Magni tops Contador, celebrates 90th birthday
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Magni tops Contador, celebrates 90th birthday

by Samuel Morrison at 1:18 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
'As soon as you are satisfied with yourself, you're finished'

Fiorenzo Magni easily distanced Tour de France winner Alberto Contador in a week of birthdays by Grand Tour winners. The Italian, three-time Giro d'Italia winner, celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday in Monticello Brianza, Italy.

Contador turned 28 years old on Monday. He barely had time to raise a glass of champagne, though, because he is trying to defend himself. He failed a doping test on his way to his third Tour de France win in July.

Magni led Tour de France 60 years ago in 1950. It was his 11th season as a professional in a career that stretched from 1940 to 1956, spanning the second World War.

He was never able to defend the yellow jersey he won on July 25th. He led the race by 2'31" over Swiss Ferdi Kübler, but abandoned with the rest of the Italians the next day. They left in support of Gino Bartali, who felt threatened by the French fans after being blamed for the crash of their rider, Jean Robic.

Magni said later, though the race was only half-way over, that he had a good chance of winning.

"He was forced to leave. He looked so much more stronger than everyone," long-time rival, Alfredo Martini told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "And the 1951 Worlds in Varese, that slipped out of his hands, second only to Kübler. But even without those two titles, he was among the best of his time."

Magni was the best alongside legends Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi. He beat them to win the Giro d'Italia three times – the oldest winner ever in 1955 and by just 12 seconds ahead of Coppi. He's won the ultimate race, he's the only one of the three still living. He spends most of his time now looking after his baby, the Ghisallo Museum. It is a short distance from where he celebrated his birthday yesterday and where he gave an hour-long speech, rattling off one-liners:

"My wife said to me, 'I saw Coppi and Bartali pass, they were not even sweating, but you are always breathless.'"
"With Coppi and Bartali, I couldn't do it. They said they were angels, but to me they were devils. An entire life, following them."
"I suffered immensely on the climbs, but I only need 100 metres of downhill to return again."
"Races that should have won, and that I lost. Races that I should have lost, and I won. It's all payback, and I have nothing to regret."
"Doping in those days, compared to now, was chamomile."
"I regretted when they asked me to come to lunch. When they said, 'We will eat well,' it was worse. It was ideal to go where the food was bad, so you'd eat less."
"I am a man of faith, and I know that I am going to purgatory."
"What counts is not your last win, but your next one. As soon as you are satisfied with yourself, you're finished."

Magni was focused enough to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen three times in a row, the only cyclist ever to do so. He also won three national road race titles, 1951 ahead of Bartali and 1954 ahead of Coppi.

Happy Birthday Magni!

Major Wins:
Giro d'Italia (1948, 1950, 1951), 6 stage and 24 days in pink
Tour de France: 7 stages and 9 days in yellow
Ronde van Vlaanderen (1949, 1950, 1951)
Italian Road Race Championship (1951, 1953, 1954)
Vuelta a España: 3 stages


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