 1 and 17 at the 1960 Giro d'Italia.

Fabrizio Guidi, who was born in Pontedera, Italy on this day in 1972, won the Points competition at the 1996 Giro d'Italia, then one stage in 1999 and 2000. He also won three stages in the 1998 Vuelta a Espana and the overall Tour de la Région Wallonne in 2006 before retiring in 2007 with more than 40 professional victories to his name.

Other cyclists born on this day: Ian McGregor (USA, 1983); Ángel Vicioso Arcos (Spain, 1977); Geneviève Robic-Brunet (Canada, 1959); Anton Joksch (Germany, 1900); Peter Clausen (Denmark, 1964); Klaus Kynde Nielsen (Denmark, 1966); Christoph Sauser (Switzerland, 1976); Yves Landry (Canada, 1947); Óscar Giraldo (Colombia, 1973); Igor Dzyuba (Uzbekistan, 1972); Roman Kononenko (Ukraine, 1981); Stephen McGlede (Australia, 1969); Ed McRae (Canada, 1953).

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