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Mariano Cañardo is considered the first great champion of Spanish Cycling. His great talent as a cyclist and his affable and open character made him an idol in the 1920s and 30s, on a par with footballers such as Zamora and Samitier.
A Barça fan through and through, Cañardo was the heart and soul of the FC Barcelona cycling section that existed between 1925 and 1943, covering the glory years of his career. He was born in the north of Spain in Navarra in 1906 before moving to Huesca in Aragón at the age of 13 with his parents. His strong constitution and his will to win can be traced back to his early years working as a shepherd in the inhospitable Aragonese terrain before he decided to move to the city of Barcelona in search of a better life at the age of just thirteen. He was welcomed with open arms and became Catalan to the core, learning the language rapidly.
Cañardo seemed destined for a life as a carpenter until a moment came that would change his life forever. After many months of saving, he was finally able to buy himself a bicycle, paying the princely sum of 300 pesetas. Despite some early setback, he soon flourished on the bike, shocking his older, more experienced cycling club mates with ability in the saddle. Not before long, in 1926, he turned professional and embarked on a career that would be studded with triumphs. His list of achievements, his palmarés in cycling jargon, makes an impressive read. He won the Spanish time-trial championships four times in seven years in the 1930’s and he won his home Tour of Catalonia on less than seven occasions. He won Tours of Valencia, Aragón, the Basque Country and many other races amongst his career total of 50 wins. In brutally tough conditions he finished a highly creditable sixth in the 1936 Tour de France.
In 1943 his professional career came to an end at the age of 37 but that was not the end of his relationship with the sport. For three years in the early 1950s he was the director of the Spain team that competed in the Tour de France. Later on he was President of the Catalan Cycling Federation and remained involved in cycling in the country right up until his death.
Cañardo wore the Barça colours for seven years and for his dedication to the Club he was awarded the FC Barcelona gold medal.
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