Today it’s 60 years ago that Russell Mockridge passed away during the Tour of Gippsland. Mockridge was one of two Australian riders at the Tour de France 1955. He also became two times Olympic champion at the Olympic Games in Helsinki 1952. He won the kilometre and tandem sprint track race.
At the age of 20, he was selected for the Olympic Games 1948 in London. He finished 26nd of the 28 finished in a field of 101 in the 192-kilometre road race. On the track, he was part of the Australian team in the team pursuit, They elected at the quarterfinals and classified as tied fifth.
Two years later, at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, he conquered three medals, including two golds. He won the kilometre and the sprint and became second in the pursuit. After the games, he gave his bike away and joined the church because “There’s a lot more to this life than riding a bicycle”. Soon he decided that perhaps he had it wrong about there being more in life than cycling. A year later, he was second to Enzo Sacchi in the world sprint championship.
In 1952, he became two times Olympic champion in the kilometre in an Olympic record and in the tandem sprint. After this success in Helsinki, he chooses to ride more road races. In 1954 he won Grand Prix Marcel Kint and in 1955 he took part in the Tour de France at mixed Luxembourg – International team and finished 64th. This was his only Tour, but he was much happier in short races than long ones.
Mockridge goes back to Australia and became three times in a row national champion and won the Tour of Tasmania and Herald Sun Tour in 1957 before he didn’t see a bus coming towards him on 13 September 1958 during the Tour of Gippsland and crashed which resulted in death. He was 30 years old.
This week the peloton is riding Vuelta al País Vasco in Basque Country. José Antonio González Linares is one of the two riders who did win the stage race four times. Alberto Contador Velasco is the other rider to do so.
If I hear the name of José Antonio González Linares, I always have to think about Tour de France 1970. The second part of stage 7 was an individual time trial around Forest. The big favourite for that time trial was Eddy Merckx, who wears the yellow jersey with nearly two minutes advantage of Walter Godefroot, but Merckx was surprised beaten by González Linares with three seconds. It was one of the biggest victories for the Spanish rider in his career.
Besides this victory, González Linares won the Vuelta al País Vasco four times, took three stage victories in La Vuelta and became Spanish champion in 1970. After his career, González Linares became a politician. For his party, “Partido Regionalista de Cantabria”, he successfully participated in the elections of 1999 for the region Cantabria.
On 7 February 2010 dies Franco Ballerini in an auto race in Larciano where he was participating as navigator for Alessandro Ciardi. He was 45 years old.
Ballerini started his professional cycling career in 1986 by Magniflex. In the first few years of his career, he didn’t win much but in 1990, when he is riding for Del Tongo, he won Paris-Brussel, Grand Prix des Amériques and Giro del Piemonte. He was a rider for the classics and after two years for Del Tongo, he goes to GB-MG Maglificio. For that team, he was close to a victory in Paris-Roubaix 1993. On the line, he was beaten by Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle in an exciting Paris-Roubaix finale.
Two years later he did win Paris-Roubaix. With 32 kilometres left to go, Ballerini attacks on cobblestones and wins with nearly two minutes in hand. Three years later he won Paris-Roubaix again. It was his last big victory before he ended his career in 2001. After his career he became manager of the Italian national cycling squad, winning the 2002 World Championship with Mario Cipollini and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens with Paolo Bettini. Bettini did give him two another World titles in 2006 & 2007. In 2008 Alessandro Ballan gives Ballerini his fourth World title as manager of the Italian national team.
On 1 February 1980 dies Gastone Nencini one month before his 50th birthday. Nencini, nicknamed Il Leone del Mugello, did win the 1960 Tour de France and 1957 Giro d’Italia and stood on the podium of Giro d’Italia 1955 and 1960.
Nencini was one of the best descenders ever in pro cycling. It was in trying to follow Nencini down a mountain, Col de Perjulet, that Roger Rivière missed a bend, crashed over a wall and became for 80 percent invalid. Besides going downhill was Nencini also one of the best climbers in the peloton in his days. He won the mountain classification in the Giro d’Italia (1955) and Tour de France (1957).
In Giro d’Italia 1955, he had the pink jersey with two days left to Milano. He punctured and at that moment Fausto Coppi and Fiorenzo Magni attacked. In San Pellegrino, Gastone Nencini loses 5 minutes and 37 seconds and loses the pink jersey to Fiorenzo Magni. In Milano, Nencini ended third 4 minutes and 8 seconds from Fiorenzo Magni.
Two years later, he takes revenge. At the moment that pink jersey holder Charly Gaul takes his time to pee Nencini accelerates and Gaul loses his pink jersey and the 1957 Giro. In Milano, Nencini had 19 seconds advantage on Louison Bobet, one of the smallest gaps in the final classification Giro d’Italia.
After his victory in the 1960 Tour de France, his results became disappointing. He started in four more Grand Tours but finished only one: 1962 Giro d’Italia (13th). He quit in 1965 and became an amateur painter. At the age of 49, Nencini died as a result of lung cancer.
On 30 January 1975 is Magnus Bäckstedt born. He’s the only Swedish rider to win a Monument 1.
Bäckstedt became pro in 1996 at the Belgium formation Collstrop-Palmans. After two seasons, with a victory in the GP d’Isbergues, he leaves to GAN. During that season GAN renamed to Crédit Agricole. In 1998 Tour de France he wins stage 19 in Autun, where he defeats his fellow attackers Maarten den Bakker, Eddy Mazzoleni and Pascal Demare in the sprint.
He stayed three more years at Crédit Agricole but due to lack of success, he had to leave at the end of 2001 and found a place at Team Fakta. In 2003 Giro d’Italia he won the Intergiro classification and gets a contract at Alessio. By the Italian formation, Bäckstedt blossomed again in one-day races. He became second in Gent-Wevelgem and four days later he surprised with a win in Paris-Roubaix.
After this success, he moved to Liquigas. He rode three years for the Italian formation but didn’t have much success. His last season as a pro cyclist he rode for Garmin-Chipotle. With this formation, he won the opening team time trial in the 2008 Giro d’Italia.
Nowadays Bäckstedt is a pro cycling coach at his own Bäckstedt Cycling Academy and has a development team: Team Bäckstedt HotChillee.