47-year-old Pietro Ferrero suffered heart attack while riding near Cape Town

Pietro Ferrero, heir to the family confectionery business whose subsidiary Estathé sponsors the Giro d’Italia’s maglia rosa, has died of a heart attack while cycling in South Africa.

The 47-year-old, an avid cyclist, was taken ill as he rode his bike close to Cape Town. Heir to the Ferrero fortune together with his brother Giovanni – the pair were also joint chief executives of the business – he was visiting the country on a business trip.

Ferrero was a well-known figure in Italian cycling circels and in 2006, his contribution to the sport was recognised with the award of the Premio Vincenzo Torriani, named in memory of the man who was director of the Giro d’Italia for four decades starting in the late 1940s.

Stage 2 of this year’s Giro d’Italia starts in Alba, the town in Piedmont where Ferrero, whose brands include Ferrero Rocher, Tic Tacs, Nutella and Kinder, is based. What should have been a festive occasion will now assume a sombre tone.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.