Wednesday 18 December 2013

Daily Cycing Facts 18.12.2013

Lizzie Armitstead (image credit: johnthescone CC BY 2.0)
Lizzie Armitstead
Happy birthday to Lizzie Armitstead, the British track and road cyclist born in Otley on this day in 1988. Armitstead has built up such an impressive palmares that her youthful age comes as something of a surprise: already, she has won numerous one-day and stage races and achieved excellent results in a whole host of national and international championships.

Armitstead had no interest in competitive cycling until 2004, when her school was visited by the British Cycling Olympic Talent Team. Inspired, she obtained a bike and was spotted by the national federation's Olympic Podium Programme a short while later - by the following year, she had won the silver medal for the Junior Scratch race at the World Championships. In 2007 she signed to the Global Racing Team managed by legendary women's cycling directeur sportif Stef Wyman and won the Cheshire Classic, a brace of Belgian races and the Scratch at the Under-23 European Track Championships; then the following year with Halfords Bikehut she took three Belgian races, the Six Days of Amsterdam (with Alex Greenfield), the Under-23 European Scratch Championship and, riding with Katie Colclough and Joanna Rowsell, the U-23 European Team Pursuit Championship before going on to win three events at the Manchester round of the World Cup and two more in Melbourne.

2009 marked Armitstead's first move to a foreign team, Lotto-Belisol. That year, she became Elite National Points and Scratch Race Champion, was part of the victorious World Team Pursuit Championship squad and enjoyed her first big road racing success when she won Stage 6 (sharing the victory with Grace Verbeke) and finished third overall at the Tour de l'Ardèche - while she has continued to race on the track in subsequent years and has performed superbly with two silver medals at the World Championships in 2010 and gold for the Omnium at the Beijing round of the 2011 World Cup, she has gradually began to concentrate on road racing and it is in that discipline that she has found worldwide fame. In 2010 she won Stage 1 and was third in the overall Sprints and Youth classifications at the Tour de l'Aude,  finished the National Road Race Championship in second place, won Stage 6 and was fourth overall at the Route de France then returned to the Tour de l'Ardèch where she won Stages 3, 4 and 5 before finishing the season with ninth place in the World Road Race Championships and second in the Road Race at the Commonwealth Games. In 2011 she won Stage 1 at the Tour of Chongming Island, became National Road Race Champion, won Stage 7 at the Thüringen-Rundfahrt and was seventh at the World Road Race Championships.

Armitstead in 2012
That Armitstead had good form was evident to cycling fans early in the 2012 season when she was tenth at the difficult Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and she confirmed it with good stage finishes at the Emakumeen Saria, Emakumeen Bira, Giro Donne and Thüringen-Rundfahrt, leading to an expectation that she would also do well at the Olympics. She did not disappoint, taking an excellent second place when she recorded the same time as the unstoppable Marianne Vos, and by doing so became the subject of newspaper headlines that made her perhaps the best-known female cyclist in among the non-cycling public in Britain after Victoria Pendleton.

2013 would be a superb year with a series of excellent results at the season-openers and Classics (seventh at the Ronde van Drenthe, ninth at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, second at the Holland Hills) preceding the National Championships where she was second in the Individual Time Trial and won the Road Race. She took a series of good finishes at the Route de France and was sixth overall, then did the same at the Holland Ladies' Tour where she was third overall.

Janez Brajkovič
Janez Brajkovič, born in the Slovenian town Metlika on this day in 1983, became World Junior Time Trial Champion in 2004 which earned him a neo-pro contract with the Discovery Channel team despite the fact that, due to obligations to his previous team, he couldn't ride for them for the first half of his first professional year. In 2005, he won the World Time Trial Championship.

In 2007, Brajkovič won both the General Classification and the Youth Category at the Tour de Georgia and one year later the World Time Trial Championship, then the National Time Trial Championship in 2009. The next year, he won the Critérium du Dauphiné and entered the Tour de France for the first time, finishing in 43rd place. He was expected to do better at the Tour in 2011 but was forced to abandon following a crash in Stage 5, then recovered in time for the Vuelta a Espana where he finished consistently well and came 22nd overall. At the end of the season he announced that for 2012 he would be going to Astana, the team for which he'd ridden in 2007 and 2008; that year, he was seventh at the Critérium du Dauphiné and won the Tour of Slovenia, then returned to the Tour de France where he again finished consistently well including two eighth place stage finishes before coming ninth overall. He remained with Astana in 2013 and enjoyed a good start to the season but was again unable to finish the Tour; he later returned to the Vuelta and was 26th overall.

Brajkovič has confirmed that he will remain at Astana for 2014.

Choppy Warburton
Choppy with some of his cyclists. The very short one in
the middle is Jimmy Michael, the others appear to be the
Linton brothers (Arthur in the fleur-de-lys jersey?)
James Edward "Choppy" Warburton, who died on this day in 1897, was perhaps the first soigneur in cycling - and may have been the first to introduce the sort of nefarious activities that would culminate in cycling's great doping affairs of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries - from the death of Tom Simpson to the Festina Affair and from Operacion Puerto to the fall of Lance Armstrong.

Choppy was born on the 13th of November 1845 in Coal Hey, Lancashire and inherited his nickname from his father, a sailor who when asked how the conditions on his latest voyage had been would always reply "choppy." He came to note as a runner, turning professional at the late age of 34 (sports at that time being the pursuit of wealthy gentlemen, which Choppy - raised single-handed by his mother after his father died - was not) and went to the USA in 1880 where he won 80 races.

Anti-doping tests of those times were non-existent, so the sport relied on athletes and trainers being caught red-handed. Choppy never was and neither were any of the cyclists he trained, but there is some apparent evidence against him. A writer named Rudiger Rabenstein stated that Choppy's star rider Arthur Linton was "massively doped" during the 1896 Bordeaux-Paris race, and biography of the cyclist written after his death by an anonymous author who claimed to have known him well agreed. Also, Choppy's cyclists seem to have had a tendency to die young - very young, in some cases. Linton was only 24, his death being recorded variously as typhoid or strychnine poisoning (strychnine in small doses acts as a stimulant) and, eventually, considered the first doping-related death in any sport. Arthur's younger brother, also a cyclist, was 39 when he died, the cause once again being recorded as typhoid. Jimmy Michael, the Welsh-born 1895 World Champion, was also in Choppy's care, was 28 when he died in mysterious circumstances. No link to any form of doping, administered by the soigneur or otherwise, was ever proved (nor has been since) and at least one modern researcher has concluded that the deaths were in fact down to typhoid; but suspicions were sufficiently high for him to be banned from working in any capacity within professional cycling.

Vélodrome Buffalo by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
On the bike - Jimmy Michael; with hat and greatcoat - sports
journalist Frantz Reichel; bending over to look in bag: the
notorious Choppy Warburton.
He died in Wood Green, Haringey, North London. Choppy appears in a sketch made by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in preparation for an advertising poster commissioned by Jimmy Michael's sponsor Simpson Chains and which also features the rider. The sketch, of which Toulouse-Lautrec made and sold many lithograph copies, is still popular and frequently reproduced to this day.

Canadian Michael Barry, born in Toronto on this day in 1975, won the 1997 National Under-23 Road Race Championship. He has also won stages at the Volta a Catalunya, Vuelta a Espana, Österreich-Rundfahrt (where he also won the Points classification), Tour de Romandie and Tour of Missouri.

Other cyclists born on this day: Guglielmo Pesenti (Italy, 1933, died 2002); Brian Walton (Canada, 1965); Agustín Alcántara (Mexico, 1946, died 1979); Ruslan Ivanov (Moldova, 1973); Bechir Mardassi (Tunisia, 1929); Henri Duez (France, 1937); Benny Schnoor (Denmark, 1922); Algot Lönn (Sweden, 1887, died 1953); Narihiro Inamura (Japan, 1971); Claus Martínez (Bolivia, 1975); José Andrés Brenes (Costa Rica, 1964); Nelson Mario Pons (Ecuador, 1967); Raymond Reaux (France, 1940); Jiří Háva (Czechoslovakia, 1944); Mitsugi Sarudate (Japan, 1962); Hong Seok-Han (South Korea, 1975); Adan Juárez (Mexico, 1969); Takafumi Matsuda (Japan, 1951); Iván Álvarez (Spain, 1981).

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