Monday, June 24, 2024

Niels Fredborg – Danish Track Legend


HomeInterviewsNiels Fredborg - Danish Track Legend
Niels Fredborg
Niels Fredborg.

With the Copenhagen Six Day about to start we thought we’d best have a word with one of Denmark’s track legends; former World and Olympic kilometre champion, Niels Fredborg.

A man who was knocking out 1:4 kilometres some 40 years ago…

Can remind us of your kilometre palmarès please, Niels?

“In My time I won three world kilometre titles: Amsterdam 1967, Montevideo 1968 and Leicester 1970.

“I also won Olympic gold Munich 1972, silver in Mexico 1968 and a bronze in Montreal in 1976.

“Besides my kilometre results I won silver in the sprint in 1968 in Montevideo – to Luigi Borghetti of Italy.

“And in 1980 I took the bronze medal in the Keirin behind Danny Clark (Australia) and Daniel Morelon (France).”

What were your best times – at sea level and altitude?

“My best times were in Mexico at high altitude; 1.04.46 and one year later I took – also in Mexico – the world record with 1.04.39 (as I remember.)

“At sea level my best times were around 1.06.44 (Munich Olympics) and on open concrete tracks 1.07 / 1.08 and something like that.”

You must have been sad to see the kilometre removed from the Olympic programme?

“The kilometre has been removed from the Olympic program, yes; but I can see that there’s now an Omnium where you still have the kilometre in a more modern form, and that pleases me.

“I’m also happy that a Danish rider (Lasse Norman Hansen) won the omnium in the London Olympic Games – that was very fine for me.”

Was it possible to make a summer living from the European City Grand Prixs in the 60’s and 70’s?

“Most of all my medals are from my amateur time but I couldn’t make a living off it – as it was not allowed under amateur rules back then.

“But I still got a long very well with help from the Danish Cycling Federation and Danish Olympic Committee and a special arrangement, called Team Denmark.

“This helped me with many of my costs; and besides that I had my job as an Insurance salesman – which I did mainly at wintertime, while my cycling was mostly during the summertime.

“My bicycle equipment I always got free from sponsors and they made sure that I was always well up with the new technical standards of the time.”

Niels Fredborg
Niels on top of the world in 1967, flanked by Waclaw Latocha (l) and Roger Gibon (r). Photo©Ron Kroon

And you rode Six Days in the winter?

“After the Olympics 1976 I turned professional and got a few good sponsors, but I was at that time 29 years old, so the best years had passed by!

“I rode some 37 Six Days all over Europe and one in Montreal, Canada.

“My best placing was third in Herning with Patrick Sercu (Belgium) and a few fourth Places with Udo Hempel (Germany) and Gert Frank (Denmark).

“The Six Day races were of course tough for me as a sprinter, but I trained very hard and seriously – so I got along.

“I also rode some criteriums and even the road World Championships in Cologne (Nürburgring) in 1978!”

Niels Fredborg
Niels spends his time these days on the golf course.

Maurice and John Nicholson came over to Denmark to train with you – what are your memories of those days?

“I very well remember the good old days when a lot of British riders came to my home track in Aarhus – we trained and raced a lot together.

“The name you mention, the Australian John Nicholson (he just visited me a couple of months ago), Paul Medhurst and Maurice Burton were very fine guys to ride with – it’s always nice to have some tough competitors to train and race with.

“I never saw Maurice have any problems because of his colour – he has always been a nice fellow and a spectacular rider; so popular all over the world from the West Indies to the races on tracks here in Denmark and on the Six Day scene.

“I am happy to have him as a friend on Facebook; it looks like he is getting along very well – he looks very fit, still.”

And Gary Wiggins, what kind of man was he?

“Many Australians came over, Ron Baensch – was my trainer and friend for several years in the 60’s.

“Danny Clarke, Kevin Crowe and not forgetting Gary; I makes me very sad to hear what happened to him later – and also sad that he could not see his son win the Tour de France.

“They were all nice and funny guys – good friends – but they sometimes were looking a little too much at the nice Danish girls and the ‘dancing life,’ so it was not always too hard to beat them in the races, if I remember!

“Beside the times with the foreign riders I also had my countryman Peder Pedersen (former world sprint champion and world kilometre medallist, ed.) to compete against here at home.

“And it was always one of the most important things – to be the best Dane on the scene – so we had a lot of battles, but to the betterment of us both, I think.

“Nowadays we are very good friends and see each other occasionally.”

What did you do after you retired from cycling?

“When I finished my career in 1980 – after a hard crash in a keirin Race in Copenhagen – I owned bicycle shops in Aarhus and my hometown of Odder, here in Denmark.

“But after seven years I sold them and turned back to my old game as an insurance salesman, and did that for more than 30 years – I got along OK.

“From 1st January 2012 I have been on pension and am playing golf; I have a nice house near the golf course here in Aarhus and a summer flat on the Beach on the west coast.

“I have my lovely wife, Grethe; and our two nice girls, 27 and 30 years-old, who are living and working in Copenhagen.

“So I still think that life has been good to me.

“During the next year I intend to visit London and see my old friend, Brian Loughton – he has been my friend for over 50 years now – since I first saw him ride on my home track, Aarhus Cyklebane in 1960-61!”