2min reading time   by Jacques Sys on 26 June 2021
I interviewed Rudi Altig twice, at his home in Sinzig, a fleck on the greenery somewhere between Cologne and Koblenz. From the living room window, you had a view of the Ahr valley and, on a beautiful day, you could see the River Rhine shining in the sun. Altig enjoyed the rolling landscape that unfurled before his eyes. He liked to sit in the garden and meditate on life. Altig had set up two rooms in the basement as a kind of trophy cabinet. He would take me there after every interview. Each cup or pennant had its own story. That's what he told me. This was Altig's way of paying tribute to his career. Two pictures stood out. The one from the 1966 World Championships at the Nürburgring, where Altig achieved immortality once and for all: he took the rainbow jersey in his own country. The second picture was even more striking: Altig racing over cobblestones with a pain-stricken face. Like a volcano on two wheels and, in 1964, on the way to victory in the Tour of Flanders.

Rudi Altig was a wonderfully approachable man who would offer you a spontaneously warm welcome. Someone who lived life to the full and thought that money was made for spending. With his blond, blocky head and rather stocky physique, he had the aura of a champion. This charisma remained even when his career was over. He was worshipped by an entire nation. People continued to idolise him until his death on 11 June 2016. 'Rudi, wie geht es?' (Rudi, how are you?), people then asked. And Altig's face would light up at being recognised and acknowledged. Everywhere Altig appeared, he was introduced as der ex-Weltmeister (the former world champion). An indelible memory.

Rudi Altig, an open man. Poignant when he talked about the untimely death of his mother, who died in a traffic accident, a traumatic event that shaped and toughened his character. And a prickly man when he spoke about the decision of the German ARD television not to extend his contract as a co-commentator because he was scathing about the way Jan Ullrich was throwing his talent away.

But Rudi Altig was never a man to mince his words. He would not be silenced by anyone. Then he decided he would rather do things more calmly. Get up quietly in the morning, go to the sauna, lie in the sun for a while, have breakfast, read some newspapers, have a nice meal in the afternoon, play some tennis and then enjoy a glass of wine in the evening. A life lived in almost devout silence.

Rudi Altig
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