The Tour de France pays tribute to Felice Gimondi, one of its youngest winners
August 16 th 2019 - 23:29
Before Egan Bernal, Felice Gimondi was the youngest cyclist to have brought the Maillot Jaune to Paris, at the age of 22 years, 9 months and 15 days, precisely three months more than the Colombian. The Italian remained the precocious winner of the 1965 Tour de France, a race he wasn’t supposed to take part in. The man, as much as the rider, was classy. He passed away at the age of 76.
At the difference of the most famous cyclist from the province of Bergamo who was born in Sedrina during WWII on 29 September 1942, Bernal rode one Tour de France – as a domestique for Geraint Thomas in 2018 – between his success at the Tour de l’Avenir and his achievement at the Grande Boucle. Gimondi was not scheduled to race the 1965 Tour de France, just one year after he exposed his talent by winning the Tour de l’Avenir. But a phone call from Bruno Fantinato to legendary sport director Luciano Pezzi changed his destiny. His team-mate from the Salvarani team was hampered by a knee injury so he suggested to be substituted. Following his third place overall at the Giro d’Italia won by his captain Vittorio Adorni, Gimondi got the job that initially consisted in riding again at the service of the champion from Parma.
The 1965 Tour de France, the first one that kicked off from Germany (in Cologne), was the first one without five-time winner Jacques Anquetil. In the absence of the defending champion, Raymond Poulidor was the hot favourite and it didn’t change in the mind of the observers when Gimondi won stage 3 and took the yellow jersey. It happened in the city of Rouen where Anquetil hailed from. Belgium’s Bernard Van de Kerkhove who was Gimondi’s predecessor in yellow got the jersey back for two days, after which Gimondi retained it. The Italian defended himself well against Poulidor up to the Mont Ventoux and won the last two individual time trials, at Mont Revard and in Paris where he ended up with an advantage of 2’40’’ over the popular Frenchman.
Later in his career, Gimondi experienced the years of the absolute domination by Eddy Merckx. However, he became the second rider to win all three Grand Tours after Anquetil as he claimed the Giro d’Italia three times (in 1967, 1969 and 1976) as well as the 1968 La Vuelta. Only Anquetil has finished more often than him on the podium of the three-week long races with 13 top 3 overall. Like Merckx and Bernard Hinault, Gimondi has been on the final picture twelve times. He also bagged the 1973 world championship and the 1966 Paris-Roubaix.
After his career, Gimondi represented the Bianchi bicycles and extended the presence of the brand in mountain-biking. He accompanied Marco Pantani on the podium of the 1998 Tour de France. Between them, no other Italian won the Tour in 33 years… He was a very cordial person, an ambassador for his brand and the sport of cycling. He was a big friend of Merckx after having been his rival. The Tour de France and the cycling community offer their condolences to his family members and friends.