Wednesday 2 April 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 02.04.2014

The 1899 Paris-Roubaix - yet to earn its modern alternative name, The Hell of the North - was held on this day. As many road races were then motorpaced, velodrome riders with experience in derny events could sometimes gain an advantage over those with more road experience; as proved to be the case that year when the race was won by Albert Champion (much more about him and his remarkable life in two days' time, the anniversary of his birth).

Alfons Schepers
The Ronde van Vlaanderen fell on this date in 1933, 1939, 1944, 1950, 1956, 1967, 1989, 1995, 2000 and 2006. 1933, won by Alfons Schepers, was the first edition of the race in which the Belgian police played a role - previously, spectator figures had been sufficiently low for the event to carry on without them (organiser Karel Van Wijnendaele said he'd been able to count the spectators along the way and at the finish the first few times the race was held). Gradually, it had become more popular; but for the time being police presence and roles were limited with just a few gendarmerie keeping an eye on things - four years later, half a million people showed up and organisers had to ask police to provide assistance on a scale more like that of modern races.

Karel Kaers in London, 1938 (the bike is a
British-built Rudge-Whitworth)
Karel Kaers - who had won the World Race Championship five years earlier, the youngest man to have ever done so - won in 1939; a victory made remarkable because he said hadn't meant to win it. He'd set out that morning intending to have a training ride in preparation for Paris-Roubaix so he drove as far as Kwaremont where he parked, got his bike out and cycled the 40km to Ghent where he intended to ride part of the course before stopping when the race went by his car. Since he wasn't going to go any further and had no reason to pace himself, when the peloton reached Kwaremont he decided he'd sprint away from them and reach the top in time to see them go by - and discovered his car had vanished. At this point, we have to ask ourselves why he didn't grab the nearest gendarme and report the vehicle as stolen; but there's no reason that the truth should be allowed to get in the way of a good story - and this story says he decided to continue riding instead and, eventually, won; discovering at the finish line that his manager had seen he had the potential to win and had driven the car away so he'd keep riding.

Rik van Steenbergen, youngest man to
win the Ronde van Vlaanderen
1944 was the last time the race was held during the Second World War with Belgium being liberated from Nazi control during September that year - it had been the only Classic to continue running for the duration. Rik van Steenbergen scored the first of his two victories. He later explained that he had been fortunate to be given the opportunity to ride: "When I turned pro, I couldn't ride it straight away," he said. "There were three categories of rider: road-riders A, road-riders B, and track riders. I was registered with the federation as a track rider. At first they wouldn't let me ride the national championship. But Jean van Buggenhout, the manager, got me reclassified on the Wednesday before the race. I won it and became an 'A' rider. Then I could start the year in the Tour of Flanders." 19 years old at the time, he remains the youngest rider to have ever won the event - and with most riders' professional careers beginning in their early 20s and their best years coming in their late 20s and early 30s, it's a record unlikely to ever be broken.

1950 brought the second of Fiorenzo Magni's record three consecutive victories after he spent all day leading the pack with few riders willing to challenge him. Finally, he made his move on the Muur van Geraardsbergen which was a part of the race for the first time that year, forming a breakaway with André Mahé and Wim van Est. In time, they tired and fell back, leaving the Italian to cross the line with a 2'15" advantage over 2nd place Briek Schotte. The Muur, which climbs from 33m to 110m with a maximum gradient of 20%, proved too much for many riders: of 220 starters, only 21 finished.

Jean Forestier
Jean Forestier won in 1956 and went on to win the Points competition at the Tour de France a year later. Dino Zandegù beat a young Eddy Merckx in 1967 - things may have gone very differently had Merckx, who was already showing unmistakable signs of what he was to become, not been thwarted by the repeated efforts of Zandegù's team mate Felice Gimondi to keep him in check. 1989 winner Edwig Van Hooydonck had won in the Under-23 category in 1986 and would win again as an Elite in 1991 - four years later, when he was 31 and EPO use was becoming prevalent, he retired in protest at doping; saying that he could not continue to be competitive as he was not willing to cheat. 1995 saw the second of three wins for Johan Museuuw who, having also won three editions of Paris-Roubaix, five other Monuments and a total of eleven Classics and semi-Classics is the most successful Classics rider of the last two decades.

Van Steenbergen had become the youngest man to win the Ronde in 1944, and in 2000 Andrei Tchmil - aged 37 - became the oldest, and the first Russian. That year, a new tradition called the Dorp van de Ronde was introduced to celebrate a chosen village or town along the parcours - the first town thus honoured was Ingelmunster. Tom Boonen, who was mentored by Museuuw and rivals him for the title of best Classics rider over the same time period, won in 2006 when the Dorp van de Ronde was Ichtegem, home to pub that contains a museum dedicated to 1920 winner Jules Vanhevel.

2006 also brought a second consecutive win for Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel in the Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen.

On this day in 1949, Carlo Galetti died in Milan. The Italian cyclist - who won the Giro d'Italia in 1910, 1911 and 1912 - was born on the 26th of August 1882 and also won Milan-San Remo in 1909.

Franz Nietlispach
(image credit: Regula Merkt CC BY-SA 3.0)
Franz Nietlispach, a Paralympian handcyclist, was born in Muri, Switzerland on this day in 1958. Also competing in athletics and - early in his career - table tennis, he took part in every Summer Paralympics between 1976 and 2008.

Other cyclists born on this day: Marco Corti (Italy, 1986); Steve Houanard (France, 1986); Luis Alfredo López (Colombia, 1966); Lennart Fagerlund (Sweden, 1952); Willi Moore (Great Britain, 1947); Tan Thol (Cambodia, 1941); Jaroslav Jeřábek (Czechoslovakia, 1971); Christian Brunner (Switzerland, 1953); Sayed Esmail Hosseini (Iran, 1942); Emilio Vidal (Venezuela, 1929); Arne Petersen (Denmark, 1913, died 1990); Tim Mountford (USA, 1946); Serhiy Cherniavskiy (Ukraine, 1976); Thomas Boutellier (Switzerland, 1967).

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