Gimondi remembers Rudy Altig

After the passing of the former German Champion, Felice Gimondi recalls the fond memories of his teammate at Salvarani

I was at home on Saturday, when I was told on the phone that Rudi, my friend Rudi, had gone for his final breakaway. Rudi Altig was some years older than I am – he was born in 1937, I am of 1942. That’s why my memories of him as a rider belong to the early part of my career. He won the first World Championship I took part in as a pro, at Nurburgring in 1966, clinching the title he had barely missed the year before, denied by Tommy Simpson. Simpson and him were equal in age, but Tommy did not have the chance to grow old along with us. We never forgot our day on the Mont Ventoux, Rudi and I.

“It’s been a while since I last saw him, but we used to speak quite often. A few weeks ago, Rudi had invited me to an event in Baden Baden, in September, a reunion of 20-some World Champions. Unfortunately, Rudi will not be there, and that won’t be the same. My wife and I called Rudi’s wife as soon as we received the bad news. So I learned that Rudi had been affected by a fulminant disease, and that he had suffered much over the last days of his life. He never told me he was sick.”

Recently, reviewing the memories I wrote in my book “Da Me in Poi”, I found Rudi on my side in 1968, the first of two years he was my teammate at Salvarani, and also the season when he won Milano-Sanremo. Altig was with me in one of the toughest day in my career, when Merckx battered us all on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo climb, on the way to his first Giro d’Italia. I finished over six minutes behind, my eyes in tears: Rudi was with me, and I could tell he was sharing my suffering in depth.

Even when our careers took different directions, my bond with Altig remained stronger than with most of the other riders, either Italian or not. Rudi was a pleasant and fun person and, above all, a loyal and generous man. I always felt happy for all of his successes. I carry him in my heart, like all my teammates that helped me to become the rider I was, and the person I am. The passing of Rudi left my family and I in great pain. We wish to express our sympathy to the family of Rudi, a wonderful person and a good friend of mine. Farewell Rudi. I will miss you.