By Sergey Kurdyukov
Russian cycling lost one of its all-time greats yesterday. Victor Kapitonov, the very first Soviet Olympic champion in the road race, who subsequently brought up several generations of winners as head coach of the Soviet national team, passed away in hospital in Moscow. For the last couple of years Kapitonov was courageously fighting serious diseases, but finally his body gave in.
His sensational victory in sun-melted Rome on August 29, 1960 earned him much more than fame and recognition in his home country and around the world. He became a person to look up to for millions of fans and a role model for young riders. It won't be an exaggeration to state that virtually everybody in the USSR knew the dramatic story of that victorious 175km-long race, the duel in a breakaway between a Russian youngster, born in a provincial town of Kalinin, and an Italian star, Livio Trape. Breaking through the wall of murderous 45-degrees heat, Victor sprinted for the line only to learn that he did it a lap too early. To pick oneself up and give one's all yet again, to win twice in a single race - that was what made him a living legend.
He has always been true to his name. When his career as a professional rider was over, he opened a new chapter in his victorious saga as a coach. He made four different riders from all corners of the country work as a single whole in TTT in 1972 (Boris Shukhov, Valery Yardy, Gennadi Komnatov, Valery Likhachev), 1976 (Anatoli Chukanov, Valeri Chaplygin, Vladinir Kaminski, Aavo Pikkuus) and in 1980 (Yuri Kashirin, Oleg logvin, Sergei Shelpakov, Anatoli Yarkin). Finally Sergey Sukhorutchenkov followed Kapitonov’s footsteps to the top of the podium of Olympic road race in Moscow. Also squads led by Kapitonov achieved tremendous success in individual and team classifications of the Peace Race, the most prestigious amateur tour of that epoch.
In 1988, Victor stepped down as head coach, but remained greatly involved in the activity of the Soviet and, later, the Russian cycling federation. For already 30 years on end, the very best of Russian young cycling hopes contends for the prize bearing the name of Olympic champion. This stage race, held in his native region of Tver, was an important step towards the pro ranks for well-known riders of today, like Sergey Ivanov and Denis Menchov. There is no doubt that this contest will live on, as well as our memory of Victor Kapitonov.