A police investigation concluded that he had fainted due to the hot sun and crashed, but his body had been found in the morning before it got hot and as an experienced cyclist and veteran of five Grand Tours, he would have been accustomed to riding in hot weather. Meanwhile, the priest hinted that Bottecchia had been murdered by Fascists: a dangerous thing to say since Mussolini was in power, but could that be why the police had closed the case with what appears to be an unlikely verdict?
|Bottecchia with Nicolas Frantz at the 1925 Tour de France
There is alternative explanation. Years later, a farmer from Pordenone made a deathbed confession that he had killed Bottecchia after finding him stealing grapes from his vineyard. "He'd pushed through the vines and damaged them," he explained. "I threw a rock to scare him, but it hit him. I ran to him and realised who it was. I panicked and dragged him to the roadside and left him. God forgive me!" Where the story falls apart in that Bottecchia was found in Peonis, nearly 60km from Pordenone. Secondly, anyone who has ever picked and tried to eat a grape in mid-June will know that at that time of the year they're small, hard and so bitter as to be almost entirely inedible. Strangely, his brother was murdered in almost the same place two years later.
|Mattia Gavazzi at Milan-San Remo, 2010
More stage wins came in 2008, along with victory at the Giro di Toscana, followed by an excellent 2009 in which he won one stage at the Tour de San Luis, four at the Tour de Langkawi, one at the Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda, three at the Vuelta a Venezuela and two at the Brixia Tour. That looks rather like the palmares of a rider who is on the cusp of breaking through into the upper ranks of cycling, and he won another stage at the Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda in 2010. However, a short while afterwards news broke that a sample taken following the prologue at the same event had tested positive for cocaine - not the first time he'd faced a similar charge, because he'd been banned for fourteen months after a positive for the same drug during his amateur career. He was originally banned for six years, which would in all likelihood have spelled the end of his career, but this was later reduced to two-ad-a-half years in view of his full co-operation with the Italian National Olympic Committee investigation. He will be free to return to competition on the 30th of September 2012.
Eric Heiden is one of the many cyclists to have also enjoyed a successful career as a speed skater (as has his sister Beth Heiden), and is the only speed skater to have won all five speed skating events in a single Olympics. A founding member of the 7-Eleven cycling team in 1981, he worked with Jim Oshowicz (himself a speed skater and Heiden's coach in the sport) to organise the team along European lines, the first time that such a project had been carried out in the USA and remained with the outfit until he retired in 1990. The majority of his cycling victories were in the North American races but he may have won more in Europe had he not have devoted much of his time to studying, first for his BSc from Stanford, then for an MD, also from Stanford. He completed his residency training in orthopaedics in 1996 and now practices as an orthopaedic surgeon in California. Heiden was born on this day in 1958.
Other births: Jēkabs Bukse (Russia, 1879, died 1942); Hjalmar Levin (Sweden, 1884, died 1983); György Szuromi (Hungary, 1951); Ian Alsop (Great Britain, 1943); Tetsuo Osawa (Japan, 1936); Valeriy Movchan (USSR, 1959); Thomas Lance (Great Britain, 1891, died 1976); Jamsrangiin Ölzii-Orshikh (Mongolia, 1967); Peter Bazálik (Slovakia, 1975); Hartmut Bölts (West Germany, 1961); Juan Molina (El Salvador, 1948); Timothy O'Shannessey (Australia, 1972).