|Dominik Nerz at the Eneco Tour, 2010|
In 2011, Nerz left Milram to join Liquigas-Cannondale and rode his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, working as a domestique for Vincenzo Nibali and finding time to impress with a third place finish on Stage 19 and 38th overall - making him the best-placed German rider in the race. Still with Liquigas for 2012, he came 47th at the Tour de France.
Another one of Germany's greatest cyclists, Rolf Aldag, was born in Beckum on this day in 1968. Having won a stage at the Route du Sud in 1989, Aldag signed his first professional contract with Helvetia-La Suisse for the 1990 season and remained with them until the end of 1992; a period during which he won another stage at the Route du Sud in 1990, Stage 4 of the Tour of Britain and Stages 3 and 8 at the Tour Du Pont in 1991 and silver in the 1992 National Championships of 1992. He then switched to Telekom in 1993, a team in its third year since growing out of the Stuttgart-Merckx-Gonsor outfit created by Hennie Kuiper in 1988 and which, after multiple sponsorship changes, would eventually come to an end in 2011 when it had become known as HTC-Highroad. Aldag would remain with the team until his retirement in 2005.
|Aldag at the Tour de France, 2003|
In 2007, following accusations made by Jef d'Hont regarding doping at the Telekom team where he had been employed as a masseur, Aldag and Erik Zabel (the two men had been team mates and remained friends in retirement) admitted to having used EPO. This came only a year after he had been taken on as a directeur sportif by Telekom, by that time known as T-Mobile, following the dismissal of Rudy Pevenage due to his implication in Operacion Puerto. However, Aldag's apologies and insistence that he was now fully committed to the fight against doping were heartfelt and genuine; he was permitted to stay on at the team and became an instrumental part in shaping its zero-doping policy when it became Highroad and began to introduce detection methods more stringent than those required by the UCI.
|Gilberto Simoni, Stage 1, Giro 2010|
Simoni won the Juniors Giro della Lunigiana in 1989 and numerous amateur races over the following years, including the Giro del Friuli Venezia Giulia in 1991 and 1992, the Giro della Valle d'Aosta in 1992 and 1993 and - the highlight of his pre-professional career - the Baby Giro and Amateur National Championships in 1993. These were results more than good enough to pique the interest of the professional teams and Simoni accepted a contract with Jolly Componibili-Cage for 1994, but the year would pass without victories after he tragically lost both his father and brother. Fortunately, the team kept him on at the end of the year when it became Aki-Gipiemme, and he repaid their kindness and faith by remaining with them for another two seasons. He rode his first Grand Tours, the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, with them in 1995; even managing to finish a stage at the Giro in third place.
In 1997, he switched to MG Maglifico-Technogym and won Stage 1 at the Giro del Trentino. The following year was spent with Cantina Tollo-Alexia Alluminio and without victory, which left him so dismayed at his performance that he announced his retirement and found work as a mechanic for Francesco Moser, who had won the Giro d'Italia in 1984. Fortunately, his depression was short-lived and in 1999 he joined Ballan-Alessio, later coming second overall at the Giro del Trentino and finishing three stages in the top three and taking third place overall at the Giro d'Italia. Some said that his place on the podium was undeserved since he hadn't won a stage; an allegation that seems unfair to anyone who knows anything about stage racing and is undeserved in view of the fact that he almost certainly wouldn't have taken third place had Marco Pantani not have been ejected from the race after he recorded a suspiciously high haematocrit reading - possible indication of EPO use - after Stage 21. He later rounded off his palmares for the season with third overall at the Tour de Suisse. Simoni went to Lampre-Daikin in 2000 and won his first Giro stage, Stage 14, before coming third overall again; he continued with the team in 2001 - the year that his dream came true: after five top five finishes and one stage win, he won the Giro.
Simoni's team mate Danilo Cunego won Giro in 2004, then Simoni set out to win a third in 2005. There was a problem - Cunego also wanted to win, and rather than select a team leader before the race managers had decided to build the situation up into a headline-grabbing, sponsor-pleasing rivalry. That this very rapidly became tiresome in the eyes of most cycling fans is perhaps one reason that Simoni didn't face accusations that he'd benefited from another's misfortune when Cunego failed to perform well in the early stages due to mononucleosis and lost significant time; that the "rivalry" was never anything more than a publicity stunt was rapidly demonstrated when Cunego, despite his illness, remained in the race and helped Simoni win back time on eventual winner Paolo Salvoldelli.
|Leading the GP Roel Paulissen MTB race|
In 2007, he finished the Giro in fourth place - his poorest result since he'd first entered a decade earlier; then in 2008 he was tenth. Most riders would have given up after coming 24th at the age of 35, like Simoni did in 2009, but his love for the race remained as great as it had when he was a child and he rode for twelfth and final time the following year. He was 69th and told reporters after the race: "Perhaps if I'd played more of a bluffing game, I might have had something left for the finish but never mind. That's bike racing. I'm just glad the Giro is over. I've had enough now."
Roger de Vlaeminck was the undisputed king of the Classics during the 1970s and for much of the 1980s; when his career began to slow down a new French claimant to the throne emerged. He was Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle and he had been born in Lembeye on this day in 1954 - the day right after de Vlaeminck's birthday.
|Duclasse-Lassalle (left) and Francesco Moser,|
In the same year that he won the Route du Sud, Legeay entered Duclos-Lassalle for Paris-Roubaix, the race so hard and dangerous that the term used by organisers to describe the ruined landscapes they found when they drove through Northern France to see if it would be possible to hold their event after the First World War has become an alternative name for the race itself - l'Enfer du Nord, the Hell of the North. It is a race that frequently breaks shatters riders' bones and careers, a race that suits only the hardest riders; Duclos-Lassalle, on his first attempt, took second place behind the legendary Italian Francesco Moser, who took a record third consecutive victory.
In 1981, Duclos-Lassalle took second place at the Omloop Het Volk, one of the toughest of the notoriously tough Flemish Cobbled Classics and later finished Stage 11 at the Tour in second place: the first of his two best ever Tour results. Interestingly, the stage ran from Compiègne to Roubaix, mimicking the route of and paying homage to Paris-Roubaix as it did so. 1982 saw him make another attempt at the stage races; he won the Tour de Picardie and was second at Paris-Nice but only 60th at the Tour de France. In 1983 he won the Route du Sud for a second time, then also won the 588km one-day Bordeaux-Paris - and was second at Paris-Roubaix again. He won the National Pursuit Championship on the track in 1984; then the Clásica de San Sebastián in 1985, also coming second at Bordeaux-Paris, and won another Tour de Picardie in 1986 and was second again at Bordeaux-Paris a year later. In 1988, Duclos-Lassalle won a bronze madal at the National Road Race Championships, then something quite remarkable took place at the Tour de France: he finished another stage in second place - Stage 15, which ended with the monster 1,010m climb to the Luz Ardiden ski resort, and he probably still wonders how he managed it to this day. The following year he won the Route du Sud again.
|Duclasse-Lassalle in 1993|
Duclos-Lassalle retired in 1995, when he was 41. He had been a professional rider for nineteen years
Franco Chioccioli, who was born in Castelfranco di Sotto on this day in 1959, won the Juniors Giro della Lunigiana in 1977 and was second at the Amateurs Giro della Valle d'Aosta in 1981, then turned professional with Selle Italia-Chinol in 1982 and came 25th overall at the Giro d'Italia. The following year he finished Stage 6 in third place, was 15th overall and won the Youth category; then in 1984 he was 24th, in 1985 ninth, in 1986 sixth, in 1987 14th, 1988 and 1989 fifth and in 1990 sixth. He won Stages 15, 17 and 20 and the overall General Classification in 1991, then was third in 1992 (when he also won Stage 15 at the Tour de France), 19th in 1993 and 46th in 1994, the year that he retired. He had ridden thirteen editions of the race consecutively and completed every one of them.
Kurt Betschart, born in Erstfeld, Switzerland on this day in 1968, holds the world record for six-day race wins with 37 victories. All of them were won with his racing partner Bruno Risi, also from Erstfeld. They also won the European Madison Championship in 1995 and, in 2001, Betschart became National Points Race Champion.
Jean-Luc Molineris won Stage 6a at the 1974 Tour de France. Born in Grenoble on this day in 1950, he is the son of Pierre Molinaris - who won Stage 4 in 1952.
Juan Guillermo Brunetta, born in Palmar del Lago, Argentina on this day in 1975, was National Road Race Champion in 2001, National Time Trial Champion from 2003 to 2006 and again in 2007, National Individual Pursuit Champion in 2003 and 2004, National Madison Champion in 2005 and 2007 and National Team Pursuit Champion with the Cordoba team in 2007. He has also been successful in stage racing with an overall victory at the 2004 Giro del Sol and stage wins in numerous other events - where, at 2.04m tall and 97kg in weight, he was always one of the most easily recognised riders in the peloton.
Other cyclists born on this day: Giovanni Bernaudeau (France, 1983); Marcel Strauss (Switzerland, 1976); Alberto Ghilardi (Italy, 1909); Franz Wimmer (Austria, 1932); Pablo Bernal (Spain, 1986); Ivan Levacic (Yugoslavia, 1931); Bas van Dooren (Netherlands, 1973); Billy Pett (Great Britain, 1873, died 1954); Kiko García (Spain, 1968); Guy Sibille (France, 1948); Kari Puisto (Finland, 1945); Ron Boyle (Australia, 1947).