Fausto Coppi was the favourite for the 1957 edition which covered 3,926km in 21 stages, but he broke his leg in a crash in Sardinia before the race and was unable to start. That left Lousion Bobet, Charly Gaul and Ercole Baldini looking the likely victors, but all three were taken by surprise by the chain-smoking Gastone Nencini. Nencini was known as a good all-rounder who could hold his own in the mountains, but the real ace in his hand was the way he descended - gravity seemed to have a stronger hold over him than anyone else and he plummeted like a hawk. What's more, he had courage in spades and took steep downhill bends at full speed while his rivals would be grabbing the brakes. Gaul took the lead in Stage 16 after Bobet and Nino Defilippis had dominated for much of the race, but after three races it was wrestled out of his hands and Nencini kept it to the end.
Baldini won in 1958, taking 92h09'30" to complete the 20 stages and 3,341km with two summit finishes in the Dolomites proving decisive - he also won the National and World Road Race titles that year. 1966 saw the introduction of a Points competition, won by Gianni Motta who would also be fastest over the 22 stages and 3,976km to win the General Classification too. Italo Zilioli came second for a third consecutive year, which earned him the nickname The Italian Poulidor - Poulidor having come second to Anquetil so many times. Anquetil, meanwhile, was third; an unmistakable sign that his best days were over.
(image credit: Nationaal Archief, public domain)
The 1990 edition covered 3,450km in 21 stages. Winner Gianni Bugno duplicated Merckx's domination, leading the race from start to end; a feat that only they, Costante Girardengo (1919) and Alfredo Binda (1927) have managed. 1996 covered 3,990km in 22 stages and was won by Pavel Tonkov, the second Russian rider to take the victory.
At a press conference in Brussels on this day in 1978, Eddy Merckx told his audience:
"I am living the most difficult day of my life. I can no longer prepare myself for the Tour de France, which I wanted to ride for a final time as a farewell . After consulting my doctors, I've decided to stop racing."With that, he ended that most remarkable career in the history of cycling, and a new era began.
(image credit: Thomas Ducroquet CC BY 3.0)
In 2008, he was 4th overall at the Three Days of De Panne and won the Combativity Award for Stage 13 at the Tour de France, then a year later he won a stage at the Criterium du Dauphine. In 2010, he took a sixth National Championship, this time in the Road Race, and was third at the Dwars door Vlaanderen. By now, it was obvious that his future lay on the road; as he proved in 2012 by winning the Dwars. He remains a talented track rider, meanwhile, winning the 2011 Amsterdam Six Days with Iljo Keisse.
Sean Yates was born in Ewell, Great Britain, on this day in 1960 and represented his nation in the 1980 Olympics, where he was sixth in the 4km Individual Pursuit. Seeking a career on the road, he travelled to France where like so many prospective riders from Britain and outside Europe he joined the famous Athletic Club de Boulogne-Billancourt; a wise move as only two years later (in 1982, when he was also second at the National Road Race Championship) he was invited to turn professional with Peugeot where he rode alongside Stephen Roche - who would become Ireland's first Tour de France winner and the second man to win the Triple Crown (the Tour, the Giro d'Italia and the World Championship in a single season - the other man to win it was, of course, Eddy Merckx) - and the legendary Scottish climber Robert Millar, the only Briton to have won the King of the Mountains at the Tour (and the Giro),
(image credit: YellowMonkey/Blnguyen CC BY-SA 3.0)
Yates retired in 1996 but remained a part of the cycling world, becoming involved with the administration of numerous teams beginning with Linda McCartney, which would collapse in 2001, then the ill-fated Australian iteamNova outfit that looked all set to take on the world before running out of money and dying. Fortunately, Armstrong remembered him and took him on as a manager at Discovery following a short spell with CSC-Tiscali (which would later become Team SaxoBank); though he remained with Discovery for only a year before going to Astana. In 2009 he found his natural management home with the announcement of Sky, a British team that set out to do what he, Millar, Simpson and so many others from the ACBB had tried - propel a British rider to the top step of the Tour de France podium. He remains with Sky to this day. While he enjoyed some success in racing after his time as a professional, including becoming 50-mile TT Champion in 1997, Yates now has to limit himself to unchallenging events due to heart irregularities.
Erin Mirabella, born in Racine on this day in 1978, is an American track cyclist who has won six National titles and three events at the PanAmerican Cycling Championships.
Kate Bates, born in Sydney on this day in 1982, has held five National (2005 - Individual Pursuit, Scratch, Points; 2006 - Scratch, Points) and one World Championship (2007 - Points) titles. She retired during December 2011 following a hip injury sustained in a crash during her time with HTC-Highroad - an unfortunate end to a career from which she had planned to retire after the 2012 Olympics.
Other births: Jacques van Meer (Netherlands, 1958); Kiyofumi Nagai (Japan, 1983); Michael Maue (West Germany, 1960); John Trevorrow (Australia, 1949); Jimena Florit (Argentina, 1972); Cuauthémoc Muñoz (Mexico, 1961); Alberto Minetti (Italy, 1957); Miguel Samacá (Colombia, 1946); Romulo Bruni (Italy, 1871, died 1939); Martin Riška (Slovakia, 1975); Omar Enrique Pumar (Venezuela, 1972); Gary Dighton (Great Britain, 1968); Katsuhiko Sato (Japan, 1943); Dzintars Lācis (USSR, 1940, died 1992); Lothar Thoms (East Germany, 1956).