Fausto Coppi - The Heron

Angelo Fausto Coppi, nicknamed il Campionissimo (the Champion of Champions) and l'Airone (the Heron), is considered the most famous and successful rider of the golden age of cycling, and one of the greatest and most popular Italian athletes of all time.


1919 - Fausto Coppi was born in Castellania on 15 September.
At the age of 13, he was already working as a helper in a delicatessen in Novi Ligure, and since he was making deliveries speeding along the streets by bicycle, he soon drew attention and was reported to Biagio Cavanna, the famous masseur from Costante Girardengo and Learco Guerra.
Cavanna, who later joined Coppi for years as a masseur and counsellor, saw in him the potential to become a champion and admitted him to his school of young runners. Thanks to his particular physical shape, Coppi immediately proved that Cavanna's vision was correct.

1937-38 - Coppi took part in his first official race at the Boffalora circuit, but was forced to retire due to a puncture in the tyre. But in 1938 he took his first amateur victory on the circuit of Castelletto d'Orba.

1939 -
As an independent racer, Coppi won seven races, including the Pavia City Cup. Before that race, Cavanna had told the judges to keep an eye on Coppi because he would certainly win the race, and in fact, he won. That same winter, after winning numerous races as an independent, Coppi signed the contract with Legnano.

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1940 - Coppi ran for the first time at the Giro d'Italia as a domestique of Gino Bartali, but ended up winning the Pink jersey himself. Between 1940 and 1941, although he was serving in the military, Coppi continued to compete and won five other competitions around Italy.

1942 - On Cavanna's advice, Coppi tried to break the time record set by Maurice Archambaud at the Vigorelli Velodrome, despite the frequent bombing of Milan during the war. With 45,871 Km, Coppi succeeded in the achievement of improving the record of the French cyclist of 31 meters. Two days after setting the record, Coppi was called to arms and forced to temporarily give up his career as a professional cyclist.
He was then taken prisoner by the English army shortly after and managed to return to Italy only at the end of 1944.
As soon as he returned home, Coppi asked the journalist Gino Palumbo for help to return to compete, and thanks to him he managed to get a new bike to race again.

1945 -
Coppi returned to race for the Polisportiva S.S. Lazio together with his brother Serse and immediately began to collect victories.

1946 -
Coppi left Legnano and joined Bianchi: this change of team marked the beginning of a long collaboration between the cyclist and the cycling company, and also the beginning of his famous rivalry with Gino Bartali, with whom he often faced for the rest of his career.

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1948 - This was a turbulent year. Coppi participated in the Giro d'Italia, which was won by Fiorenzo Magni. Magni's victory raised a lot of controversy because of the Bianchi and Cimatti team's complaints against the cyclist for his behaviour in the race, to the point that the two teams withdrew all their riders in protest, and the Italian Cycling Federation inflicted a month of disqualification on the cyclists, including Coppi. Also in protest, Coppi did not participate in the Tour de France that year. In the same year, Coppi and Bartali were disqualified for two months because of their conduct during the World Championship in Valkenburg, considered reckless.

1949 - Coppi won for the third time the Milano-Sanremo and the Giro d'Italia and won his first Tour de France.
1951 - A tragedy struck Coppi. During the Giro del Piemonte, his brother Serse fell from the bike 20 meters from the finish line, still managing to finish the race, but that evening he felt ill in the hotel and a few hours later he died of a brain haemorrhage at the age of twenty-eight. The event upset Fausto to the point of making him meditate on his retirement from racing. He took part in the Tour de France, but given his poor physical and psychological condition, he didn't get good results.

1952-53 - Coppi finally managed to recover. He won his second double Giro-Tour, astounding everyone with an advantage of almost 10 minutes over his rivals at the Giro and almost 30 minutes at the Tour. In 1953 he won the Giro d'Italia for the fifth time, and that same year he participated in the World Road Championship in Lugano, managing to defeat his opponents with a 6-minute advantage. Confident of himself after that important victory, Coppi challenged the Individual pursuit's world champion Sydney Patterson in a race at the Vigorelli Velodrome in Milan and managed to beat him, reaching the peak of his extraordinary cycling career.

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1954 - In Italy, the custom of the sponsored teams was introduced, but abroad this novelty didn't like at all: as a sign of protest, the Italian Cycling Federation refused to deploy the national team at the Tour de France, and for this reason, Coppi didn't participate. That year he won four other races, including the Giro di Lombardia, his last victory in a major ranking. The Giro di Lombardia was also the only victory he achieved with a sprint instead of a Fuga.
1955 - He won the Giro di Campania, the Giro dell'Appennino, the Tre Valli Varesine and the Trofeo Baracchi. Thanks to his rankings in the rankings, that year also obtained the national title for road riders.

1957 - The champion broke the anatomical neck of his left femur during a circuit in Sardinia, but after a long rehabilitation, he managed to participate in the Trofeo Baracchi with Ercole Baldini and conquer his last victory on the road.
1958 - That year Coppi managed to win only the Six Days of Buenos Aires.
1959 - He participated for the first and only time in the Vuelta a España, but retired with the team. In the autumn, the San Pellegrino Sport project was born, which would see Gino Bartali and Coppi together again in the same team, before the latter's definitive retirement from cycling announced for the following year. Unfortunately, Coppi did not have the opportunity to join the project: during a trip to Burkina Faso with some French cycling friends, the "Campionissimo" contracted a serious form of malaria that was not immediately recognized by Italian doctors, and after just one month, he fell into a coma and died, at only 40 years of age.


His professional career lasted twenty-one years (eighteen if we consider the interruption during the war), during which Coppi amazed the world winning 151 road races, 58 for detachment and 83 on track, wearing for 31 days the pink jersey of the Giro d'Italia and for 19 days the yellow jersey of the Tour de France, and thus becoming one of the greatest legends of world cycling.

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(1) Coppi and Bartali
(2) Coppi at the Vigorelli Velodrome '42
(3) Coppi at the Giro d'Italia '53
(4) Coppi at the Tour de France '52

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