We The Italians | Italian sport: Felice Gimondi, the Italian cycling superhero

Italian sport: Felice Gimondi, the Italian cycling superhero

Italian sport: Felice Gimondi, the Italian cycling superhero

  • WTI Magazine #169 Nov 17, 2023
  • 538

Cycling is a sport that creates real legends because of the epic feats that can be achieved in this tough sport. Everything in cycling is legendary, from the long, grueling tours of more than 2,000 miles such as The Tour de France, The Giro d'Italia, and The Vuelta a España, to the difficult one-day classics such as Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Lombardy, the Amstel Gold Race, the Walloon Arrow, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

It is so difficult to win a one-day classic that those who succeed can finish their careers by rightfully entering the history of the sport. Those who win one of the grand tours, on the other hand, are considered legends. Then there are the heroes, the one who manages to win a tour and one or more classics throughout his or her career.

Finally, there are the superheroes, Marvel or DC, it doesn't matter, that is, those who managed to win all three tours and even a few classics. In the 100-year history of these cycling races, only seven riders have succeeded in this epic feat.

Among them were also two Italians, the last being Vincenzo Nibali; the first was Felice Gimondi, one of the greatest cyclists in the entire history of the sport. Gimondi, who was born in Sedrina, a small town in the province of Bergamo, Lombardy, and passed away in 2019 at the age of 76, was the first Italian to accomplish the extraordinary feat of winning the three Tours.

But in addition to these, exactly 50 years ago, he also won the world road title, beating his great rival who was also among the strongest cyclist ever: Belgian Eddy Merckx. That was exactly 50 years ago in Barcelona, Spain. Merckx attacked with 17 laps to go, breaking away from a group of six pursuers, including Gimondi, who recovered by flying on the asphalt until he overtook him and crossed the finish line first, winning the world title.

It was an epic race, with the Italian having already won the Giro d'Italia twice (1967 and 1969, then won it another time in 1976), the Tour de France (in 1965), the Vuelta a España (in 1968), the Paris-Roubaix (in 1966), and the Giro di Lombardia (in 1966), he ascended to the world throne of cycling, thus becoming one of the most legendary cyclists in history.

Felice Gimondi, still holds the all-time record for Giro d'Italia podiums, a total of nine in his career. He was a truly extraordinary cyclist, because he was formidable in keeping up the pace, winning uphill, going very strong in time trials and also in sprints. He was a complete cyclist who could always excite race spectators because he never gave up especially when he had to engage in a duel with Merckx who was unbeatable in those days.

It was precisely with the Belgian that he engaged in dozens of sporting battles, often coming in behind him but beating him in some races as few other cyclists of his time were able to do. Theirs was a rivalry that kept millions glued in front of the television because on climbs or in sprints the two fought like gladiators to get ahead of the other. And fifty years after that world championship victory, Italians still remember that genuine smile of Gimondi when he arrived at the finish line before his phenomenal rival, because Felice for all cycling lovers is a true legend.