|Fiorenzi Magni is 91 today|
On this day in 1920 Fiorenzo Magni - known as "The Third Man of Italian Cycling's Golden Age" after Coppi and Bartoli - was born in Vaiano, Tuscany. He's the only man to have won three Tours of Flanders in a row and also won three Giros d'Italia, three National Championships and seven Tour de France stages during his sixteen years as a professional.
Magni's other claim to fame is that he was the first rider to find sponsorship with a firm that wasn't a manufacturer of bikes or bike components. Nowadays, when we're used to banks, mobile phone firms, TV networks and providers of liquid gas products financially backing teams, the storm that blew up when Magni announced he would be sponsored by the beauty products company Nivea seems rather odd. What's also odd is that Nivea were interested in backing Magni - while the man can't be described as having been ugly, he had the sort of rugged looks that suggest he wasn't exactly a regular user of moisturiser.
In fact, it's not entirely true that he was the first because the British team in 1947 had been sponsored by a football pools company called ITP - Magni's sponsor, however, was the first sponsor not previously connected with sport, a phenomenon that be came known as an extra sportif sponsor until it became so common it no longer drew comment. It's also not true that the row about it was entirely down to opposition to an extra sportif, as it seems that other riders stoked what was originally a minor argument into an inferno because they didn't like him. And not without reason, either: Magni, by all accounts, as a dyed-in-the-wool fascist and fought for the Fascists during the Second World War.
He was an exceptionally strong rider, proving his hardman credentials in the 1956 Giro d'Italis which he rode with a broken shoulder. Finding that his injury made it impossible for him to pull up on the bars, thus preventing him from climbing, he asked his mechanic to tie a length of inner tube (some say it was a bandage, others surgical tubing) in a loop to his handlebars so that he could pull up using his teeth. Because he couldn't brake properly he crashed again four days later, landing on his broken collar bone and also breaking his arm, then fainted from the pain. When he regained consciousness in the ambulance he managed to escape, found his bike and finished the stage. Four days later, on a stage that had such bad weather sixty riders abandoned the race, he came second behind Charly Gaul.
Magni would almost certainly have won a Tour de France had his career not have coincided with those of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali. Hardman or not, the two Italian greats completely over-awed him, especially Bartali and had he ever have threatened Bartali's chances of winning, it's a safe bet that Magni would have dropped back to let him win. In 1950, when Bartali left the Tour after being threatened by fans angered by a very minor tussle with Jean Robic on the Col de Portet d'Aspet, Magni unquestioningly abandoned the race and went with him.
In fact, Magni's lifelong admiration of Bartali is somewhat surprising: while Magni had been a Fascist, Bartali risked his own life working for the Italian Resistance and saved many Jewish lives by smuggled refugees over the border into Switzerland. When he died on the 19th of October in 2012, some obituaries mentioned evidence that towards the end of the war he had changed sides and fought for the anti-Fascist partisans - had he turned against his old beliefs or was he simply to ensure his own safety when it became apparent that Fascism would be defeated? We will probably never know.
John Boyd Dunlop
On this day in 1888, John Boyd Dunlop obtained a patent for his invention, the pneumatic tyre. He had qualified as a veterinary surgeon from the University of Edinburgh, then set up a surgery and practiced for ten years before relocating to Northern Ireland and setting up another surgery. Dunlop had a sick son who suffered great pain as a result of the vibrations transmitted through the metal tyres of his tricycle, so his father set out to find a way to reduce this - resulting in the pneumatic tyre. He quickly realised that his invention had a future and patented it. With help from the cyclist Willie Hume, who used the tyres to win a string of races, he soon found a market.
Then in 1891, it was discovered that a pneumatic tyre of very similar design had been patented in France by another Scottish inventor named Robert William Thompson more than forty years previously. A business deal also didn't work out which, combined with the subsequent declaration of invalidity on his patent, meant that Dunlop made very little money from "his" invention.
(image credit: Team NetApp CC BY-SA 3.0)
On this day in 2000, Jeannie Longo set a new Women' Hour Record of 45.094km in Mexico City, breaking the record she had set a month earlier. She was 42 at the time.
Matthias Brändle, born on this day 1989 in Hohenems, Austria, was a rider with Geox-TMC in 2011 until, at the end of the season, Geox announced without warning that they would be withdrawing their sponsorship despite the team's success in the Vuelta a Espana. His best results to date have been winning his National Time Trial Championship in 2009 and the GP Judendorf-Strassengel in 2010.
Fermo Camellini was born on this day in Scandiano, Italy, in 1914. He won some 37 races during his career, including some high-profile events such as the Circuit du Mont Ventoux (1941), Paris-Nice (1946) and La Flèche Wallonne (1948). He also managed two top ten Tour de France finishes, 7th overall in 1947 and 8th in 1948, winning two stages (8 and 10) the first time round. In 1947, he took French citizenship and remained there until his death at the age of 95 on the 27th of August 2010.
Other cyclists born on this day: Jacques Marcault (France, 1883, died 1979); Pitty Scheer (Luxembourg, 1925, died 1997); Jean-Claude Meunier (France, 1950, died 1985); Radamés Treviño (Mexico, 1945); Pedro Salas (Argentina, 1923, died 2000); Chen Chiung-Yi (Taipei, 1976); Warren Coye (Belize, 1965); Ramón Noriega (Venezuela, 1951); Andrzej Mierzejewski (Poland, 1960); Jure Golčer (Slovenia, 1977); Hjalmar Pettersson (Sweden, 1906, died 2003).