Radstar Felice Gimondi died at the age of 76 years
Italy's cycling mourns Felice Gimondi. The 76-year-old died on Friday on vacation in Sicily, as the police confirmed. Gimondi is one of only seven cyclists who have won all three major country tours. In 1965 he won the Tour de France, 1967, 1969 and 1976 at home at the Giro d'Italia and 1968 at the Tour of Spain.
Belgian wheel legend Eddy Merckx was dismayed by the death of his former rival. "Above all, I lost a friend," Merckx was quoted by the Italian news agency ANSA.
"Grace Felice, a great Italian has left," headlined the "Gazzetta dello Sport" on Saturday. In fact, Gimondi is in a series with Italian wheel greats like Fausto Coppi or Gino Bartali. The son of a postman from Sedrina was not only a gifted rider. Gimondi also won cycling monuments such as Paris-Roubaix or Milan-Sanremo and in 1973 became Road World Champion.
"Two weeks ago I talked to him, what should I say, I'm devastated," said Merckx, who had fought great duels with Gimondi. And if "cannibal" Merckx had not been, the track record of Gimondi would be even more impressive than it already is.
Great duels with Eddie Merckx
Just at his first participation in the Tour de France, he won the overall victory at the age of only 22 years and 288 days, although he was actually moved only as a substitute at short notice in the team. The fact that no further successes were added was also due to the five-time champion Merckx.
Nevertheless, the Italian continued to celebrate big victories. In 1967, 1969 and 1976 he won the Giro d'Italia, 1968, he triumphed in the Tour of Spain. One of his most impressive victories, however, was the 1973 World Cup title in Barcelona, when he left the Belgian Freddy Maertens, the Spaniard Luis Ocana and just Merckx in the sprint of an illustrious group.
"I did not have a great talent," Gimondi said of himself. "But through my work and my will, I was successful." Probably a bit too much modesty, because Gimondi was an esthete on the road bike, a great tactician with climbing skills and strengths in the time trial.
After his career Gimondi founded an insurance company, but remained the cycling as an ambassador for the bike top brand Bianchi. In the meantime, he also worked as a consultant to Marco Pantani. That climbing specialist who won the Tour in 1998 before Jan Ullrich and 33 years after Gimondi again provided for an Italian victory in France - and ended so tragically in the wake of the doping scandals.