BikeSnobNYC posts a weekly "Friday Fun Quiz" on his blog, so I thought I'd offer up a Friday quiz myself. Its not meant so much as a test, but rather as an outlet to share some fascinating facts I recently picked up from "The Spring Classics," a coffee-table sized book originally published by "L'Equipe" in French in 2007 and republished in English by VeloPress three years later.
According to worldcat.org only 25 libraries in the United States have a copy. Lucky for me one of them is in Skokie, a ten-mile bike ride from my apartment. This was a most appropriate time to read it, the week after the Queen of the Spring Classics, Paris-Roubaix, won by Belgian Tom Boonen, joining fellow Belgian Roger De Vlaeminck from the 1970s as the only two riders in the 115-year history of the race to win it four times.
More than half of the 200-page book is photographs. They are interspersed with four or five page essays on the various Spring Classics written by five of "L'Equipe's" foremost cycling writers. They give short histories of Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold, Paris-Tours, Bordeaux-Paris and a few others. Just a couple years before this book, "L'Equipe" devoted an entire book to Paris-Roubaix, as it could to any of these races, most of which are over 100 years old. This serves more as an introduction to these great races for neophytes, rather than an in depth study. Still it was most worthwhile.
Here are ten questions (bits of trivia) from the book. Unlike the Snob I won't offer up cute and clever multiple choice answers. You're on our own:
1. Which French classic moved from spring to fall and in what year?
2. Which French classic was run in reverse for 14 years? (A two-point bonus if you know the years.)
3. Who was the first cyclist known as the Campionissimo and who invented the term?
4. Most of the classics were founded by newspapers as a means to increase circulation. What is the only one that is still publishing?
5. How many climbs are in the Amstel Gold and which is climbed three times?
6. Where did Coppi begin his 180 km breakaway in the 1946 Milan-San Remo, his first great breakaway that gave birth to his legend?
7. Who was the first Swiss rider to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and the year?
8. What was the time limit for the first Bordeaux-Paris in 1891?
9. Who did away with motor-pacing in Paris-Brest-Paris and what year?
10. Who is the only German to win Paris-Roubaix?
This was the third book on cycling I've recently read that mentioned the practice of racers in the early days of the sport sprinkling nails on the road behind them to give their adversaries flat tires. According to "The Sweat of the Gods" the German rider Hans Ludwig gave advice on the best type of nails to use in a book he wrote in 1913. "The Spring Classics" mentions that the first four riders in the 1904 Paris-Brest-Paris were all demoted for various offenses, including tossing nails. "Ride and be DAMNED" also commented on the practice in English races in the '40s and '50s.
Though such a practices is no longer a factor, contending with dogs remains an issue. Hardly a Tour de France passes without a dog running out on the course and causing a crash. "The Spring Classics" mentions two such instances, both in Paris-Roubaix. In the very first edition in 1896 Joseph Fischer was able to escape his breakaway companion Arthur Lenton and win the race when a dog knocked Lenton down. A dog also brought down Bernard Hinault in 1981, but it didn't prevent him from winning the race. Hinault vividly remembered, "It was a small black poodle with a red collar. The only thing I didn't know was its name."
Nor is the book without its mentions of tears. A full page photo of Paul Sherwen accompanies the introduction he contributes to the book. It shows him with his head thrust back, eyes squinting and face cringing, splattered with mud at the end of the 1983 Paris-Roubaix. He said his mum cried when she saw this photo, "because she finally understood how tough the sport was that I had chosen." Paolo Bettini sheds tears of release after winning the 2006 Tour of Lombardy as a tribute to his brother Sauro, who had died in a car crash just days before. Fausto Coppi collapses in tears after losing out in a sprint in the 1956 edition.
Though the Classics venture no where near the Alps, as they are saved for the stage races, L'Alpe d'Huez still receives mention four times in the book, all spelled with the capital L. The toughest or most iconic climb or feature of a Classic is referred to as its L'Alpe d'Huez.
And for the answers:
1. Paris-Tours in 1951
2. Paris-Tours (1974-1987)
3. The Italian Costante Girardengo by Eugenio Colombo, La Gazzetta's race director
4. La Gazzetta dello Sport, created in 1896, the same year as the modern Olympics
5. 31 climbs with the Cauberg three times
6. The Turchino tunnel
7. Paul Egli in 1936
8. Four days to do 572 kilometers. The winner accomplished it in one day and 2 1/2 hours.
9. Henri Desgrange in 1911.
10. Joseph Fischer in 1896 thanks to a dog.