Sunday 8 December 2013

Daily Cycling Facts 08.12.2013

Jeff Louder
(image credit: Fanny Schertzer CC BY-SA 3.0)
Happy birthday to BMC's Jeff Louder, winner of a Redlands Bicycle Classic and a Tour of Utah (his home state). He was born in Salt Lake City on this day in 1977.

Frits Pirard, who was born on this day in Breda, Netherlands in 1954, won the GP Ouest-France, Stage 2 of the Critérium du Dauphiné and his National 50km Track Championship in 1979; Stage 1 at the Tour de France in 1983 and the National Track Points Championship in 1986.

Spanish rider Manuel Domínguez, born in Barredos on this day in 1962, won Stage 7 at the 1987 Tour de France

Paul Brydon, born in Christchurch, New Zealand on this day in 1951, won a bronxe medal for the 4000m Team Pursuit at the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

Hernandes Quadri Júnior won the Volta Ciclistica Internacional de Santa Catarina in 1992 and 1995, then the Brazilian Road Race Championship in 2003. He was born in Santo Antônio de Platina on this day in 1967.

Ignatas Konovalovas, who was born in Panevėžys, Lithuania on this day in 1985, was National Time Trial Champion in 2006, 2008 and 2009. In 2008 he also won Stage 2 at the Tour of Luxembourg and was entered for the Giro d'Italia the next year where he won Stage 21 with the Cervelo Test Team. He rode the Giro again in 2010, coming 6th in Stage 21. Making his Tour de France debut later in the year, he came 4th on Stage 19. With the demise of the Test Team he moved onto the Basque Movistar team for 2011, but had a less successful year.

Charly Gaul
Gaul leading the Nelux team, 1958
"The Angel of the Mountains" Charly Gaul, a rider known for breaking away from the peloton to climb the steepest mountains of the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia alone, was born on this day in  Pfaffenthal, Luxembourg in 1932.

Gaul was National Road Champion of Luxembourg six times and National Cyclo Cross Champion twice. He won the Giro twice (1956 and 1959), also winning the King of the Mountains classification on each occasion and the Tour de France in 1958, in addition to the Tour King of the Mountains in 1955 and 1956. He was also the man who first invented the fine art of urinating on the move, developing it after Louison Bobet and Gastone Nencini attacked during a Giro d'Italia "comfort break" rather than waiting for everyone to rejoin the race as is the tradition. Although popular among fans, Gaul was admired rather than liked by other riders - rarely spoke and would perhaps best be described as mood; he was not a man to take insult lightly (those who knew him recall his tremendous ego), and Bobet must have been unsettled when the Luxembourgish rider told him, "I will get my revenge. I will kill you. Remember I was a butcher. I know how to use a knife."

Gaul was a rider who detested the heat of Southern Europe, meaning that his Giro wins were largely down to a combination of his climbing and his ability to keep going in conditions so cold that others could not function. This was especially true at the 1956 Giro when a blizzard struck on Monte Bondone, forcing 46 out of 89 starters to drop out. Gaul, however, kept going, seemingly impervious to the weather and was soon far ahead. At one point, organisers sent out in a car to find him discovered him in an appalling state at a roadside bar where they had to tear off his soaked jersey and rub him down with warm water to restore him to a fully conscious state. Then, he set off once more. A reporter for VeloNews saw him cross the finish line and later wrote, "His face a wrinkled mess, his hands and feet turned blue, Gaul took the pink jersey, and won the Giro two days later by 3m27s over Magni. The young Luxembourger had etched his name into the annals of not only cycling, but all sports with one of the courageous and remarkable upsets in modern times."

That Gaul doped, especially during hot stages when he suffered, is a given - after all, he rode at a time when doping was carried out by most, in the pre-Simpson days when professional cycling had not yet admitted that there was a problem that needed to be dealt with. Yet even though drugs were prevalent, his use of them achieved near-legendary status and although he was famed for his impassive expressions as he glided up a mountain that had others grimacing in agony, he was sometimes seen literally frothing at the mouth. Many years later Marcel Ernzer, who had ridden as a domestique for Gaul at the height of his powers, would recall a conversation he once had:
"Charly's going to die."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because Charly takes too many pills."
"But everybody takes them."
"Yes, but Charly a lot more than the others."
Following his divorce from his second wife, Gaul became a virtual recluse and lived in a forest hut for many years with only his dog for company (that he remembered little of his success raises the possibility that he may have suffered a serious mental illness, perhaps severe depression which may have been brought on by the drugs) but would sometimes be spotted by eagle-eyed reporters at the roadside if the Tour passed through the Luxembourg Ardennes. His exile was ended by his third wife, whom he met in 1983, and he was found a job as an archivist in the national sports ministry by the Grand Duchy as a way of thanking him for what he had done - it was a job that suited him perfectly, for he had little requirement to interact with others and plenty of time to think, gradually putting himself back together. It took six years, then he made his first public appearance since retirement at the 1989 Tour. He became a regular sight on the finish line stages after that, but many people failed to recognise him: overweight, bearded and scruffy, he looked more like a tramp than a legend. Gaul died two days before his 73rd birthday; though his three General Classifications and four King of the Mountains victories at the Grand Tours have been surpassed by many, the style in which he won them made him all but unbeatable when conditions suited him and he is frequently listed as the greatest climber cycling has ever known.

Other cyclists born on this day: Zhou Suying (China, 1960); Saad Fadzil (Malaysia, 1948); Jean-François Van Der Motte (Belgium, 1913, died 2007); Yang Hui-Cheon (South Korea, 1982); Helge Fladby (Norway, 1894, died 1971); Ivanir Lopes (Brazil, 1971); Carlos Alvarado (Costa Rica, 1954); Jonathan Suárez (Venezuela, 1982); Takehisa Kato (Japan, 1941); Trương Kim Hùng (South Vietnam, 1951); George Crompton (Canada, 1913).

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