Thursday 15 May 2014

Daily Cycling Facts 15.05.2014

Carlo Galetti
The Giro d'Italia has started on this date seven times - 1911, 1926, 1927, 1948, 1965, 1980 and 1999. The 1911 edition was the third and marked the 50th anniversary of the Unification of Italy, starting and ending in Rome to mark the occasion and covering 3,526km in twelve stages - an increase on the first two editions when it had been eight and then ten stages. Carlo Galetti won for a second consecutive year (he would have won again in 1912, but the organisers decided that year that only team results would be counted) and Lucien Petit-Breton, who headed the General Classification during Stage 9, became the first French rider to have led the race. 86 riders started, only 24 finished.

1926 retained the twelve stage format and covered 3,429km. The winner, Giovanni Brunero, became the first rider to three Giro victories after gaining 20' on 1925 winner Alfredo Binda, winning Stage 8 and then working hard to keep Binda from the General Classification leadership for the remainder of the race after Costante Girardengo - then drawing towards the end of his career but still very capable of winning races, including two stages in this one) - abandoned having led for three days. Binda was unstoppable the next year, 1927, when he won twelve of the fifteen stages and led the General Classification throughout the full 3,758km starting and ending in Milan, beating Brunero by 27'24".

Fiorenzo Magni
Fiorenzo Magni won in 1948, covering the 19 stages and 4,164km in 124h51'52", but it was not a popular victory. For a start, he was never a popular figure among other riders on account of his political views - he was, it is said, a fascist; though in recent years evidence has come to light suggesting he was active with anti-fascist partisan movements in Italy towards the end of the Second World War. Secondly, he received a little bit of assistance from his fans who had been seen pushing him up some of the climbs, which in turn caused a third factor - furious at the cheating, Italian cycling's new darling Fausto Coppi withdrew in protest. The 1965 edition was held five years after Coppi's death. To mark it, organisers introduced the Cima Coppi prize which is still awarded for the fastest rider to the top of each edition's highest point - Graziano Battistini won it, being the first man over the Stage 20 finish line on the Passo Stelvio. The race covered a total of 4,051km in 22 stages and the overall winner was Vittorio Adorno, a victory termed the finest since Coppi by the press.

1980 was again 22 stages and covered 4,025km. Attention was immediately turned to a new rider in the race, Bernard Hinault who had already won two editions of the Tour de France. Having won Stage 14, Hinault proved what he was capable of by gaining 8' with help from team mate Jean-Rene Bernaudeau on Stelvio and thus took the race lead - which he kept for the rest of the race, becoming the first man to have won all three Grand Tours on his first attempt.

Marco Pantani
(image credit: Aldo Bolzan CC BY-SA 3.0
1999 had 22 stages over 3,757km and saw controversy when Marco Pantani - who had won the Giro and the Tour the year before - recorded a suspiciously high haematocrit reading prior to Stage 21; indication of a blood transfusion or (more likely in this case) EPO for which he was ejected from the race. His entire Mercatone Uno-Bianchi went with him. In Stage 13, Pantani's chain had come off as he climbed the Dolomites, causing him to lose 30" - however, once he'd fixed it he got back on and powered straight past the other riders to win the stage, leading Laurent Jalabert to claim, "Pantani is too strong!" and the press to dub the race The Pantani Show. With him and his team out of the way, the race became a free-for-all as numerous riders and squads realised that all of a sudden they were back in contention. Ivan Gotti won with a 3'35" advantage over Paolo Salvodelli, but to this day there are many who will argue that the race should have been Pantani's.

Yvonne Hijgenaar
(image credit: Nicola CC BY-SA 3.0)
Yvonne Hijgenaar
Like so many Dutch cyclists, Yvonne Hijgenaar - born in Alkmaar on this day in 1980 - came to cycling from speed skating, a sport in which she represented her nation. She made the switch in 2001, having taken up track cycling as a training regime and realising that she was able to beat male opponents and that same year became Dutch 500m Champion. In 2002 she added the Sprint title, then kept both in 2003 and took the Keirin too. Retaining all three in 2004, she went to the Olympics with high hopes but with track cycling a relatively minor sport in the Netherlands found herself outclassed, missing out on medals.

2005 brought bronze medals for the 500m and Keirin at the World Championships and she once again won 500m, Sprint and Keirin the Nationals. Realising that she was a serious talent, the National Federation gave her permission to train with the Australian team. However, 10th place in the qualifying round prevented her going through to the Sprint final at the 2008 Olympics, but a bronze for the Omnium at the Worlds in 2009 - the first time the event had featured - showed she still had form.

Hijgenaar won a total of twelve National Championships, but has not regained them in the years since - though a selection of silver and bronze medals illuminate her palmares. In 2012, having said that if she didn't win a medal at the Olympics she would retire, she ended her career.

Niklas Axelsson
Niklas Axelsson, born in Västerås on this day in 1972, finished in sixth place at the 1999 Giro d'Italia; a remarkable result since it was his first Grand Tour. When he was third at the Giro di Lombardia a year later, it began to look as though a serious new Swedish talent was on the scene - and the next year he won a silver medal at the National Road Race Championship, apparently confirming it. Unfortunately, he didn't attain those early victories entirely through his own effort. At the World Championships in 2001, he became one of the first athletes to be caught out by the then-new cyclelectrophoresis and isoelectric focusing methods of detecting EPO and confessed. His honestly was not viewed favourably by the Svenska Cykelförbundet, which handed him an unusually long four-year ban.

In time, the National Federation relented and allowed him to return to competition in 2004. He then experienced two dry years without wins before coming second at the 2006 Giro della Romagna and third at the following year's GP Industria Artigianato e Commercio Carnaghese. This did not prove to be a sign that his luck had returned, because in 2007 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer - thankfully, the disease was detected sufficiently early for therapy to enable him to make a full recovery, and he once again began racing.

This time, his results were immediately better. He came third in two stages at Tirreno-Adriatico, won a stage at the GP Industria Artigianato e Commercio Carnaghese and outright at the Swedish Solleröloppet race, then took a silver medal at the National Championships in 2008. In 2009 he was 7th overall at the Tour of Qinghai Lake, then 9th at the GP Industria & Commercio di Prato - the race that would be his downfall. Apparently worried that, as had been the case after his first ban, he once again turned to EPO; and it was announced in 2010 that he had failed a test on the 20th of September, the day the race had been held.

As a four-year ban hadn't taught him a lesson, the Svenska Cykelförbundet banned him for life.

Anna Blyth
Anna Blyth
(image credit: Prendas Cyclismo)
Anna Blyth, born in Leeds on this day in 1988, began track racing in childhood and was good enough to come to the attention of British Cycling during a race at her school, Benton Park. Having been invited to join their development program, it wasn't long before she began to repay them - in 2005 she won the National Junior 500m Time Trial and sSprint titles and took a silver medal for the Sprint and bronze for Keirin at the Junior Worlds.

She kept her British titles in 2006 and added gold for the Scratch race, took three silver medals in the Nationals racing at Elite level and a bronze in the 500m TT at the European Championships  - and, better still,  silver for the Sprint and gold for the Keirin at the Junior Worlds. 2007 brought gold in the Keirin at the Under-23 European Championships along with two silver medals at the Nationals and another at the Track World Cup, then she won the National 500m TT and Team Sprint in 2008 and the Under-23 Scratch at the European Championships in 2009. 2010 and 2011 have been quieter, her best result a bronze medal for the Scratch at the Commonwealth Games in India; but as she now moves into Elite level racing we are likely to see more victories in the coming years.

Bruno Pires, born in Redondo, Portugal on this day in 1981, had ridden for numerous UCI Continental teams before moving up a level when he was invited to join the emergent LeopardTrek at the end of 2010. LeopardTrek had been founded around the Luxembourgian Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank, who took several riders with them when they departed their previous home SaxoBank. When LeopardTrek merged with RadioShack for 2012, Pires was not one of the riders to make the transition and instead moved to SaxoBank. His best results to date have been winning the 2006 National Road Race Championship and third place overall at the 2008 Vuelta Ciclista Asturias.

Pierre Trentin, a French cyclist born in Créteil on this day in 1944, started racing at the age of 14. Having set up a leather-working business when he left school, he won a Junior National Championship title when he was 17 and a bronze medal for the 1km TT at the 1964 Olympics, then two golds in 1968 - also setting a new Amateur 1km World Record - and another bronze in 1972.

Edy Schütz, born in Tetange, Luxembourg in this day in 1941, won the 1964 Österreich-Rundfahrt and then two years later the Tour of Luxembourg, Stage 18 at the Tour de France and the National Road Race Championship - which he retained for the next five years until 1971.

Other cyclists born on this day: Maurizio Casadei (San Marino, 1962); Hussain Mahmoudi Shahvar (Iran, 1962); Gustaaf de Smet (Belgium, 1935); Anton Gerrits (Netherlands, 1885, died 1969); Masamitsu Ehara (Japan, 1969); Alain van Lancker (France, 1947); Ivan Trifonov (USSR, 1948); Jørgen Marcussen (Denmark, 1950); Tomas Pettersson (Sweden, 1947); Sergey Lavrinenko (Kazakhstan, 1972); Ferdinand Duchoň (Czechoslovakia, 1938); Jaramillo (Colombia, 1951); Piotr Przydział (Poland, 1974); Francisco Valada (Portugal, 1941); Henry Kaltenbrunn (South Africa, 1897, died 1971); Jan Chlístovský (Czechoslovakia, 1934); Alain Moineau (France, 1928, died 1986).

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