Felice Gimondi, three-time Giro d'Italia champion and winner of the 1965 Tour de France and 1968 Vuelta a España, died on Friday afternoon.
The 76-year-old was swimming in the sea off the coast of Giardini Naxos in Sicily, southern Italy, when he suffered a heart attack.
Gimondi took 14 stages across his five Grand Tour victories, and is one of only seven men to win all three races.
He also counted multiple Classics among his glittering palmarès, including Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, and two editions of the Giro di Lombardia, as well as the 1973 World Championships in Barcelona. At the latter, he outsprinted Freddy Maertens, Luis Ocaña and Eddy Merckx to take the rainbow jersey.
But it was in the Grand Tours where his greatest exploits came. Gimondi won the Tour de France on his debut, during his first professional season for Salvarani. After a last-minute call-up to the race, then 22-year-old Gimondi would go on to beat Raymond Poulidor by 2:40 after leading the race for 18 of the 22 stages.
Twelve years later, and seven years after his last Grand Tour victory, Gimondi won his final Giro d'Italia, a feat dubbed the 'Miracle in Milan' by La Gazzetta dello Sport. Then 34 years old, Gimondi was an unlikely bet to win another pink jersey, but overturned his spring form during the race and overhauled race leader Johan De Muynck in the final time trial in his home region of Lombardy before sealing overall victory in Milan later that afternoon.
After retiring from racing, Gimondi had a stint as a directeur sportif at Gewiss in the late 1980s and was the president of Marco Pantani's Mercatone Uno team. He also worked at bike manufacturer Bianchi and was a member of the UCI's ProTour Council in the late 2000s.
"A huge sadness. There's regret, disappointment, a cry in my heart," Renato Di Rocco, President of the Italian Cycling Federation, told Italpress. "I've followed his entire career as a manager. I've always admired and appreciated him.
"The gold medal at the 1973 World Championship in Barcelona is the most beautiful memory, and then he was one of the few to have won all three Grand Tours. Felice was a person who was good with everyone and was appreciated by all."
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.