Tuesday 27 August 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 27.08.2013

Sylvère Maes
Sylvère Maes
Born in Zevekote, Belgium on this day in 1909 (he was the tenth child in his family - and was not the younger brother of Romain Maes, as many people believe), Sylvère Maes is most famous for winning the Tour de France in 1936 and 1939, abandoning the Tour and taking the entire Belgian team with him in 1937 as a protest against French fans and race officials - and thus becoming the first rider (and one of only two) to have abandoned the Tour through his own free will while wearing the maillot jaune.

Maes began cycling during his boyhood and won his first race in 1928 before rapidly becoming known as one of the best young amateurs in Belgium, yet he didn't turn professional until 1933 when he signed up to Alcyon-Dunlop. Incredibly for a neo-pro, he won Paris-Roubaix that year; no doubt benefiting on the race's notoriously difficult parcours from the same cyclo cross skills that had won him the Critérium International de Cyclo Cross earlier than same season. The year after that he won Stage 23 at the Tour and was eighth overall, then in 1935 (the year that Romain Maes won) he won Stage 15, was second on two others, third on another, took fourth place overall and second in the King of the Mountains, having been the fastest man up the Tourmalet.

1936 was the first Tour in which teams from the Netherlands, Romania and Yugoslavia took part - there had also been a team made up of Italians resident in France but, very shortly before the race was due to begin, it was decided that they would not be permitted to take part; it was also the last year that Henri Desgrange served as Directeur - he had undergone prostate surgery a few weeks before the race and was due to have another one afterwards, but convinced his reluctant surgeon to agree to him attending in a car padded out with cushions and with a doctor in attendance. At that time, many roads outside of the centre of Paris were primitive, at best cobbled and at worst, unsurfaced tracks full of potholes and gulleys (in rural areas, they would remain as such until the Tour became televised, at which point local mayors began to find the money to modernise them so that the world wouldn't think their communities backward) and even in the first stage it became apparent that he wouldn't be able to continue. He then attempted to continue through Stage 2, with a fever and in great pain, but was forced to give up and announced his retirment later that day, at which point Jacques Goddet took over. The day before, Paul Egli had defeated torrential rain to win the first stage, becoming the first Swiss rider to have ever led the Tour; after that the first week was uneventful until Stage 7 when Theo Middelkamp became the first ever Dutch rider to win a stage - prior to this Tour, he had never left the Netherlands and Ballon d'Alsace in Stage 4 was the first mountain he'd ever seen. During Stage 7, Romain Maes abandoned with bronchitis; 1930 winner Georges Speicher also left a short while later. Maurice Archambaud took the maillot jaune in Stage 4 but, with the race still at an early point, could not defend it for long and it passed to Sylvère Maes in Stage 8. French team leader Antonin Magne had expected Maes to beat him in the Stage 13b and 14b individual time trials, but he lost a lot more time that he'd bargained for - after 13a he was 3'49" behind overall, after 14b the gap had risen to 8'90". He tried to attack in the mountains in an affort to win it back, but Maes was better than expected there as well: Magne moved into second place overall from third in Stage 16 but by the end of Stage 17 he was 26'13" behind. Belgium would also win the two remaining team time trials so, by the end of the race, Maes' lead was 26'55".

Maes (black jersey) at a level crossing, 1937
The 1937 Tour, in which Bill Burls and Charles Holland became the first British riders to enter (riding for a British Empire team with Canadian Pierre Gachon) and Gino Bartali made his debut, became a battle between Maes and the Frenchman Roger Lapébie, who was one of the few riders on a bike equipped with a derailleur (Goddet started to modernise the Tour as soon as he was able to do so; one of the first moves he made towards this goal was to allow derailleur gears, which had been banned since 1912 by his predecessor Henri Desgrange). Maes had led since Stage 9 and, at the start of Stage 15, had an advantage of 2'18"; that morning, Lapébie had become the victim of sabotage when his handlebars were partially sawn through - many French fans believed that this was the work of the Belgian team (others said it was probably Belgian fans, and they may well have been right). He managed to bodge a repair, but his bike hadn't been fitted with a bidon cage and he came very close to giving up in that stage until a team mate persuaded him to continue; later in the race he attacked when Maes punctured and was able to take second place and won a 45" time bonus, but then lost it when officials found he'd been pushed by spectators and penalised him 90". The Belgians thought that be should have been punished more severely, but the French team threatened to leave en masse if this happened and no further action was taken. The following day, Maes punctured again and was helped back into the lead by Adolf Braeckeveldt and Gustaaf Deloor - both were Belgian, but they were touriste-routiers rather than part of the Belgian team; their assistance, therefore, should not have fallen foul of the law that riders could not be helped by members of their own team. Nevertheless, Maes was penalised 15". Earlier in the stage, the gate at a railway crossing had been lowered right after Lapébie had gone through and just as Maes was about to follow him. The Belgian team believed this had been done deliberately and, adding a complaint that the French fans threw stones at them, they left the race. Lapébie was now without a serious rival and won the race without challenge. Due to a rule stating that the Mountains classification ended with the last mountain in the race (which had been the Aubisque, in Stage 15) rather than with the last stage, Maes was still declared third place in the King of the Mountains. Félicien Vervaecke, who was first, had also failed to finish the race.

1938 started off very well with second place finishes at La Flèche Wallonne, the Waalse Pijl and the Ronde van Vlaanderen but, when he got to the Tour, it very quickly became obvious that he'd peaked too early and he was replaced as team leader by Vervaecke before eventually coming 14th overall. He apparently then went home and rethought his training regime, because he had far better form when he showed up in 1939 to take part in a race that looked very different to previous years with the route being directed well away from the border with Germany, who had not sent a team. Nor had Italy, and the French team was their weakest in years - André Leducq had retired a year earlier; his most obvious replacements were Georges Speicher, Antonin Magne and Roger Lapébie, but none of them were taking part. The Belgians, therefore, were favourite. René Vietto became leader after escaping with a group of eight during Stage 4; seemingly an unusual move for a climber as he'd have a hard job defending it on the plain stages to come - his overall advantage remained 6" all the way to the Stage 8b time trial. In that stage he beat the majority of his rivals, increasing his advantage to 58", but the next day Edward Vissers attacked and got away from the peloton. A chase group - including Vietto - went after him, but he crossed the line 4'04" ahead of them; meanwhile Maes (who apparently had no interest in catching Vissers, as they were on the same team) had tagged along with the chase group, seeing it as a good way of getting himself to the finish faster than the majority of the pack. As the line approached he sprinted past and took second place, thus jumping into second place overall with a 2'57" disadvantage to Vietto. This situation remained the same after Stage 10a, but the gap then increased to 3'19" after the Stage 10b individual time trial; this time it remained the same until Stage 12b when Maes came second, recording an equal time to stage winner Maurice Archambaud, while Vietto was sixth and 1'30" down - Maes' disadvantage was slashed to 1'49".

Maes in Izoard, 1939
Little changed for a few days, but gradually it became clear that the race had reached the cycling equivalent of a Mexican stand-off: Vietto was purely a clumber, Maes was thought to be better on the flat - and there were three mountain stages, three plain stages, one mountain time trial and one plain time trial left. In general, it's easier for a climber to win time in the mountains than it is for a rider who prefers the flat terrain of the plain stages, so it was widely believed that Vietto would probably win the Tour in the Alps. Things did not go according to plan - Vissers led over the Allos and Vars; then, as has happened so many times in Tour history, Izoard resorted the leadership according to its own liking. Maes attacked and easily outclassed Vietto, who found himself completely unable to respond; by the end of the stage, the Frenchman was in second place overall with his 1'49" advantage transformed into a 17'12" disadvantage. In the Stage 16b mountain time trial on Iseran, Maes won again, this time by 9'48" to increase his lead to 27' - and the only way Vietto could have won after that would be if Maes abandoned. He did not, and even added more time over the remainder of the race; at the end of the final stage the Belgian's advantage was 30'38", the largest winning margin for ten years, and he had also won the King of the Mountains.

Maes may have won a third Tour, but 1939 would be the last until after the Second World War. He was selected for the Belgian team in 1947 after taking fifth place overall at that year' Giro d'Italia and, as winner of the previous edition, would have worn the maillot jaune in the first stage; but he decided not to take part just a few days before it was due to begin. He continued racing into 1948 but never won another race, then retired from riding and became manager of the Belgian team until 1957. Afterwards, he bought a bar, renamed it Le Tourmalet and ran it for the next nine years until his death from cancer on the 5th of December, 1966.

Charlie Davey at Herne Hill
Charlie Davey
Born in Croydon on this day in either 1886 or 1887, Charlie Davey competed in soccer and field athletics until he was 17, when his brothers convinced him to have a go at a grass track event they were racing. He won five prizes.

In 1906, he founded the Addiscombe CC (which is still in operation) and won his first road race, a 50-mile time trial; four years later he joined the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletics Club, finishing the Anerley 12-hour in third place with them in 1911. This won him a place at the 1912 Olympics where he took part in the road race, run as a 318km time trial and became something of a farce as it took place on open roads and times were inaccurately recorded; in fact, cycling in general was rather farcical in those Games - the Swedish committee responsible for organising the event had decided not to include track cycling and, when several competing countries requested it be added, revealed that Stockholm's only velodrome had been demolished to make room for the new Olympic stadium). Team sizes were limited to twelve, but Great Britain had three teams representing Scotland, England and Ireland, who then competed together as a team of 33 (this tactic had been controversial for some time and had been the reason that the UCI was established in April 1900) but organisers hadn't expected as many nations to take part as eventually did and the race had to begin at 2am so that the 123 riders (151 had signed up) to start could be sent off in groups. This gave the early riders, who benefited from cool, calm conditions, a huge advantage; Rudolf Lewis of South Africa was second to go and recorded the fastest time while Britain's Freddie Grubb took second place. The times of the first four riders from each nation were then combined to decide the outcome of the team time trial, which in Britain's case - Grubb, Leon Meredith, John Wilson and Charles Moss - won them the silver, hence Davey got his share of victory despite failing to score.

Davey (running) coaching Tommy Godwin
Davey enlisted as an officer in the Royal Navy Air Service during the First World War and was stationed on Orkney, where he served alongside Robert Bamford who had set up Aston Martin in 1913. He returned to cycling after the conflict ended and was selected as a reserve for the 1920 Olympics, waiting at Harwich until all the athletes were on the ferry to know that he wasn't needed before traveling directly to the Anerley 12-hour where he bettered his 1911 finish with second place. The following year, he took part in the World Championships (held that year in Shropshire and organised, like the 1912 Olympics road race, as a time trial) and came third, contributing to Britain's gold medal as best team (Dave Marsh, born in Poplar, London in 1894, took first place); then in 1923 - 17 years after he won his first race and at the age of 36, he turned professional for New Hudson (run by the bike manufacturer of the same name). During the next four years he came sixth at the Bol d'Or 24-hour endurance race, and set new records for Land's End to London (beating the previous time by a little under two hours) and the greatest distance covered in 24 hours (646.95km); in his fortieth year he set new records for London-Portsmouth-London and London-Bath-London. He retired a short while later, then began managing and coaching younger riders to assist them in their own record attempts, including those who wanted to beat his. Davey died on the 7th of October in 1964.

Archie Craig
Archie Craig, who was born in Corstophine (then a village, now a part of Edinburgh) on this day in 1912, was given a bike by an uncle in Glasgow when he was 11 - and his first ride on it was the 80km distance  back home. Ten years later, by which time he had joined the Lothian CC and already made an impact in races, he set a new record time of 4h15' riding the same route in the other direction and back again; the numerous records and awards (including one for setting the highest average speed - 33.455kph - during the year-long Best British All-rounder competition of 1937) earned him the nickname "The Lothian Flyer." Craig died on the 18th of July 2000.

Alessandra Cappellotto, born Sarcedo, Italy on this day in 1968, was second in the Giro Donne, Giro del Trentino Alto Adige-Südtirol and Masters Féminin as well as seventh in the Road Race at the Olympics in 1996; second and the Emakumeen Bira and won the Thüringen-Rundfahrt der Frauen and World Road Race Championship in 1997; third overall at the Tour de France Féminin in 1998; second overall after winning Stages 9 and 11 at the Giro Donne in 2000 and won the National Road Race Championship in 2003.

Damien Monier, born in Clermont-Ferrand, France on this day in 1982, won the Under-23 National Track Championships Pursuit race in 2003 and the same event at Elite level two years later and again in 2008. He also competes in road races for Cofidis and won Stage 17 at the Giro d'Italia in 2010.

Alphonse Schepers
Alphonse Schepers (also spelled Alfons), born in Neerlinter, Belgium on this day in 1907, won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 1929, 1931 and 1935 - and thus equaled the record set by Léon Houa in 1894. Nobody else would win three until Fred de Bruyne in 1959; nobody bettered it until Eddy Merckx won his fourth in 1973 (Merckx won a record fifth two years later, Moreno Argentin has since also beaten Schepers with a fourth in 1991). He also won the National Road Race Championship in 1931; the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the first ever Paris-Nice and Stage 3, third place in the King of the Mountains and 18th overall at the Tour de France in 1933 and Stages 11, 12, 17 and seventh place overall at the Vuelta a Espana in 1936.

Edward Sels, born in Vorselaar, Belgium on this day in 1941, won the National Military Championship in 1961 and the Under-23 Ronde van Vlaanderen in 1962 then turned professional with Libertas later that year. He moved to Faema-Flandria for the following season and changed teams almost annually until his retirement in 1972; in the intervening years he won Stage 1a at the Vuelta a Espana, Stages 1 and 9 at Paris-Nice, Stages 1, 11, 14 and 19 plus second place in the Points competion at the Tour de France and the National Championships in 1964; second place at Paris-Roubaix, first place at Paris-Brussels and Stage 7 at the Tour in 1965; the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Stages 6 and 22a at the Tour in 1966; Stage 4 at the Giro d'Italia in 1968; Stage 6 at the Vuelta a Espana in 1969 and total of 82 other victories. His two younger siblings Rosa and Karel were also professional cyclists.

Megan Dunn, who was born in Dubbo, Australia on this day in 1991, began cycling at the age of three and competing at the age of six. When she was fourteen, she won the Under-15Time Trial, Sprint, Individual Pursuit and Scratch at the National Track Championships and then at sixteen she became the youngest ever rider to win the Bay Classics, also winning the Points and Scratch races at the World Junior Championships. Now holder of a scholarship at the Institute of Sports, National Team coach Gary Sutton has declared her to be "the future of women's cycling."

Other cyclists born on this day: Serena Sheridan (New Zealand, 1980); Alexandre Usov (USSR/Belarus, 1977); Benoît Poilvet (France, 1976); Jean-Cyril Robin (France, 1969); Gianni Vignaduzzi (Canada, 1966); Li Wenkai (China, 1969); José Alberto Sochón (Guatemala, 1980); Andrés Jiménez (Colombia, 1986); Zhang Junying (China, 1977); Simon van Poelgeest (Netherlands, 1900, died 1978); Giddeon Massie (USA, 1981); Roland Garber (Austria, 1972); Achim Stadler (West Germany, 1961); Olivia Gollan (Australia, 1973); Jiří Škoda (Czechoslovakia, 1956).

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