Friday, October 19, 2012
Fiorenzo Magni Has Passed Away
"Magni was the ‘third man’ during the golden age of cycling, of Coppi and Bartali. He won the Giro d'Italia 3 times and was known as “The Lion of Flanders” (“Il Leone delle Fiandre”) for his 3 consecutive wins in the ‘classic of the North’, the Tour of Flanders.
Italian sport is in mourning once again. Fiorenzo Magni, one of the all time greats of cycling, the ‘third man’ of the golden age of the sport in Italy after Coppi and Bartali, who thrilled a nation at the turn of the Second World War, has died. He would have been 92 on December 7. Only a week ago he was at the presentation and launch of a book that had chronicled his deeds.
It was inevitable. There is no point beating about the bush: sooner or later it was going to happen. And it happened just as he was about to celebrate his 92nd birthday. But, to us, to all of you, to everyone, it seems that we all die much sooner. By now we had all come to believe that he'd been blessed with the gift of eternal life. 92 years: almost an eternity, but just the blink of an eye. But, from today, it’s official: we are all orphans. Now we can truly utter the words: Fiorenzo Magni was cycling. The notion of cycling when it just meant bicycles. Men on bicycles. Races on bicycles. A time when cycling and racing was at the centre of the world: News Year’s Day coincided with the Milano-Sanremo and Christmas with the Giro di Lombardia. In between there was the Giro d’Italia, the Giro of France (Giro, not Tour!). Followed by the World Championships. Between Christmas and New Year we’d all go to the track. It was a different world.
Honest and consistent — The notion that cycling was an escape, first from misery and then from poverty. That it was always better than having to toil in the fields or in factories. Cycling was a hunger as well as abstinence. Adventure and exploration. The history of Italy and of Italians. And that notion that no matter what, forever, no one would ever be able to describe the feeling and put it into words in a single lifetime. Fiorenzo Magni was cycling as he lived and breathed the sport: a rider, a sporting director, a coach. He had been the president of the riders association as well as the president of the Italian Cycling Federation. Then an honorary consul and international ambassador. A veritable planetary authority. A supreme font of knowledge: he’d listen to everyone carefully - and would immediately know who was right or wrong. His cycling was a religion. A mission. A passion. In a word: love. Often thwarted by Bartali and Coppi, Magni did nothing but thank them: he would say that, without those two, he would have been a nobody. They made him a man. But, the exact opposite it true: it was Magni who kept their memory alive and extolled their glory. History has also shown that the real pink jersey belonged to him: born in Tuscany, he moved to Monza, he was the epitome of the romanticism of cycling coupled with the common sense of industrialism. Wisdom and balance. Integrity and cohesion. And the far-sightedness of someone who knows, or who thinks or who pretends to be on the periphery of it all.
Mellowed — But, as time went on, he mellowed and his sometimes touchy and irritable character became ‘tamer’ and even ‘sweet’. But his never lost his air of authoritativeness or authority. So much so that his requests would in some way often become an order – but without us realising it. It was a pleasure, no, an honour to have met Fiorenzo Magni. Luckily, as Magni lived to such a ripe old age, it was a privilege, no, and honour, for lots of other people too. Now, it would only seem fitting that Magni’s funeral be held at Ghisallo, the location of the Museum of Cycling, his museum, as only he would have been able to create it in such a soulful place. It was an even more arduous task than his three Giro d’Italia wins, his three Tour of Flanders wins, his three Italian titles and all the races he ever won put together."
Photo: Magni at 1956 Giro d'Italia; 1956, Fiorenzo Magni: During the 12th stage, Grosseto-Livorno, of the Giro d'Italia Magni crashed on the Volterra descent. He broke his collarbone but finished. At the hospital he is told, "Best you return home." Magni decided to continue racing. The next day is a rest day followed by a time trail stage Livorno-Lucca, the Lucca-Bologna stage and the uphill time trial stage Bologna-San Luca. Before starting Bologna-San Luca, Magni knows that that on an ascent he cannot pull on the handlebars. His mechanic, Faliero Masi, cuts a piece of a tire tube and attaches it to the handlebar so Magni can get leverage. It works. Magni after crashing the next day and breaking his shoulder went on to finish 2nd in Milan behind Charly Gaul.
The Giro d'Italia has announced that the 2013 Maglia Rosa will be dedicated to Magni and that at the arrival of the race in Brescia on May 26 there will be a special ceremony.
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