Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 11.02.2014

Ellen van Dijk
Ellen van Dijk
(image credit: My Women's Cycling Tumblr (Sarah Connolly))
Eleonora van Dijk - known as Ellen to her friends and vast army of fans - was born in Harmelen, Netherlands, on this day in 1987. She began her athletic career as a speed skater and still holds the 5000m track record despite not having competed professionally in the sport since 2007. She started cycling at the age of ten, encouraged by her two brothers, but initially used the sport as part of summer cross-training - until discovering how good she was at it, at which point she entered some local races and, by the age of just 15, was competing in National events. In 2002, she was fourth in the National Novice's Championships, and a year later she won; then in 2004 she won the National Junior's Road Race and Time Trial. In 2005 she won the Junior's Time Trial again, but came second in the road race to another promising young rider with experience as a speed skater: Marianne Vos.

Van Dijk signed her first professional contract in 2006 and won Stage 2 at the Tour Féminin en Limousin in 2006, which made her a favourite for the National Championships until a broken collar bone put her out of contention. After being offered a place on the national speed skating team and turning it down in favour of cycling, she became Individual Pursuit National Champion and won Stage 1 at the Tour of Chongming Island in 2007, then 2008 brought her first World Championship title when she attacked hard with eight laps to go and rode solo for the remainder in the Scratch race, a gold in the Under-23 class at the European Championships and Stage 2 at the Tour de l'Aude Cycliste Féminin, and she would win another gold for the Under-23 Individual Time Trial at the 2009 European Championships, then be first over the line on Stage 6 in the Holland Ladies' Tour of 2010.

2011 was a good year with the overall General Classification and a stage win at the Ladies' Tour of Qatar (a race that often reveals cyclists who are going to do well in the big European races within a few years), Stage 2 at the Holland Ladies' Tour and further track success. In 2012 with Specialized-Lululemon she was fourth overall at the Tour of Qatar, second at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, won Stage 2 at the Gracia Orlova, became National Individual Time Trial Champion and won the Lotto-Decca Tour; she also competed in three disciplines at the Olympics and was instrumental in helping Marianne Vos win the Road Race but was surprisingly only eighth in the Time Trial after making a rare mistake and misjudging the first part of the parcours, which saw her lose significant time. Towards the end of the season she rode with the victorious Specialized-Lululemon in the Team Time Trial at the World Championships and came fifth in the Individual Time Trial, later stating that she'd found the parcours difficult; she was involved in a crash in the Road Race and was unable to finish.

In red and white at the 2013 Energiewacht Tour
Van Dijk began her 2013 season at the Tour of Qatar where she finished two stages in the top three and came third overall, then won Le Samyn and came second at the Rondes van Drenthe and Vlaanderen. Third place at the famously balanced Trofeo Binda proved her abilities as an all-rounder when she rode well on the climbs, but at the Energiewacht Tour she left no doubt that she is primarily still a time trial specialist by winning the 21.1km race against the clock in Stage 3a with a 52" advantage over second-place Lisa Brannauer. After Stage 2, she'd been second overall trailing superfast sprinter Kirsten Wild by 13"; following the time trial she led by 1'07" over Brennauer while Wild slipped to fifth place at +1'41", and second place for Stage 4 kept her safely in the lead and she won the General Classification by 1'21" over Loes Gunnewijk of Orica-AIS. Fourth place at La Flèche Wallonne was further evidence that she'd been working on her climbing while victory in the mountainous Queen Stage 4 at the Gracia Orlova left no doubt she'd been right to do - combined with two time trial victories in the same race (Prologue and Stage 2), Stage 4 enabled her to win the General Classification with 46" over team mate Evelyn Stevens. She went on to successfully defend her National Individual Time Trial title and looked good in the Road Race until a mechanical put her out. At the World Championships, she rode with Specialized-Lululemon to win the Team Time Trial and beat Linda Villumsen of New Zealand by 24.10" to also win the Individual Time Trial, also managing a creditable 16th place in the Road Race on a parcours that couldn't have been less suited to her.

Late in 2013, van Dijk announced that she would be leaving Specialized-Lululemon after spending two years with the team and three with its predecessor HTC-Highroad. She moved to Boels-Dolmans, stating that the new team was more geared up to supporting her towards victory at the 2016 Olympics.

Eric Vanderaerden
Eric Vanderaerden
(image credit: Eric Houdas CC BY-SA 3.0)
Born on this day in Lummen in 1962, retired Belgian cyclist Eric Vanderaerden won the prologues of both the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana during 1983, his first year as a professional. A string of victories in one-day races seemed to confirm his future potential for a cycling-besotted nation that was eager to find a successor to its favourite son, Eddy Merckx.

One year later, he became National Champion and won Stages 10 and 23 at the Tour de France, along with more one-day successes including the prestigious Paris-Brussels. 1985 was even better with wins at Ghent-Wevelgem, the GP Eddy Merckx, the Tour of the Netherlands, the Tour of Flanders and Stages 13 and 19 at the Tour de France, during which he wore the yellow jersey for two days. He improved even more for 1986 when he won  a series of smaller races topped off by the Three Days of De Panne and - the icing on the cake - the Points Classification at the Tour. 1987 brought his second wins at the GP Eddy Merckx and De Panne in addition to victory at Paris-Roubaix, the toughest and most prestigious of the Classics.

Then, something happened to Vanderaerden in 1988. Nobody, least of all the rider himself, knows what it was; but it was the beginning of the end. He still won races, including a third Three Days of De Panne (which he'd win twice more) that year and the Tour of Ireland a year later, plus there would be a Stage 17 win at the Vuelta a Espana in 1992; but the big wins stopped coming.

Many have suggested that the constant comparisons to Merckx wore him down in the end, the realisation that he was never going to equal The Cannibal's palmares causing him to become disheartened. Yet it seems odd that his success in smaller races continued, as entering a depression would have been more likely to end his victories altogether. It seems likely therefore that he was simply not destined to be the hero that his country wanted him to be and he retired in 1996, just one of the many riders who performed highly enough to get fans' hopes up and then proved to be human after all.

Sébastien Hinault
Sébastien Hinault came 3rd in the Novices' National Championships right back in 1990 but didn't turn professional until 1997 when he was taken on by GAN. His first couple of years were quieter, but anyone who paid attention - and there were many, simply because of the young rider's surname - could see that there was potential: he managed seven top twenty finishes in his first Tour de France, after all. Most riders don't even finish their first Tour de France.

Sébastien Hinault
(image credit: PB85 CC BY-SA 3.0)
That surname, which perhaps made it inevitable that Sébastien would become a famous cyclist... well, actually it provided no indication of future greatness encoded into his Breton DNA. Sébastien, despite being born in St-Brieuc on this day in 1974, less than 7km from Le Blaireau's birthplace at Yffiniac, is not related to the five-time Tour de France winner Bernard. It's probably safe to say he ended up heartily sick of being asked.

2000 to 2002 were not quite so good, though first place at the Tour du Finistère will have been welcome, but from 2003 he began to win stages at the bigger races. The first was Stage 4 at the Tour of Poland, followed by Stage 4 at the Tour of Germany a year later. 2006 was his best year to date with victories for Stage 8 at the Tour de Langkawi, Stage 4 at the Tour de Picardie and Stage 4 at the Tour du Limousin. 2007 was another dip with a single win, then he got his first Grand Tour stage win for Stage 10 at the Vuelta a Espana and an overall General Classification triump in the Tour du Limousin. Six top ten finishes came in the next Vuelta then his talent began to fade a little as he entered his 12th professional year, though not so much that he couldn't still pull in some good results: in 2012, he won two races and finished four stages at the Tour de France (best: fourth, Stage 13). At the end of the year, Hinault announced that he would be leaving AG2R-La Mondiale and stepping down from WorldTour cycling. In 2013 he raced for ProContinental IAM Independent Asset Management and was seventh at the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque

Piotr Wadecki, once ranked the second best cyclist in the world, was born on this day in 1973 in Elblag. Poland. He has been National Road Race Champion twice, National Time Trial Champion once, won the Peace Race, the Course de la Solidarité Olympique (twice) and a number of other races. He has also taken part in the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, but Grand Tours proved not to suit him - his best result was 17th for Stage 7 at the Tour in 2002.

David Weller, born in Jamaica on this day in 1957, became the first athlete from his country to win an Olympic medal in any event other than track and field when he was awarded bronze for the 1,000m Time Trial at the 1980 Games in Moscow. At the time of writing, he also remains the only Jamaican to have done so.

Denis Verschueren was a Belgian rider born in Berlaar on this day in 1897. He won some excellent results during the 1920s and 1930s, including two National Interclubs Champioships (1926 and 1929), the Tour of Flanders in 1926, Paris-Brussels in 1926 and Paris-Tours in 1925 and 1928. He died at the age of 57 on the 18th of April in 1954.

Aleksandr Khatuntsev, twice World and once European Under-19 Team Pursuit Champion, once European Under-23 Team Pursuit Champion, twice winner of the Tour of the South China Sea and once winner of the Five Rings of Moscow, the GP Moscow and the Boucles de l'Artois, was born on this day in 1985 in Voronezh, USSR.

Other cyclists born on this day: Orlando Castillo (Colombia, 1967); Daniel Ducreux (France, 1947); Tereza Huřiková (Czechoslovakia, 1987); Héctor Chiles (Ecuador, 1971); Egon Scheiwiller (Switzerland, 1937); Flemming Gleerup Hansen (Denmark, 1944); Luis Barrufa (Uruguay, 1946).