By Gregor Brown published
Ferdinand Kübler, former world champion and Tour de France victor, died yesterday at a Zurich hospital at the age of 97.
'Ferdi' Kübler was able to race abroad and spread his wings after the Second World War ended. The Swiss won three stages in 1947 and 1949, and in 1950 with Fausto Coppi at home in Italy, he toppled Gino Bartali to finish and win his first Tour de France.
He was the oldest living winner of the Tour de France until Thursday. Frenchman Roger Walkowiak takes over that title.
"He softly fell asleep with a smile on his face," his wife Christina said. "And shortly beforehand, he had told me that I'm the greatest women in the world."
On 24 July, 1919, Kübler was born in the Zurich suburb town of Marthalen.
Recently retired Swiss cyclist Fabian Cancellara paid tribute to the "legend" and "big inspiration" with a post on Twitter.
Cancellara achieved what every cyclist dreams of in time trials and the cobbled Classics, but Kübler ruled elsewhere.
He was the first Swiss to win the Tour de France in 1950. Hugo Koblet became the second, and last, with his win the following year. After a three-year absence, Kübler returned and placed second to Louison Bobet in 1954.
Kübler said himself that he was a "cyclist like none other." The infamous day that he said so proved to be his final one in the Grand Tours.
"Be careful, Ferdinand, Mont Ventoux is not a climb like the others," rival cyclist Raphael Géminiani warned him in the Tour stage that covered the famous climb.
"Ferdi, he is too old. He is in pain," the Swiss said after he abandoned. "Ferdi killed himself! Ferdi killed himself on the Ventoux!"
In the Giro d'Italia, he placed third overall twice in 1951 and 1952.
In Varese, Italy, he made a mark that still stands. He became the second and last Swiss in 65 years to win the World Championship road race.
Kübler also collected two victories each in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and in La Flèche Wallonne.
"I became a champion because I was poor," he told L'Equipe in 2013.
"I struggled to eat, to have a better life. I won the Tour de France because I dreamed, because I knew that afterwards I would never be poor again."
Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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