Sunday 24 November 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 24.11.2013

Happy birthday to Thomas Ziegler, born on this day in 1980 in Arnstadt. The German professional announced his retirement from racing when he was just 27 and opened a bike shop in Hanover.

Luis León Sánchez
(image credit: Astana-Würth)
Luis León Sánchez Gil
Luis León Sánchez, who born in Mula, Spain, on this day in 1983, began his career with Liberty Seguros-Würth and immediately demonstrated ability in time trials. In recent years, he has also developed his climbing ability, enabling him to ride well in hilly races such as Stage 9 of the 2011 Tour de France. He rose to international prominence when he won the General Classification and young riders' competition at the Tour Down Under in 2005, a race at which he came 2nd overall in 2006, winning the Youth classification at Paris-Nice too.

In 2008, he became Spanish National Time Trial Champion for the first time. He would lose the title the following year, but then regained it in 2010 and 2011. He won his first stage at the Tour de France in 2009 while racing with Caisse d'Epargne - the mountainous Stage 8 which included the highest paved road in the Pyrenees, the 2,400m Port d'Envalira. He would then confirm his status as a force to be reckoned with in Grand Tours by finishing the Vuelta a Espana in 10th place overall and the Tour in 11th the following season. Now with Rabobank, he finished the 2011 Tour of Beijing in 6th place - his Grand Tour final results, however, were not so impressive, with 53rd in the Vuelta and, despite the Stage 9 victory, 57th in the Tour. In 2012, Sánchez was selected to compete for Spain at the Olympic Games and was expected to do well in the Individual Time Trial; however, fortune was not on his side - his chain came off at the brginning of the race as he descended that start ramp, then a second mechanical problem later on ruined any chances he'd had of making up time. He was luckier later in the season with a well-earned and spectacular victory at the Clásica de San Sebastián following a solo breakaway in the final few kilometres.

In 2012, Rabobank decided in the wake of Lance Armstrong's exposure as - and, eventually, admission that he was - a drugs cheat that it no longer wished to be associated with professional cycling (following some consideration and more than a little persuasion by Marianne Vos, who the bank wanted to continue sponsoring, it decided it would continue to support its women's team), but agreed to honour contracts and pay salaries until the end of the season. Thus, the Rabobank team became Blanco until new sponsor Belkin took over. Sánchez remained, but in February 2013 the team's managers announced that Sánchez had been suspended pending an investigation into links between him and Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, the Spanish doctor whose clinic had been found to contain a large amount of EPO, human growth hormone, various steroids and no fewer than 186 bags of blood, each bearing a coded name, thus sparking off Operacion Puerto - the second international scandal to hit cycling in less than a decade (it should be remembered, though, that not all of the blood belonged to cyclists. Fuentes says that if he named names, Spain would be stripped of its 2010 football World Cup, and that he also worked with tennis players. The team did not say how long the investigation would take, only that the rider was suspended "indefinitely." He was back just weeks later, the investigation having apparently found no evidence against him; returning to competition, he won Stage 5 and came second overall at the Ronde van Belgie, took a silver for the individual time trial and a bronze for the road race at the Nationals and won Stage 3 and finished second overall at the Tour de l'Ain. However, the earlier investigation had not found evidence to clear him of all suspicion - in October, the team announced that his contract would not be renewed for 2014 due to new allegations connecting him to Puerto, and as of his birthday in 2013 he does not have a new contract elsewhere.

León is not his given middle name. He adopted it, at first in honour of his grandfather and later for his brother (also a cyclist, and winner of a silver medal for the road race at the Junior National Championships of 1999) who died in a motorcycle accident. He has one older and one younger brother, both footballers - the younger once played professionally with Rea
l Madrid.

Zimmerman may have been
a little free in what
he  considered "amateur,"
but he was by all accounts
a superb rider and won
more than 1000 races
during his career
The International Cycling Association
On this day in 1892, representatives from Great Britain, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, the USA, Germany, France and Denmark met at the Agricultural Hall in Islington, London, and formed the International Cycling Association - the world's very first cycle racing regulatory body. The meeting had been organised by one Henry Sturmey (who would later join forces with James Archer and begin producing the famous hub gears) in an effort to produce a definition of the term "amateur" which had been widely abused, especially by cyclists traveling from and to overseas - with especial attention paid to one Arthur Augustus Zimmerman, who would become the first ever World Champion the following year and is sometimes called cycling's first superstar. The meeting decided that the the house, furniture, "enough silver plates, medals and jewellery to stock a jewellery store," land, numerous horses and carriages, six pianos and 29 bikes that he had won in races, along with - most crucially - money paid to him by Raleigh in return for appearing in their adverts, was stretching the previous definition of the term somewhat and forced him to declare himself a professional rider. The ICA was effective for just eight years until 1900, when the Union Cycliste Internationale - cycling's governing body to this day - took over due to other nations' disatisfaction at Great Britain entering separate teams for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland and then claiming all medals they won for Great Britain (as a result of this, Britain was not permitted to join the new organisation for some years).

Peter Drobach, 1890-1947
Today is the anniversary of the death of American track cyclist Peter Drobach who died in 1947, the day after his 57th birthday. Drobach specialised in six-day races, winning the Six Days of Buffalo (1910 and 1913), Newark and Indianapolis (both 1913).

On this day in 2007 Sarah Ulmer - the first New Zealand cyclist to win an Olympic gold medal and holder of several world cycling records, formally announced her retirement.

Guido Trentin, now retired, was born on this day in Grandate, Italy, in 1975. Trentin was never really a Grand Tour General Classification contender but could hold his own in the peloton, winning Stage 5 at the 2002 Vuelta a Espana and two more at the 2006 Trofeú Joaquim Agostinho and Tour de Wallonie.

John Wilson, a Scottish rider who represented his country at the 1912 Olympics when England, Scotland and Wales competed as separate nations (see the section on the International Cycling Association, above), died on this day in 1957. He was 81.

On this day in 2011, Martin Reimer - a German rider born the 14th of June in 1987 - announced his retirement. Just 24 at the time, he'd been National Champion and come 3rd overall at the Tour of Britain in 2009 but had not experienced much success afterwards, his best result since then being 2nd in Stage 2 of the 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné.

Other births: Federico Cortés (Argentina, 1937); Carl Sundquist (USA, 1961); Brian Sandy (Great Britain, 1932); Miguel Martorell (Spain, 1937); Heinrich Schiebel (Austria, 1926); Ian Hallam (Great Britain, 1948).

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