Today I woke bubbling and full of beans at the prospect of my little journey on two wheels from London to Fontainebleau. The sky though grey, overcast and promising rain failed to dull my excitement and the morning cuppa was precisely what my doctor would have ordered for an outstanding start to the day.
However in my email inbox there lurked an ominous link.
My Italian is not tip top as I am sure my Italian amici would surely agree, but even I can understand that the “third man”, Fiorenzo Magni has exited stage right for that great Giro in the sky, following in the cycle tracks of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali who preceded him much earlier.
While the pedalling world is erupting with announcements from Rabobank and the ongoing saga of the decline and fall of the great betrayer Lance Armstrong and his doping past, I rather hanker for the days when villains were such as Magni who was vilified for dabblings in a black shirted past and the fact that he had the audacity to challenge two of cycling’s greatest stars when they were at their peak.
However what saddens me all the more is that one of the last great vestiges of cycling greats has passed away. Magni has forever been immortalised for his truly heroic performance in Il Giro di Italia 1956 where with a broken collarbone he braved some of the most fearsome snow whipped conditions to come in second. Anyone with an interest in that golden age will surely recall the image of a man struggling up some mountainside, face gripped in a grimace of pain with an inner tube clenched in his teeth – an inner tube tied to his handlebars in order to give him the control the grip his hand could not – all while night descended and so early on in the race.
It truly is a sad day, so please do spare a thought in an idle moment for this man whose name and feats should be more widely known, as he joins the ever increasing peloton up above.
Requiescat in pacem.