The great Fiorenzo Magni died today, October 19th 2012, at the age of 91. He was a true icon of Italian cycling. Often referred to as the “third man of the Golden Age”, he was a fierce adversary of Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi, winning the Giro d’Italia three times. He was known as “ll Leone delle Fiandre” after his hat-trick of wins in the Tour of Flanders in ‘49, ‘50 and ‘51. He is also largely credited with creating the blueprint for professional cycling, for it was he who first introduced the idea of commercial sponsors from outside of the cycling industry.
Magni began his cycling career with the l’Associazione Ciclistica Montecatini Terme in 1938. Just a year later, at 18 years of age, he was selected for the Italian National Team but this early part of his career was cut short by the start of the Second World War.
He won his first of three Giro d’Italia’s in 1948, but his most famous win in the Corsa Rosa came in 1955 after a stunning performance alongside Fausto Coppi that saw him depose the current leader on a foul stage to San Pellegrino.
Perhaps his most enduring story though was born in the following year’s Giro. He broke his collarbone in a crash but remounted, not only finishing the stage, but also the entire race. The pain from his injury was so intense when pulling on the handlebars that he attached a piece of tape to the bars so that he could bite on it and take the pressure off his injury. He went on to finish a heroic second place.
For Ernesto Colnago, Magni occupies a special place in his heart. It was he who recognised the talents of Ernesto and invited him to be a mechanic at the Nivea team, a move that introduced Colnago to the upper echelons of cycling and charted the course of another of cycling’s legendary stories. The two men remained great friends.
Fiorenzo Magni will be deeply missed by all who knew him, but his legend will live on.