Italian cycling mourns as “Lion of Flanders” Fiorenzo Magni dies aged 91
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Italian cycling mourns as “Lion of Flanders” Fiorenzo Magni dies aged 91

by Ben Atkins at 6:53 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Tour of Flanders
 
“Third man” of the Coppi-Bartali era passes away in his sleep

fiorenzo magniAmid the chaos of past and present doping scandals, Italian cycling mourns the passing of a legend today with the news that Fiorenzo Magni died lastnight, according to la Gazzetta dello Sport. The 91-year-old, who was known as the “third man” in Italy during the era of rivalry between Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, reportedly passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home in Monza, to the north of Milan.

Although he was never as popular as his two contemporaries - largely due to his siding with Mussolini after Italy’s 1943 armistice with the Allies - Magni won the Giro d’Italia three times, in 1948, 1951 and 1955; the third of those victories was taken at the age of 34, making him the oldest winner of the race to this day. It was the years 1949-51 that really make him stand out however, as he became the first - and still the only - rider to win three consecutive editions of the Ronde van Vlaanderen; earning himself the unusual nickname for an Italian of “il Leone delle Fiandre”, the Lion of Flanders.

Despite this however, the most famous image of Magni - and one of the most iconic in cycling - is from the 1956 Giro d’Italia where, as defending champion at almost 36 years of age, he refused to give up despite a fractured shoulder. Unable to pull on the bars because of the pain Magni tied a bandage to his bars and, holding it between his teeth, pulled his way up the mountains that way. In an incredible display of determination, he finished the race in second place, just 3’27” behind Luxembourg’s Charly Gaul.

Despite his success in the Giro, Magni was never able to translate it to a victory in the Tour de France, although he took seven stages in his career. The nearest he came to overall victory was in 1950 when, while dressed in the yellow jersey, he was part of the Italian team that withdrew from the race midway through, due to threats and assaults from fans who accused him of causing local favourite Jean Robic to crash.

Michele Acquarone, managing director of Giro organiser RCS Sport paid tribute to the late champion in la Gazzetta.

"Fiorenzo said to me, in life no one gives you anything, you have to fight every day and try to improve,” he recalled. “His determination and courage will always be a example to follow, for me and my children. We will miss him very much.”

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