|Jurgen van den Broeck|
(image credit: Kid For Today CC BY-SA 3.0)
Then, in 2008, he was a surprise 7th overall at the Giro d'Italia. He came 15th in the Tour de France in 2009 and won the Herentals Criterium. In 2010, he came 4th overall at the challenging Critérium du Dauphiné, a race that has frequently revealed riders destined for future Tour de France greatness - which was confirmed when he finished the Tour in 5th place overall the same year. He won Stage 1 and came 4th overall in the 2011 Dauphiné and was expected to perform well in the Tour, but was forced to abandon after a crash during a fast descent on Stage 9 which left him with a fractured shoulder and ribs and pneumothorax.
Roberto Heras Hernández, born in Béjar, Spain on this day in 1974, is one of only two men to be officially listed as having won the Vuelta a Espana three times (the other being Tony Rominger). He has, in fact, won it a record four times but tested positive for EPO in Stage 20, 2005, leading to his fourth victory being disqualified. He appealed the decision at the court of Castilla y León and was successful, but at the time of writing it has not yet been decided by the UCI, Spanish Cycling Federation and Court for Arbitration in Sport if the decision is valid.
Heras turned professional with Kelme in 1995 and immediately began to show promise as a climber, developing his skills sufficiently that in 2000 he was offered a contract to ride with US Postal. He took it and soon became known as Lance Armstrong's right-hand man in the mountains, playing an important part in the helping the Texan towards his record-breaking seven Tour de France wins.
Gastone Nencini (nicknamed "The Lion of Mugello" after his birthplace, Barberino del Mugello in Tuscany), died on this day in 1980, precisely one month before his 50th birthday. He was an example of that rarest of cycling breeds, an ace climber (he won the King of the Mountains at the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in 1957) who could also descend at high speed. Most climbers, due to their typically skeletal figures, lack the physical mass to keep a bike under control while riding fast down a hill - but according to French National Champion and multiple Tour stage winner Raphaël Géminiani, "the only reason to follow Nencini downhill would be if you had a death wish." Roger Rivière, a fast descender and several times a Tour stage winner himself, ignored that advice in 1960 when he tried to follow the Italian down from the Col de Perjuret - shortly after beginning the descent, he hit a low wall, plunged over the side and broke his spine; spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Even more unusually for a rider who could climb like he did, Nencini was a chain smoker.
Nencini was the inspiration for one of the first anti-doping drives, set up by official Tour doctor Pierre Dumas after he saw the rider injecting himself with stored blood. He'd learned the technique from Swedish runners, who had apparently been using the technique for several years.
In 1957, the year he won his two King of the Mountains competitions, he also won the Giro outright, beating 2nd place Louison Bobet by 19" and 3rd place Ercole Baldini by almost six minutes. His Tour win came in 1960, when he also finished the Giro in 2nd place overall, beating Graziano Battistini by more than five minutes.
French rider Philippe Casado was born in this day in 1964 on Oujda, Morocco. Though never counted among the top riders of his day, he enjoyed considerable success during his career including one stage win and four podium finishes in the Tour of Britain in addition to numerous podium finishes in other races. He died on the 21st of January in 1995, when he was still only 30 years old. Twelve years after his death, Greg Lemond - for many years a very vocal opponent of doping and supporter of methods designed to stamp out the problem - recounted a tale of a rider with whom he had been close friends. He wouldn't give a name but said that his friend's drugs-related death was the reason he decided to retire. The description of the rider and his palmares left few people in any doubt whatsoever that he was referring to Casado.
Other births: Chris Pritchard (Great Britain, 1983); Roberto Petito (Italy, 1971); James Stevenson (Great Britain, 1877); John Bylsma (Australia, 1946); Dashjamtsyn Tömörbaatar (Mongolia, 1957); Tibor Lendvai (Hungary, 1940); John Malois (Canada, 1971); Chainarong Sophonpong (Thailand, 1944); Daniel Huwyler (Switzerland, 1963); Reinaldo Paseiro (Cuba, 1925); Robert Thalmann (Switzerland, 1949) Makio Madarame (Japan, 1972); Vernon Stauble (Trinidad and Tobago, 1950); Víctor Chirinos (Venezuela, 1941); Stig Mårtensson (Sweden, 1923, died 2010); Hsu Chin-Te (Taipei, 1966).