Altig in 2006
|Full name||Rudi Altig|
18 March 1937 |
Mannheim, West Germany
|Discipline||Track and road|
|1959||Torpedo-Fichtel & Sachs|
|World champion individual pursuit (1960–1961)
Vuelta a España (1962)
Tour de France green jersey (1962)
Tour of Flanders (1964)
World Cycling Championship (1966)
Milan – San Remo (1968)
Rudi Altig was born in Mannheim, Baden, Germany, an area which had produced good track riders. He began racing in 1952, following his older brother, Willi. The brothers teamed for madison and other two-man races, becoming the best in the country. The British promoter, Jim Wallace, booked Altig to ride with Hans Jaroszewicz at a meeting on Herne Hill velodrome in Good Friday in 1956. He said:
- What a pair they made! They just about slaughtered a top-class field of international riders, with all our best home lads. Only Michel Rousseau, later that year to become world sprint champion, was able to take a points sprint from them. That was in the first sprint, too; thereafter the German pair gained not only every sprint for points but every prime [lap prize] as well ... They went on to Coventry [another meeting held over Easter] and did much the same thing, winning everything in which they rode, so classy was their performance.
Altig became national sprint champion in 1957 and 1958. Then Karly Ziegler, a coach, took over his preparation when he joined the Endspurt Mannheim club and Altig became a pursuiter. He won the 1959 national pursuit championship and won the madison championship with his brother. Later that year he beat many of the world's best pursuiters to become world champion in Amsterdam.
Professional track career
Altig was allowed by the Union Cycliste Internationale to turn professional in 1960 within a year of his world championship. He rode his first professional six-day, in Denmark, that winter. Wallace said:
- No man ever settled down better or quicker to a pro career than the able Altig. In the hurly-burly world of indoor track racing. Rudi never seemed a novice. Settling down at once, tearing strips off established stars, he soon started to fill indoor tracks which had long forgotten the welcome sight of a 'house full' sign. He brought back the biggest winter racing boom to Germany for many years, reminiscent of the balmy pre-war days. With seven tracks at home - more than in the rest of Europe - Altig had a busy time and was soon in the big money.
He won the world pursuit championship in 1960 and 1961 and won 62 races on the track. He won 22 six-day races, particularly in Germany, including four in Cologne and Dortmund. He never rode the Giro di Lombardia because it clashed with the start of the winter season on the track. He said:
- I rode the track because I could win money. If I hadn't been able to win money on the track, I wouldn't have travelled all the velodromes of the world to ride six-days. Now, riders are better paid and they don't need to hammer themselves on the road and the track. We, in our era, we did everything to try to win money. Modern times are different, you have to understand that. You can't compare the two eras. But I don't regret ours.
Altig, who is 1m 80 tall and weighed 80 kg, sprinted on the track on 52 or 53 × 16 and rode pursuits on 52 × 15. "He gave his bikes as hard a time as he gave his adversaries," said the writer, Olivier Dazat.
Altig started his professional career as a track rider; it was Raphaël Géminiani who persuaded him his future was on the road. Altig agreed because fame on the road would give him better contracts on the track. He won the Vuelta a España and three of its stages in 1962. He was maillot jaune for five days in his first Tour de France that same season, winning three stages and the points competition, and finishing 31st.
He won his first classic in 1964, the Tour of Flanders after riding 60 km alone and winning by four minutes. In the same year he won the German National Road Race. In 1965 he finished second to Englishman Tom Simpson in the professional road championship in San Sebastián, Spain. Simpson said:
- I could not accept that Altig could beat me. Going round the back of the circuit we came to a gentleman's agreement. Both of us had worked hard in our little break and therefore we each deserved an equal chance of victory. We agreed to separate when we reached the one kilometre to go board and ride in side by side. Altig was quite happy about this for I am sure he thought he could put it across me. So there we were, two gentlemen virtually fighting a duel over the last kilometre. I was glad that Altig had accepted my proposal for it was the fairest way out. I have always regarded him as a great rider and his showing that day did nothing to make me change my mind.
But the world title was not denied for long: he won the 1966 championship not too far away from his home, at the Nürburgring. There was controversy because Altig had been helped by Gianni Motta, riding that day for Italy but normally Altig's companion in the Molteni team. The concern was quickly overshadowed by the refusal of the first three riders to give urine samples for a drugs check. They were protesting at what they saw was the laxity with which tests were carried out and at what they considered restrictions on the way they prepared themselves. Altig said: "We are professionals, not sportsmen." The three were disqualified and suspended but ten days later the Union Cycliste Internationale allowed the result to stand.
Altig took three stages in that year's Tour, finishing 12th place overall, and two more in the Giro d'Italia, in which he came 13th.
The second and final classic win came in the 1968 Milan–San Remo. He also took two stages of that year's Vuelta, finishing 18th overall. In 1969 he finished 9th in the Giro, and won the prologue individual time trial of the Tour de France.
Altig rode his first Tour as a domestique and as team sprinter for Jacques Anquetil. The two developed a rocky relationship in the Tour of Spain that hardened when Altig took the yellow jersey early in the Tour de France. Anquetil criticised him because his team would have to ride at the front and chase every attack to protect a rider too heavy to keep his lead through the mountains. The two never became close until they rode for different teams.
- Generally in a race of the Barrachi type, the changes are very rapid, with stints of no more than 300 yards. Altig was at the front when I started the check - and he was still there a minute later. Something must be wrong. Altig wasn't even swinging aside to invite Anquetil through... Suddenly, on a flat road, Anquetil lost contact and a gap of three lengths appeared between the two partners. There followed one of the most sensational things I have ever seen in any form of cycle racing during my 35 years' association with the sport - something which I consider as great a physical performance as a world hour record or a classic road race win. Altig was riding at 30mph at the front - and had been doing so for 15 minutes. When Anquetil lost contact, he had to ease the pace, wait for his partner to go by, push him powerfully in the back, sprint to the front again after losing 10 yards in the process, and again settle down to a 30mph stint at the front. Altig did not this just once but dozens of times.
Anquetil reached the stadium where the race finished and hit a pole. He was helped away with staring eyes and with blood streaming from a cut to his head. The couple nevertheless won by nine seconds. Altig said: "Jacques wasn't happy [during the race], it didn't please him at all, but I wanted us to win. So I got him by the saddle, I got him by the shorts, and hop!."
Altig became directeur sportif of the Puch-Wolber team when he stopped racing and worked for five years as national coach. He is now a television commentator. He said of the American rider, Lance Armstrong: "He is a tyrant who exploits his team-mates without leaving them the least initiative." Of his fellow German, Jan Ullrich, he said he would do better to talk less about what he was going to do and get on and do it.
Altig won 22 six-days:
- (with Hans Junkermann)
- 1962: Berlin, Münster
- 1963: Essen
- 1964: Essen
- (with Fritz Pfenninger)
- 1964: Dortmund, Frankfurt am Main
- 1970: Dortmund
- 1971: Bremen, Cologne
- (with Dieter Kemper)
- 1965: Berlin, Frankfurt a. M.
- 1966: Bremen, Cologne
- (with Sigi Renz)
- 1965: Cologne
- 1966: Berlin, Dortmund, Zürich
- 1968: Bremen, Cologne
- 1969: Ghent
- (with Patrick Sercu)
- 1968: Dortmund, Frankfurt a. M.
- (with Klaus Bugdahl)
- 1968: Münster
Road race victories
- Round of Aix
- Vuelta a España
- G.P of Cannes
- Manx Trophy
- Trofeo Baracchi (with Jacques Anquetil)
- Critérium of the Aces
- Tour de France
- 31 place overall classification
- Winner stages 1, 3 and 17
- Winner green jersey
- Wearing yellow jersey during 5 days
- La Bastide d'Armagnac
- German road race Championship
- Tour of Flanders
- Tour of Dortmund
- G.P Parisian (chrono by teams)
- 8th stage (b) of Paris–Nice
- Tour de France
- 12th place overall classification
- Winner 4th stage
- Wearing yellow jersey during 4 days
- Vuelta a España: 1st stage
- World road race champion
- Tour of Piedmont
- Tour of Tuscany
- Critérium de Wengen
- Bol d'Or des Monédières
- Tour de France
- 12th place overall classification
- Winner stages 1, 12 and 22B
- Wearing yellow jersey during 9 days
- Giro d'Italia
- 13 place overall classification
- Winner stages 7 and 11
- Cronostaffetta (with Gianni Motta and Franco Balmamion)
- Milan–San Remo
- Vuelta a España
- 18th place overall classification
- Winner stages 3B and 5
- G.P of Lugano
- Tour de France
- Winner prologue
- Wearing yellow jersey for 1 day
- Sporting Cyclist, UK, December 1966
- Coups de Pédales, Belgium, undated cutting
- Willi had been invited but had fallen ill.
- Dazat, Olivier; Barrot, Olivier (1987). Seigneurs Et Forcats Du Velo. France: Calmann-Levy. ISBN 2-7021-1615-9.
- "National Championship, Road, Elite, Germany". Cycling Archives. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
- Simpson, Tommy (1966). Cycling is My Life. London: tanley Paul. ISBN 0-09-081351-0.
- Nicholson, Geoffrey (1991, Le Tour, Hodder and Stoughton, UK, p160, ISBN 0-340-54268-3
- de Mondenard, Jean-Pierre (2000). Dopage, l'imposture des performances. France: Chiron. p. 103. ISBN 2-7027-0639-8.
- Mulholland, Owen (2006). Cycling's Golden Age. USA: Velo Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-931382-87-8.
- Dazat, Olivier (1987). Seigneurs et Forçats du Vélo. France: Calmann-Levy. ISBN 2-7021-1615-9.
- Journal du Dimanche, France, 27 July 2003
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rudi Altig.|
- Rudi Altig profile at Cycling Archives
|German Sportsman of the Year