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Italy’s Felice Gimondi, who won five Grand Tours in his career, died at the age of 76 after suffering a heart attack while swimming in Sicily.
“A great champion who made our sport more human has left us, a great man,” said the Italian cycling federation in a statement on Friday.
Nicknamed ‘The Phoenix’, he won the Tour de France in 1965, the Giro d’Italia in 1967, 1969 and 1976 as well as the Vuelta a Espana in 1968.
Gimondi remains just one of seven riders in history to have won all three of the sport’s greatest prizes.
His Tour de France win in 1965 came in his debut year as a professional while his 1976 Giro victory at the age of 34 was hailed as the ‘Miracle in Milan’ by newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Overall, he spent five decades in the sport as a rider and administrator while also going into the insurance business.
As well as the Grand Tours, Gimondi captured a number of Classics and elite races, including the Milan-Sanremo in 1974, the Paris-Roubaix in 1966, two Tour of Lombardies in 1966 and 1973 and a Paris-Brussels double in 1966 and 1976.
He famously triumphed at the 1973 world championships in Barcelona where he outsprinted the great Eddy Merckx, Freddy Maertens and Luis Ocana to take victory.
“We competed for years on the road,” Belgian legend Merckx told the Italian Ansa news agency. “He was among the greatest of all time.”
Britain’s Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour champion, described the Italian as “an icon and a gentleman.”
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