Italian great Magni dies at age 91

Three-time Giro and Flanders champ was Italian cycling's 'third man' in the middle 20th century

MILAN (AFP) — Fiorenzo Magni, a former Giro d’Italia champion and three-time consecutive winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, died on Friday, Italian media reported. He was 91.

Magni, who won the Giro in 1948, 1951 and 1955, was also a three-time Italian champion who became known as the “third man” in a golden era of Italian cycling dominated by the rivalry between Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali.

Although known for his individual sporting exploits, including winning the Tour of Flanders in 1949, 1950 and 1951, Magni is also associated with a notable episode on the 1950 Tour de France.

He famously walked out of that year’s edition while wearing the race leader’s yellow jersey to support a Bartali-led revolt after the Italian great had been assaulted by French fans on a stage from Pau to Saint Gaudens in the Pyrénées.

Magni, who ended his career in 1956, went on to own a car dealership near Milan, but is still recognized as one of Italy’s greatest riders of the post-war period.

Only last week a book about Magni was given pride of place at the Italian Olympic Committee’s (CONI) Hall of Fame.

CONI president Gianni Petrucci was quick to pay tribute.

“It’s a sad day for Italian sport. Fiorenzo Magni, a true champion and a great man, has left us. He was a myth in his time despite the rivalry between two legends like Coppi and Bartali,” said Petrucci. “Not only have we lost a popular cycling champion but a prestigious athlete who honored Italian sport to the very last.”

The Giro d’Italia announced on Friday that it would dedicate the 2013 maglia rosa to Magni and honor him with a moment of remembrance at the race’s finish in Brescia. Organizer RCS Sport also said it would only communicate stories and images related to Magni until Monday.

“Fiorenzo used to tell me: ‘No one gives you anything for free in life, you have to fight everyday and try to improve yourself,'” said RCS Sport managing director Michele Acquarone. “His panache and his courage will all be an example to follow, by me and by my sons. He will be greatly missed.”