Sunday 28 July 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 28.07.2013

Théodore Vienne
Théodore Vienne
Born in Roubaix on this day in 1864, Théodore Vienne was an amateur cyclist himelf, but he is primarily remembered as one of the men who established a race that has become perhaps the most famous in the world after the Tour de France - Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North. Having become fabulously wealthy through his textile factories, he became involved in sports promotion (and of events that are sometimes mistaken for sport, such as bull-fighting; he built Roubaix's torodrome and, on Bastille Day 1899, promoted a fight between a lion and a bull - which, pleasingly, descended into farce when the two animals refused to fight) after offering the grounds of one his factories to a bike race organised by the town's socialist-collectivist mayor Henri Carette, who saw sporting events as a way to improve the lives of the populace; it was such a success that Vienne recruited business associate and fellow amateur cyclist Maurice Perez and built a velodrome on a 46,000 square metre site. Among the many famous riders to compete there was "Major" Marshall Taylor, who made his first appearance before a wildly supportive French crowd at a time when he was banned from many velodromes at home in the USA because he was black.

The velodrome was enormously successful but, being entrepreneurs, Vienne and Perez wanted more. They soon hit upon the idea of holding a road race from Paris - where all the big races of the day began - to Roubaix, but this came with a problem: Roubaix had grown dramatically from 8,500 inhabitants in 1800 to more than 125,000 by 1890, but it remained a provincial industrial town, little known throughout the rest of the country and very much lacking the glamour of the capital. They also felt that they lacked the experience to organise both the start and end of the race, but realised that their event would immediately become more famous if it could be associated with an established race; so they contacted Louis Minart, editor of Le Vélo, suggesting that his newspaper might like to become involved with the race and enjoy a sales boost like that experienced by Véloce Sport through its Bordeaux-Paris. Minart was immediately keen but explained that the decision to back the race rested with the paper's director Paul Rousseau; he was, apparently, not entirely convinced that Rousseau would be convinced because Vienne and Perez changed their sales pitch, emphasising an idea that their race could be run as a preparation for Bordeaux-Paris. "The distance between Paris and Roubaix is roughly 280km, so it would be child's play for the future participants of Bordeaux–Paris," they told him, also mentioning that they had already arranged a prize of 1,000 francs.

Arenberg didn't feature in Paris-Roubaix until 1968; however,
as roads were built like this in those days, Breyer probably
experienced many similar cobbles on his way to Roubaix
Rousseau was as favourable as Minart and sent his cycling editor Victor Breyer with a driver to reconnoitre a route; Breyer went as far as Amiens by car, then continued by bike. As has happened so many times in the race's future history, the weather turned unpleasant and he arrived at Roubaix  covered in mud and soaked through after a painful day on the treacherous cobbles that would later give the race its unique character. At first, he planned to send a telegram to Minart advising him that the roads to Roubaix were simply too hard, too dangerous for the race to go ahead; fortunately, once he'd had a bath, a hot meal and some good wine, he realised what a spectacle it could be (Breyer, incidentally, must have had a sadistic streak - it was he who, in 1910, persuaded Henri Desgrange to include the Tourmalet in the Tour de France) and the race went ahead on the 19th of April, 1896. More than half the riders that applied to take part didn't show up; among those that did were Desgrange, who failed to finish, and Maurice Garin - who did finish and would win the first ever Tour de France seven years later. The winner, Josef Fischer, remains the only German victor.

Vienne died on the 1st of March 1921. His race still takes place each year, whereas Bordeaux-Paris has not been held since 1988.

Julia Shaw
Julia Shaw, born in The Wirral, Great Britain on this day in 1965, took part in no sport after she left school and no longer had to do physical education lessons - in fact, it wasn't until she'd graduated from university and begun working that she began to take an interest, inspired by a triathlete colleague. She says that it was the friendliness of the other triathletes she met that kept her interested, but it would be another ten years before she began to take a serious interest in cycling. By that time, she was already in her thirties.

Fortunately, female athletes retain their ability to perform well in endurance sports for longer than their male counterparts, hence the relatively high numbers of riders in the late 30s in women's cycling when compared to the men's sport. Shaw was no different - she won the Best British All-Rounder competition in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010; only the legendary Beryl Burton has won it more times. She also won the Beryl Burton Champion of Champions Trophy for four consecutive years between 2007 and 2010, and she was National Time Trial Champion in 2005 (and third in 2009, then second in 2010 and 2011). Still racing at the age of 47, she came fifth behind Wendy Houvenaghel, Olga Zabelinskaia, Hanka Kupfernagel and Pia Sundstedt at the 2012 Celtic Chrono in Ireland.

Shaw was not considered for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, but was selected for the 2010 Games after her second place at the Time Trial Nationals and won a bronze medal, finishing 10" behind Tara Whitten and 5" behind Linda Villumsen. Shaw's 2010 50-mile British TT record, 1h46'49", still stands; as does her 100-mile record of 3h45'22" from the same year. She also holds a degree and master's degree in physics and is involved in fibre optic research science.

Rik van Linden, born in Wilrijk on this day in 1949, won the Belgian Junior Road Race Championship in 1968, the Under-23 Ronde van Vlaanderen in 1969, Paris-Tours in 1971 and 1973 and Milano-Torino in 1977. He also rode well in stages races, including the Grand Tours - he won Stage 2 and second place in the Points competition at the 1972 Tour de France, Stages 7 and 17 at the 1973 Giro d'Italia, Stage 5 at the 1975 Giro, Stages 1b, 19, 21 and first place in the Points competition at the 1975 Tour, Stages 3 and 15 at the 1976 Giro, Stage 2 at the 1977 Giro and  Stages 1, 5 and 6 at the 1978 Giro.

Iker Flores
Born in Galdakao, Euskadi on this day in 1976, Iker Flores turned professional with Euskaltel-Euskadi in 1999, then won the Tour de l'Avenir in his second year with the team. Flores was a rider who spent his entire career on the verge of becoming great, coming 18th overall at the Vuelta a Espana in 2003 and finishing Stage 7 at the 2004 Tour de France in second place, but somehow never quite found the little extra he needed to break through. Finally, Euskaltel let him go; he spent his last professional season with ProContinental Fuerteventura-Canarias, then retired in 2007. Flores was Lanterne Rouge at the Tour in 2005 - as was his older brother brother Igor three years earlier.

Vasil Kiryienka, born in Rechytsa, Belarus (then USSR) on this day in 1981, was National Time Trial Champion in 2002, 2005 and 2006. He also won the Points competition at the Critérium International in 2011 and was second overall, then came sixth overall at the same event in 2012.

Chepe González, born in Sogamoso, Colombia on this day in 1968, won Stage 11 at the Tour de France in 1996, Stage 20 and the King of the Mountains at the Giro d'Italia in 1997 and Stage 5 and a second King of the Mountains at the Giro in 1999.

Walter Bénéteau, born in Les Essarts on this day in 1972, competed in and finished every Tour de France between 2000 and 2006. His best result was 42nd, in 2001.

Jeanne Deley, long-term partner of Tour de France director Henri Desgrange following his divorce, was born in Creusot on this day in 1878. Deley was a rather bohemian artist, known for the spirited parties she held at their villa and to which she invited cyclists, artists, actors, eccentrics and - most exotic of all - Americans; Desgrange seems not to have disapproved, an interesting contrast to the stern, pompous character he is usually portrayed as having been.

Cyclists born on this day: Maurice Moucheraud (France, 1933); Will Davis (France, 1877); Constantin Ciocan (Romania, 1943); Jan Bo Petersen (Denmark, 1970); Joe Waugh (Great Britain, 1952); František Kundert (Bohemia, now Czech Republic, 1891); Donald Eagle (New Zealand, 1936); Yvonne Schnorf (Switzerland, 1965); Viktor Manakov (USSR, 1960); Norbert Kostel (Austria, 1966); Baba Ganz (Switzerland, 1964); Adrian Prosser (Canada, 1956); Franco Gandini (Italy, 1936).

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