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Former World Cyclo-cross champion Simunek dies aged 48

The Czech former world-cyclo cross world champion Radomir Simunek died on Tuesday after suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. He was 48.

Simunek was a cyclo-cross pioneer and one of the first riders from Eastern Europe to devote himself to a cycling career in Belgium, and he did so to great effect. Current world champion and fellow Czech Zdenek Stybar cited Simunek as an important influence, saying that he may never have been a bike racer had it not been for his predecessor.

Simunek first won the rainbow jersey as a junior in 1980 and followed that up with back-to-back amateur titles in 1983 and 1984. The collapse of communism finally allowed the classy Simunek to turn professional in 1989 and he took victory in the professional world championship in Gieten in the Netherlands in 1991. This triumph ensured his place in history as the first man to win the cyclo-cross world title in all three categories, an achievement only recently matched by Lars Boom and Niels Albert.

Simunek also took the Super Prestige classification on three occasions, as well as winning seven national senior titles, three in the old Czechoslovakia and four in the Czech Republic.

France’s Dominque Arnould, himself world cyclo-cross champion in 1993, described the Czech as an idol. “He was pure technique. He was the ‘Mr. Cyclo-cross’ of the last twenty years,” he told L’Équipe.

In 1992, Simunek was convicted of having caused a car accident in which three people were killed, but he was released from prison four months into his sentence after receiving a presidential pardon.

Simunek retired from the sport aged 40, and in recent years had been coaching his son, Radomir Jr, who finished in 8th place at the last world cyclo-cross championships.

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Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.