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Magnus Goes for Record - History of the Derny Paced Hour
By Podofdonny
Date: 10/1/2005
Magnus Goes for Record - History of the Derny Paced Hour

Derny-Paced Hour Record: Magnus Backstedt's Countdown Starts!

In exactly one month, at the Newport Velodrome, the Liquigas-Bianchi rider will try to better Dutch Matthé Pronk: more than 66,114 km!

In exactly one month 30-year-old Liquigas-Bianchi's giant, Swedish Magnus Backstedt, will attack the current Derny Paced Hour Record. The 2004 Paris-Roubaix's winner, back after the Vuelta a España and the World Championships, is starting a special training on the Welsh track of Newport, where Saturday 29th October he will try to break the 66,114 km record, officially recognized by UCI.

"I finished the Vuelta in a very good shape" Backstedt affirms starting for the Interbike Show of Las Vegas, which he will come back from next week. "I'm ready to start the tough derny paced training in the Newport Velodrome. The secret is joining rhythm and power: I will do my best to beat Pronk's record".

The first derny paced hour recordman was Jean Bobet in 1953. The current record holder is Dutch Matthé Pronk that last November in Alkmaar covered 66,114 km in one hour: 1,568 more than Belgian Theo Verschueren, who had been the holder since 1970

"I spend a lot of time over the winter on the track and this is a record that really appeals to me. I feel that with the Newport track being so close to home as well, it is the perfect venue and I hope that people will come out and enjoy an evening of entertainment," said Magnus.

Asked if he has ever considered tackling the athlete's hour record, Backstedt replied," I was with Credit Agricole with Chris Boardman and saw him after he finished his last hour, let's get this one out of the way and see what happens".

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Photo courtesy

What is a Derny?

A Derny is a type of motorcycle designed and built specifically for motor-paced track cycling events (eg: motor-paced races in six-day and Keirin racing) or motor-paced road races. On a Derny, the driver sits close to the back of the bike in an upright (almost standing) position to provide an envelope of low wind resistance for the cyclist 'drafting' or slipstreaming behind. There is sometimes a horizontal roller mounted to the rear of the bike to prevent crashes should the bicycle's front tire come in contact with the Derny.

For most derny races, the cyclist drafts off the Derny for the duration of the event. In some events, the derny is used to bring the bicycle up to speed, at which point the Derny pulls off and the cyclist continues the race without a motorized pacer.

Courtesy dernysportuk.

History of the Derny


The idea of the Derny was designed and constructed by two French ex-racing cyclists called Roger Derny and Sons. This was the conventional "motos de stayer" (in the UK, "Big Motors" is the term used today). These type of pacing machines used first for the Bordeaux - Paris were not very reliable for road use. So another type of pacing machine had to be designed. And as a result the Derny was born and put into production in 1938.

The Derny brothers’ first factory was at 81, Avenue St. Mande and later they moved to Avenue du General Bizot, both in the French capital. When the parent factory closed in 1956 the Dernys for the Bordeaux - Paris were maintained and rebuilt by Service Derny of 88, Rue Picpus, Paris until 1974. Derny carried on making other types of machines but closed in 1958.

Later on, another type of Derny was re-introduced called a "Burdin". This machine had many problems: the engine, a mobylette, and the frame just would not take the pounding especially in the 6-Days. Many manufacturers have tried to change the design over the years but have gone back to the original design because it is still good today as it was way back in 1938. Pacers today are still called Derny - a fitting tribute to the Derny brothers who first thought the idea up in the first place.

Dernys today are made by Arie Simon. He used to make them in Holland, but has now moved his business to Neepelt, Belgium.


The most legedary Derny paced road race was the Bordeaux Paris

The Bordeaux-Paris professional cycle race was one of mainland Europe's Classic cycle races, and the longest in the professional calendar, covering a distance of approximately 560 kilometres (350 miles) - more than twice the distance of most single day races. It would start at Bordeaux in south-west France at 2am and finish in the French capital Paris approximately 14 hours later.

The event was first run in 1891, and the Derby of the Road (as it was sometimes called) was particularly notable in that riders were 'paced' - allowed to slipstream behind team-mates mounted, in the early events, on tandem bicycles or other conventional cycles. From 1931, the pacing was provided by motorcycles or small pedal-assisted Dernys.

In the inaugural events, pacing was provided from Bordeaux. In later events, the pacing was introduced part-way towards Paris. From 1946 to 1985, more than half the race distance was paced, the Dernys being introduced at, for example, Poitiers or Chatellerault, roughly half-way through the race.

The organisers of the inaugural event, the Bordeaux Vélo Club, envisaged riders might take a few days to complete the race, but Englishman George Pilkington Mills raced through the night to win the 600km long event in just over a day. Another Englishman (Arthur Linton) won the event in 1896, but only one Englishman won the race in the modern era: Tom Simpson in May 1963. Other post-war winners included Louison Bobet (1959) and Jacques Anquetil (1965). The record for the most victories is held by Herman Van Springel who won seven times between 1970 and 1981.

Arthur Linton

Arthur Linton. Photo courtesy

The Tale of Arthur Linton

Courtesy Rhondda-Cynon Taf Libraries

Extraordinarily, during this golden age of cycling Aberaman produced no less than four world class cyclists: the Linton Brothers Arthur, Tom and Samuel; and Jimmy Michael. Of these four Arthur Linton and Jimmy Michael became World Champions.

Arthur Linton began to race locally and by 1892 was well known throughout South Wales. During the 1893 season he began to establish himself nationally and he was signed as a professional to ride a 'Gladiator' cycle under the tutelage of the trainer 'Choppy' Warburton. In 1894 Arthur defeated Dubois, the French Champion, in Paris and was narrowly defeated by the Italian Champion Bonnic, who thereafter refused to race him again. He was given the title of 'Champion Cyclist of the World' and when he returned to Aberaman in December he was given a hero's welcome, a public banquet was held in the Lamb and Flag public house and he was presented with an illuminated address

1895 was a less successful year for Arthur. He suffered a knee injury and split from his trainer 'Choppy' Warburton. However, it was during the 1896 season that Arthur won his greatest race, the Bordeaux to Paris Race in which he defeated Riviere. Tragically, it seems that this race took too much of a toll on his body and Arthur Linton died of Typhoid Fever in June 1896, only some six weeks after the race. He was just 24 years old when he died.

A protégé of Arthur Linton, Jimmy Michael came to public attention in 1894 when he won the Herne Hill race in record time. He too was signed by 'Gladiator' and taken under the wing of 'Choppy' Warburton. In 1895 he continued his run of success, beating the French champion Lesna and later tied with Arthur Linton's record for 50km. At the end of the year he became the World Middle Distance Champion at Cologne. As a result of Jimmy's meteoric rise and the poor year suffered by Arthur Linton, an element of rivalry appeared.

Shortly after Arthur's death, Jimmy split from 'Choppy' Warburton and then decided to chance his arm in America, where he enjoyed a successful career, breaking many records and amassing a sizeable fortune. Jimmy retired from cycling for a while and instead became a jockey and racing stable owner, though when this venture failed Jimmy returned to cycling in 1902. Unfortunately, he was not the same rider on his return and did not recapture his earlier record breaking form. He died, aged only 29, in November 1904 on the liner 'Savoie' whilst travelling back to New York. The cause of death was an attack of delirium tremens, probably brought on through heavy drinking.
Tom Linton continued to enjoy a successful racing career although he never enjoyed the same level of recognition as either Arthur or Jimmy. He died in 1914 of Typhoid Fever, the same disease that had killed his brother 18 years before.

Samuel Linton had returned to work in the local collieries and died in 1935.

Photo courtesy

Choppy Warburton

Is the real truth behind Linton’s death more sinister?.

The Anti Doping Forum in Sydney 2004 cited Arthur Linton as the first reported death of an athlete from a substance – strychnine.

In 1896 when Arthur Linton won the marathon Bordeaux-Paris race in record time doping was not illegal. Most doping seems to have involved alcohol and strychnine with heroin and cocaine also in extensive use. "Choppy" Warburton, Linton’s trainer was later banned from English tracks, and there seems little doubt that  Linton is the first recorded case of dopage.

However, the “facts” of the case are not so well recorded to be quite so certain.

The Anti Doping Forum  2004 cites Arthur Linton as dying from strychnine but give no date of death.

The Guardian records that in “1886: The first recorded death: cyclist Arthur Linton overdoses on trimethyl.” While the Doping and Sports report from Paris 1998 further extends the legend. It announces that  “In 1886, Arthur Linton died during the Bordeaux-Paris race.”

So it would appear that Arthur overdosed on trimethyl a full ten years before he won Bourdeaux Paris!

The British House of Commons report on dopage takes a far more sensible view.

Arthur Linton, a British cyclist from South Wales, reported to have died from typhoid fever (nine weeks after setting a record time in the then 'blue riband' Bordeaux-Paris race). His death (often given as 1886) has been linked to the use of trimethyl - one of a range of drugs in vogue within the sport at the time - but this link seems based on only circumstantial evidence.

So it would appear that instead of Linton’s name being linked to dopage,  he should, in fact, be remembered as a cycling great.

Let's hope that Magnus Backstedt can write another legend in Welsh Cycling History and that Arthur Linton’s good name is restored!

Photo courtesy Bianchi.

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