Happy Birthday Felice Gimondi “The Aristocrat” 27.09.1942
Giro d’Italia Winner – 1967, ’69, ’76;
Tour de France Winner – 1965
Vuelta a España Winner – 1968
World Champion 1973
Paris-Roubaix 1966; Giro di Lombardia 1966, ’73; Milan San Remo 1974
A prodigious talent across many road racing disciplines, Gimondi can still be viewed as the last great Italian all-rounder. A winner of Classics, World Championships and all three Grand Tours – including the Tour de France at his first attempt when he was parachuted into the team at the last moment following a team-mates withdrawal. Less famous than nearly all the other riders who can boast such a rounded palmares, Gimondi nevertheless remains an important link to the broader landscape of cycling’s historical period.
Happy Birthday Robert Millar
TdF King of the Mountains 1984
Until the arrival of Sky, Wiggins and Froome, Robert Millar’s 1984 King of the Mountains title and 4th place overall was Britain’s best Tour de France finish. Cruelly robbed of a win in the 1985 Vuelta and often over-raced by his teams, Millar never flew so high again.
An enigmatic character on and off the bike Millar ploughed a lonely furrow through his early life and disappeared into relative obscurity once his career ended, prompting a book by Richard Moore to go “In Search Of Rober Millar”. He now writes a column for cycling news and is seen at occasional events.
In honour of his birthday I’ll be riding in full Peugeot kit today.
Happy Birthday ‘Mr Paris-Roubaix’ – born 24.08.1947
Paris Roubaix winner – 1972, ’74, ’75, ’77
Milan-San Remo winner – 1973, ’78, ’79
Giro di Lombardia winner – 1974, ’76
Ronde van Vlaanderen winner – 1977
Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner – 1970
Tirreno-Adriatico winner – 1972, ’73, ’74, ’75, ’76, ’77
Resplendent in his eye-catching Brooklyn team jersey, with trademark sideburns and position, de Vlaeminck was always a magnet of attention in the peloton. The younger of of two de Vlaemincks who would dominate the Belgian cyclocross scene throughout the Seventies, Roger was also the best Classics rider of his generation. Despite being pitted against the might of Merckx for much of his career, ‘The Gypsy’ carved out a remarkable palmares, becoming one of only three riders to have won all five ‘Monuments” (de Vlaeminck’s countrymen Merckx and Rik Van Looy are the others). His unique riding style, with hands curved inwards over the low brake hoods, and elbows almost below his knees, was highly unusual for the day and his bike handling skills – honed over many winter cyclocross seasons – were exemplary. The cobbled classics of the Spring were his forte and his four wins at Paris-Roubaix will be his eternal legacy, even if Tom Boonen goes on to win one more to take the record outright. His third place in the 1976 edition, captured in Jorgen Leth’s “A Sunday in Hell” shows him in fine attacking form but (like Cancellara and Sagan in years to come) perhaps overconfident of his own powers in the final attacks.
Laurent Fignon 12.08.1960 – 31.08.2010
Tour de France winner – 1983, 1984
Giro d’Italia winner – 1989
Milan-San Remo – 1988, 1989
Fleche Wallone – 1986
Perhaps the most naturally gifted rider of his generation, Laurent Fignon burst onto the Grand Tour scene by winning the Tour de France aged just 22. France, still enthralled by his then team leader Hinault, foresaw a processional handing on of the baton; even more so when Fignon decimated the field in 1984 and staked such a claim to the throne that had already prompted Hinault to move elsewhere. Injury and bad luck blighted the bespectacled Parisian’s next few seasons and he never won ‘le grand boucle’ again. Indeed in many ways he is more famous for his 8 second loss to Lemond in 1989 than for his emphatic earlier triumphs.
One of my all-time favourite riders, his loss to cancer aged just fifty – after he had carved out second and third careers running (and saving) some of the less popular French races and in commentary – was a huge loss.
Fignon was cremated and there is a small memorial plaque in Paris’ famous Père Lachaise cemetery. More info on finding the plaque can be found on this page from inrng.com
Happy Birthday Big Mig. – 16.07.1964
- TdF Winner – 1991, ’92, ’93, ’94, ’95
- Giro d’Italia Winner – 1992, ’93
- World Time Trial Champion – 1995
- Hour Record Holder – 1994
- Olympic Gold Medallist – Time Trial – 1996
A monster of a man compared to most Grand Tour winners, Miguel ‘Big Mig’ Indurain won five Tours on the bounce, hardly pausing for a breather whilst also collecting 2 Giro d’Italia’s, an Hour Record and an Olympic gold medal in a career that utterly dominated the first half of the 1990’s. At 6’2″ (188cm) and 80+kg he was a freakish sight in the mountains where he would capably defend the positions his unsurpassable time-trialling ability had won him. Chastised for making the sport ‘boring’ and dodging the inevitable accusations of doping, Indurain remains a quixotic character within the sport. Not the clear-cut villain that many of his Tour-winning followers would become but never revered like so many of those who had gone before him. Dammed by his own success, his image nonetheless still has the power to stop you in your tracks and just marvel at the magnitude of man.
Happy Birthday Greg – 26.06.1962
- TdF Winner – 1986, ’89, ’90
- World Champion 1983, ’89
One of the most popular Tour winners of all time, Greg Lemond’s epic battles with his team mate Bernard Hinault and then with the life-threatening injuries he suffered in a freak shooting incident to come back for his second and third Tour wins are truly the stuff of legend. Boyishly enthusiastic, good-looking and yet determined to bring a new professionalism and outlook to the sport, his 8 second win over Laurent Fignon in 1989 remains one of the most memorable of all time. Somewhat sidelined and overshadowed during the Armstrong era, Lemond has recently re-emerged to take his rightful place as an icon of the sport.
Happy Birthday ‘Cannibal’
- TdF Winner – 1969, ’70, ‘ 71, ’72, ’74
- Giro d’Italia Winner – 1968, ’70, ‘ 72, ’73, ’74
- Vuelta a Espana Winner – 1973
- World Champion – 1967, ’71, ’74
- Paris-Roubaix Winner – 1968, ’70, ’73
- Milan-San Remo Winner – 1966, ’67, ’69, ’71, ’72, ’75, ’76
- Winner at Tour of Flanders, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Flèche Wallone, Giro di Lombardia
- World Hour Record 1972
A uncompromising winning machine, Eddy Merckx bestrides professional cycling as an unassailable colossus. His palmares is without compare, his dedication to victory without parallel. Quite simply The Greatest of All Time, Merckx has no match; modern, historical or contemporary. On every surface, in every season, over every distance, across every parcours, Eddy was, is and will always remain the man to beat.
Happy Birthday Chris Froome
The shortest palmares so far in the birthday series but I don’t think we will be saying that in a few years time. Froome’s rise from the obscurity of racing in Kenya is a worthy backstory to what could be the biggest marquee in the pro ranks over the next decade. A relentlessly driven, relentlessly polite man, Froome seems to balance the fire and ice needed to be successful champion and a well-repected person.
Happy Birthday Wiggo
- TdF Winner – 2012
- Quadruple Olympic Gold Medallist
- Six time track World Champion
Wiggins’ transition from Olympic track star to TdF winner, and his perceived gentlemanly attitude to racing, won him many French fans in 2012. Back in the UK he was loved for his unconventional podium speeches, his Mod style and for finally winning the Tour for Britain at the 99th edition. A supreme athlete when he focuses on a goal, he may yet have another career-defining moment up his sleeve.
Happy Birthday Zonzon
- World Champion – 1954
- Tour de France Winner – 1953, ’54, ’55
- Paris-Roubaix – 1956
- Milan-San Remo – 1951
- Ronde van Vlaanderen- 1955
- Giro de Lombardia – 1951
France’s first post-war cycling hero, the elder and more successful of the two Bobet brothers was also the first rider to win the Tour de France three times in succession. His memory will be eternally wedded to the ‘Casse Desert’ section of the Col d’Izoard climb; a cruel, empty area of white rock and scree on the Southern approach, which he conquered twice to take the Maillot Jaune on route to overall victory.