The Italian Almanac

Fiorenzo Magni

Fiorenzo Magni

One of Italian cycling's all-time greats, Fiorenzo Magni, died at the age of 91. Nicknamed the Lion of Flanders, Magni was the 'third man' of Italian cycling's heroic era, vying with Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali. A Tuscan like Bartali, his start on two wheels began while working in his father's shop as a bicycle delivery boy, sparking a passion that would lead him to racing in the cycling association in the province of Prato in 1936.

The professional turning point came after World War II in 1947, when he placed ninth in his first Giro d'Italia, the world's second-greatest cycling tour after the Tour de France. He went on to win three Giro d'Italia races, in 1948, 1951 and 1955. He also came second in 1956, at the age of 36, famously with a broken left clavicle and humerus.

Refusing to withdraw from the race after two crashes - even after passing out from the pain - Magni placed only three minutes and 27 seconds behind Luxembourg's Charly Gaul in the last leg of the race that saw 60 racers drop out due to snow and ice.

Earning his nickname, Magni won a record three consecutive titles at the Tour of Flanders in 1949, 1950 and 1951. He earned a reputation for thriving in harsh-weather conditions - all three of his Flanders wins were in immense cold and wind. He was runner-up in the world road race championships in 1951.

After retiring he became a cycling official and managed the Italian cycling team for several years.