I’ll be honest, I had no idea who Fiorenzo Magni was until a few days ago.

October 12 was the anniversary of his death – he lived to be 91 years old and passed just three years ago.

Magni was a legendary road cyclist, with one of his many career highlights being an astounding three overall wins at Giro d’Italia among many other successes in the world of cycling. Not only that, but he was a great salesperson, convincing Nivea to become the first ‘extrasportif’ (non-bicycle industry) title sponsor of a professional team and later opening a successful (and I believe still thriving) auto-dealership when his professional cycling career ended.

Fiorenzo Magni winning a stage of the Tour de France in 1953. He never won the race’s overall title. Photo by: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Fiorenzo Magni winning a stage of the Tour de France in 1953. He never won the race’s overall title. Photo by: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

One of the most notable images of Magni is the one pictured here, from a the Giro d’Italia 1956, his last race as Pro. In stage 12, he had a crash and broke his left clavicle. The docs suggested he not continue, but he didn’t consider quitting. He showed up the next day, rode like this, with an innertube clenched in his mouth to hold and stabilize the handlebars, and took 2nd place overall in the race. He speaks to the event in this extensive interview.

“Just before the stage started I tried to ride my bike on a climb and I noticed I couldn’t use the muscles of my left arm to pull on the handle bar very hard. So my mechanic, Faliero Masi, the best mechanic of all time, cut a piece of inner tube and suggested I pull it with my mouth. That was a great idea!”

I can be almost certain that Magni is not remembered by his family and friends by how many medals he won, or yellow jerseys he wore, but by his character through both the wins, and the losses.

When asked about a major loss, he said the following :

“In life, defeats are more likely to happen than wins. Losing to Coppi and Bartali, and therefore congratulating them, is an experience that I am happy to have had and an experience that taught me a lot. I have always admired them for what they could do and esteemed them for who they were. Not only were they champions, they were also great men. Why do you think we are still speaking about them? Because they made history. I consider myself lucky because racing with them I could be part of this history. I would have won more without them but it wouldn’t have been during a legendary cycling era.”

It’s interesting to me that when you research Magni, this quote is one that pops up multiple places. There is no way for him to know, looking back on all his years, how he would be remembered. That being said, it is obvious he took great pride and incredible passion in his craft, and in overcoming adversity – and the documentation of that will live forever.

Proof that what you say and do can – and will – still matter long after you are gone.

I hope that I am able to handle defeat the way this guy was.

May Fiorenzo Magni’s legacy of gratitude, grace, and passion for cycling, live on forever.


Sources and Resources: 

Fiorenzo Magni, Italian Cyclist, Dies at 91 Bruce Weber, October 27, 2012, for The New York Times

Wikipedia – Fiorenzo Magni

Fiorenzo Magni, a bridge between the legendary past and the modern era of cycling by Valeria Paoletti and Bill McGann in January 2006