Ercole Baldini - "The Train from Forlì"
A phenomenal road and track cyclist, Olympic champion in 1956, world champion in 1958, holder of the hour record and winner of the 1967 Giro d'Italia. The only cyclist in the world to have won an Olympic medal, a world championship and a Grand Tour.
All this, in less than ten years, made Ercole Baldini a cycling legend.
Junior and amateur categories
Ercole Baldini was born in Forlì in 1933 and began competing when he was only seventeen.
His results were immediately surprising.
1951 - He came third in the Italian cadet championships and the following year moved up to the amateur category, where he soon set the hour record, covering 44.870 km.
1956- 1958: The golden three-year period
In those incredible three years, Baldini won the hour record, a Gran Prix des Nations (the equivalent of the modern world time trial championship), an Italian track championship, two Italian road championships, a world track championship, a road championship, an Olympic road title and a Giro d'Italia.
1956 - Italian pursuit champion again in the amateur category and only two months later also a world champion, defeating reigning champion Leandro Faggin in both races.
In the same year, Baldini prepared to break the hour record again. He trained on the 10 and 20 km (in which he became the record holder) and improved his overall world performance, although he was still an amateur, by completing 46.393 km.
The season ended with another great success: his triumph at the Melbourne Olympic Games in the road race. Surprising everyone, Baldini broke away from his rivals on the final climb of the course.
1957 - Baldini finally turned professional and joined the legendary Legnano Team, the sixth-best cycling team of all time.
By this time, it was clear to everyone that he was a complete rider, gifted with the characteristics of a climber-passer and time trialist. Thanks to his fantastic successes, he earned two nicknames: Il Treno di Forlì (The train from Forlì) and Sputnik Italiano (Italian Sputnik).
With Legnano he won the Trofeo Baracchi and the Giro di Romagna and became Italian road champion. At the Giro d'Italia, he won the time trial in Forte Dei Marmi with such a high average that sixty riders finished outside the maximum time limit.
1958 - Baldini won the Giro d'Italia, then came third in both the uphill and time trials. He became the Italian road champion for the second time.
For this reason, he gave up the Tour de France. He wanted to be in perfect shape for the World Road Championships in Reims. And his decision was a wise one.
In that race, he distinguished himself immediately, leaving the peloton with 250 km to go to chase down the first three riders, Louis Bobet, Gerrit Voorting and Gastone Nencini,
Baldini managed to overtake them one by one and won the race by a clear margin.
People said that he was not only strong on the bike but also elegant. Because of that, many called him 'the new Fausto Coppi'.
The end of his career
Unfortunately, Baldini's career did not last long. Health problems prevented him from achieving any other relevant results. However, he still won stages in the Tour de France in 1959, and in 1962 he set the overall climbing record at the Giro di Lombardia, with a time of 9'24''.
In 1964 Baldini announced his retirement from racing.
But his legend is still alive, and his heart has never stopped beating for racing.
He was sports director for several professional teams for years, was chosen as President of the Cyclists' Association, President of the League and collaborator of the President of the International Cycling Union, Hein Verbruggen.
In 2016 he was rightfully inducted into the Giro d'Italia Hall of Fame.
(1) 1956 - Melbourne
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