It is with great emotions that we have learned about the passing away of our long-term friend and president, Marcel Gilles. Hereafter is an official statement of the ACC Contern (in French):
Communiqué de l’ACC Contern:
« Un seul être vous manque et tout est dépeuplé »
Alphonse de Lamartine
C’est avec une profonde tristesse que l’ACC Contern se doit de faire part de la disparition de son président émérite Monsieur Marcel GILLES, foudroyée par une maladie implacable à l’âge de 68 ans après une vie vouée entièrement à sa passion, le cyclisme.
Fils d’un marchand de cycles, Marcel Gilles est né « vacciné » avec les gênes du vélo et dès son plus jeune âge il côtoya les grands champions cyclistes. Rapidement, il délaissa une carrière éphémère de coureur pour s’engager comme dirigeant au sein de l’ACC Contern, comme directeur sportif, secrétaire et finalement comme président depuis 1989.
Organisateur avec son club de nombreuses courses cyclistes comme le Grand Prix François Faber, la cyclosportive Charly Gaul et le Critérium « Gala Tour de France », Marcel Gilles se dévoua tout au long de sa vie dans l’intérêt du sport cycliste et de très nombreux coureurs, souvent destinés à un grand avenir, tels Kim Andersen, Bjarne Riis, Kim Kirchen, les frères Fränk et Andy Schleck ou plus récemment encore Jempy Drucker.
Présent sur toutes les grandes courses au Luxembourg comme à l’étranger, Marcel Gilles voua un amour sans pareil au Tour de France qu’il suivait régulièrement depuis 1977. Pour sa fidélité au Tour, Marcel Gilles reçut la plaquette de reconnaissance du Tour des mains de son directeur un quatorze juillet 2012.
Avec Marcel GILLES l’ACC Contern et le cyclisme grand-ducal perdent leur plus fervent serviteur, et par ailleurs, un grand ami, une forte personnalité, et surtout, un grand monsieur de notre sport.
L’ACC Contern exprime à la famille éplorée et surtout à sa maman ses plus sincères condoléances et gardera à jamais un souvenir ému et inaltérable de Marcel.
Le Comité de l’ACC Contern.
PS: the ACC Contern would also like to inform by this means that the events planned in the ongoing year are not cancelled. The Grand-prix François Faber and the Grand-prix OST Manufaktur will thus take place as planned on May 1st in Bech. This is what he wanted and this is the only way to honour his memory.
What is there to say about Marcel Gilles? His live could (and maybe will some day) fill several interesting books, it was full with passion, travelling, emotions and encounters. When you saw him for the first time, you were of course impressed. After all, he was "Mister Cycling" in Luxemburg, he knew everything and everyone in that world, a living encyclopedia. But soon, his kindness would put you at ease. He had a nice word for everyone and always some kind of funny story to tell, when you had the chance of being with him.
Marcel Gilles was man with a good heart. He offered a trip to the cyclo-cross world championships to some young riders in order to wake up their passion for his sport, he offered some prize money, a dinner or even a bed to other riders who were surviving for their sport without money, trying to get a contract somewhere. He participated in sending bicycles to Burkina Faso and never forgot to send a postcard to his friends when he was travelling. He had nice words for people in difficulties as well as warm thank yous for sponsors or helpers in his sport. He never forgot the ancient glories of cycling, from François Faber to Bim Diederich or Charly Gaul, and created monuments for them, monuments in stone but also living ones like races.
Marcel Gilles never gave up. When the Gala Tour de France was about to pass away because of financial problems in 2002, Marcel refused to throw the towel. Without sponsor, but with all his personnal engagement and sometimes some of his own money, he helped the event to survive those difficult years, before it rose again to new glory later. He had a lot of health problems during his last years, but none was able to prevent him of visiting his beloved races. At the end of January this year, only a few weeks before leaving this world, Marcel was again with us at the world cyclo-cross championships in Hoogerheide, making it an unforgettable trip as always.
Marcel Gilles wanted to do the things right. When he organized an event or a trip, he always looked for that little extra thing that would please to everyone. A suprise visite in an Italian winery, a historic parade for celebrating the 50th anniversary of Charly Gaul's victory in the Tour de France, an evening with friends at Rafael's restaurant, a bus painted in yellow for Andy Schleck's performances in the 2010 Tour, a cultural visit at cycling world championships, prominent guests, dinners with lots of amusing stories, encouters with funny, important or simply nice peoples: Marcel always found something to please his friends, the fans, his clients or his riders.
Marcel Gilles of course also had his weak points, but above all, he had that passion, that passion for the sport, first on four wheels, than on two wheels. The members of the ACC Contern don't have a president any more, right now, but they still have that passion for the beauty of sports that he taught them.
The life of Marcel Gilles was closely linked to the ACC Contern and, the other way around, the club wouldn't exist without his most faithfull supporter. You only have to take a trip into the history of our association to learn about all the innovations brought by his president and about the way in which he made the sport always more attractive and closer to the fans.
In 1977, ACC Contern took over from the UCA Wiltz the Grand-Prix François Faber, the oldest and one of the most prestigious luxembourgish races, and decided to hold it as a stage race over several days. The podiums in the first two years saw such great riders as René Martens, Etienne de Wilde, Claude Criquiélion or Fons de Wolf. For several years, the Grand-Prix François Faber has been the most important event in our calendar, and many good riders have participated such as Erik Zabel, Michael Boogerd or Romans Vainsteins among others.
On April 20, 1989, as a prologue to the Grand-Prix François Faber, Marcel Gilles imagined the Grand-Prix Charly Gaul as a time trial for the professionnal riders having a rider license in Luxemburg (Accacio da Silva, winner of the race, Per Pedersen, Kim Andersen, Bjarne Riis ...). This race inspired him after that for two other very different events: the "randonnée Charly Gaul" (since 1990), a cyclo-sportive race for everyone on hilly courses and the Gala Tour de France (since 1996), a criterium for invited professional riders
Another race that has been very important in the history of our club, is the Grand-Prix Ostfenster on the road, ridden for the first time in 1985 (named then Grand-Prix des Artisans de la Commune de Manternach). A highlight certainly was In 1989, when Marcel Gilles managed to invite to Luxemburg the "silver train" of the riders from former East-Germany (Thomas Barth the winner, Uwe Ampler, Olaf Ludwig the olympic champion and Uwe Raab). They took 4 of the 5 places on the podium. In 1996, Bjarne Riis dominated the Grand-Prix Ostfenster and won it only a few months before winning the Tour de France. After 3 years of absence, this race is back in our yearly calendar since 2004. Ostfenster, a firm owned by a former rider of the ACC Contern, Mr Romain Hilger, still is one of our main sponsors and has also given its name for some years to our traditionnal cyclo-cross in November
Cyclo-cross always has been part of our events. Every year, one or two cyclo-cross races have been organised on different circuits designed by Marcel Gilles: Contern, Walsdorf, Luxembourg (in the centre of the town), Kirchberg (only a few metres away from his home), Junglinster, Gonderange or Steinsel. A lot of world-champions have competed there in their rainbow-jersey: Danny de Bie, Pol Herijgers, Mario De Clerq, Richard Groenendaal, Erwin Verwecken and many more. In 1990, Marcel created a spectacular cyclo-cross race in form of a madison. Every team was composed by a road racer for the easier part of the circuit and a cyclo-cross specialist for the more technical part (winner under a lot of rain: the surprising team Danny De Bie and Kim Andersen).
July 1996: Bjarne Riis, former rider of the ACC Contern, wins the Tour de France, the biggest cycling race in the world. To celebrate this victory and to honour Bjarne, Marcel Gilles decided to organize in collaboration with the municipality of Steinsel, where he lived, a criterium with him and his Telekom team as main attraction. In September 1996, Bjarne won this race in front of Abraham Olano, just a few meters away from his home. The success of the event has encouraged us to continue and (nearly) every year since 1996, the ACC Contern organizes a criterium with some of the heros of the Tour de France as main attraction.
But Marcel was not only organizer, he was also soigneur, mechanic, team director or advisor for the riders of the ACC Contern and with very small financial means, he managed in the years 70 and 80 to build some of the most competitive amateur teams in Eruope.
During the first Grand-prix François Faber organized by ACC Contern, in 1977, Marcel Gilles saw a young and talented Danish rider named Kim Andersen, who didn't win the race, but impressed with his offensive riding style. He decided to build an amateur team around this rider as of next year: Kim Andersen, Romain Hilger, Per Sandahl or Eugène Urbany have won amongst others the biggest amateur cycling race in those times (Niedersachsen-rundfahrt), stages in Flèche du Sud and several National championship titles.
Kim Andersen quickly turned professional and Romain Hilger became a successfull businessman, but Per Sandahl has stayed with the ACC Contern for a long time. He was joined by Neil Martins, father of the winner in last year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and by some of the best home riders in this years: Conny Neiertz, Jean Feinen, André Heuertz, Pascal Kohlvelter or Fernand Sand.
In 1985, Marcel Gilles scored another highlight in the history of our association. Again, he invited a few young Danish riders to come to Luxemburg: together with Kohlvelter and Sand, Bjanre Riis, Jesper Skibby and Per Pedersen have dominated the season and they took wins in the Peace Race and the Tour of Liège among others. The three Danish riders have turned pros right after that.
But the biggest success of Marcel Gilles is maybe the fact that two riders who raced for the ACC Contern in the youth categories in the years 1994 - 1999, Kim Kirchen and Frank Schleck, had a successfull career on the highest level. Since then, they have been joined by Andy Schleck and Jempy Drucker. With his good contacts in cycling, Marcel Gilles has opened one or another door for them in the world of this sport and has maybe contributed for a small amount in their success.
Here are some photos of Marcel Gilles during his time at the ACC Contern.
GOOD BYE, MARCEL! We will miss you!