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One of only three riders to win all three Grand Tours and the World Championships

Felice Gimondi, one of only seven cyclists to have won all three Grand Tours – and, with Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx, one of only three to have also taken the rainbow jersey – has died at the age of 76. The BBC reports that the Italian suffered a heart attack while swimming in Sicily on Friday.

"A great champion who made our sport more human has left us – a great man," said the Italian cycling federation in a statement.

Gimondi, born near Bergamo, won the 1965 Tour de France at the age of 22 in his first season as a professional.

He then won the Giro d'Italia in 1967 and the Vuelta a Espana in 1968 and in so doing became the second cyclist after Jacques Anquetil to win all three Grand Tours.

Two further Giro successes followed in 1969 and 1976 and he also won the world championship in Barcelona in 1973.

Gimondi, nicknamed il Fenice – the Phoenix – won four Monuments: Paris-Roubaix and Giro di Lombardia in 1966, a second Lombardia in 1973 and Milan-San Remo the following year.

He won 14 Grand Tour stages: seven at the Tour, six at the Giro and one at the Vuelta.

All of this was achieved against the backdrop of Eddy Merckx’s dominance of the sport in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

Gimondi finished runner-up to Merckx twice in the Giro and once in the Tour de France.

When he became the second man inducted into the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame in 2013, he quipped that he had again come second to the Belgian.

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