Fausto Coppi

Fausto Coppi

Infobox Cyclist
ridername = Fausto Coppi

fullname = Angelo Fausto Coppi
nickname = "Il Campionissimo"
dateofbirth = birth date|1919|09|15|df=y
dateofdeath = death date and age|1960|01|02|1919|09|15
country = Italy
height =
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discipline = Classics
role = Rider
ridertype =
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Angelo Fausto Coppi (September 15, 1919January 2, 1960) was an Italian racing cyclist. Nicknamed "Il Campionissimo" ("the greatest champion") or "The Champion of the Champions", he was one of the most successful and most popular cyclists of all time. He twice won the Tour de France (1949 and 1952), and five times the Giro d'Italia (1940, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953).


Coppi was born in Castellania, province of Alessandria (Piedmont).

His first large success was in 1940, winning the Giro d'Italia at the age of 20. In 1942 he set a world hour record (45.798 km at the Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan) which stood for 14 years until it was broken by Jacques Anquetil in 1956. His career was then interrupted by the Second World War. In 1946 he resumed racing and achieved remarkable successes which would be exceeded only by Eddy Merckx.

Twice, 1949 and 1952, Coppi won the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in the same year, the first to do so. He won the Giro five times, a record held with Alfredo Binda and Eddy Merckx. During 1949's Giro he managed to distance Gino Bartali by eleven minutes during the Cuneo-Pinerolo segment. His achievements include ten Classic victories: he won the Giro di Lombardia a record five times (1946, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1954), Milan-Sanremo three times (1946, 1948 and 1949) and Paris-Roubaix and La Flèche Wallonne once (1950). He was also 1953 World Road Champion.

Coppi's racing days are generally referred to as the beginning of the "Golden Years of the Cycle Racing". An important factor is the competition Coppi had with Gino Bartali (who helped win Coppi an appointment as a domestique in his team at the end of the 1939 season, and supported Coppi's 1940 Giro victory after an early crash robbed Bartali of overall victory). When Bartali and Coppi, the greatest Italian cyclists of all time, met it was the most famous rivalry of cycle racing history and Italian fans ("tifosi") divided into e "coppiani" and "bartaliani".

Coppi's late career was shaped by fate: in 1951 his teammate and younger brother, Serse Coppi, fell in a sprint in the Giro del Piemonte. After returning to his hotel, Serse had a cerebral hemorrhage and died (a parallel with Bartali, who also lost a brother, Giulio, in a 1936 racing accident). Fausto broke several bones in his career. In 1953 Coppi left his wife to live with Giulia Occhini, "la Dama Bianca" ("the lady in white"). In the Italy of the 1950s this was a scandal. Their love was portrayed in the 1993 film "Il Grande Fausto". Coppi and his companion were condemned legally and morally. Coppi continued his career but could never match his old successes.

At the end of 1959, on a cycling and game-hunting trip in the African Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Coppi caught malaria. When the illness broke out after his return to Italy, it was not recognized in time for effective treatment. Coppi died at 40 in the hospital of Tortona.


Although the success list of Merckx is without a doubt longer than Coppi's, many experts call Coppi the greatest cyclist of all time (see next section). To this day, the Giro remembers Coppi as it goes through the mountain stages. A mountain bonus, called the "Cima Coppi", is awarded to the first rider who reaches the Giro's highest summit. In 1999, Coppi placed second in balloting for greatest Italian athlete of the 20th century.

The Coppi-Merckx debate

Despite the impressive wins of Eddy Merckx, some believe that the best cyclist of all-time is Coppi. This conviction is founded on three points:
# Coppi raced in a period when travelling (particularly across international borders) was far more difficult than twenty years later. Like Gino Bartali, Coppi lost five years of his career due to World War II during which he was taken prisoner by the British.
# While Eddy Merckx won his first Giro d’Italia when he was 23 (in 1968), and arrived second in a major stage race when he was 30 (1975 Tour de France, behind Bernard Thévenet), Coppi won his first Giro (his first professional race) in 1940, when he was 20, and lost a Giro d’Italia by only 11” when he was 35 (in 1955, behind Fiorenzo Magni).
# Eddy Merckx created his devastating victories beating many truly great racers—his Italian archrival Felice Gimondi; the Belgians Roger de Vlaeminck (great one-day racer), Herman van Springel, Lucien van Impe; French Bernard Thevenet; Dutch Joop Zoetemelk; and Spaniards Luis Ocaña and José Manuel Fuente. This was probably the greatest concentration of cycling talent since 1950: Anquetil, Hinault and Armstrong all defeated foes undeniably inferior. But Fausto Coppi won all that he won in arguably the greatest stretch of all time. First, in a century of cycling, only in 1940 did two champions like Coppi and Bartali race simultaneously—in Italy it was impossible to not choose between the two men. At that time there were other cyclists who would have dominated other periods: the Italian Third Man Fiorenzo Magni, all-time Swiss greats Ferdinand Kubler and Hugo Koblet, Belgians Rik Van Steenbergen and Stan Ockers, French Jean Robic and Louison Bobet.

All that does not mean that Merckx is inferior with respect to Coppi, but rebalances the situation. An Italian cycling historian, Gian Paolo Ormezzano, says that the Italian has been the greatest of all time, while the Belgian has been the strongest.

Major results

;1940:Giro d'Italia::: Winner overall classification::Winner stage 11;1941:Giro di Toscana:Giro dell'Emilia:Giro del Veneto:Tre Valli Varesine;1942:Hour record - 45.798 km (Milan, Velodromo Vigorelli):flagicon|ITA Italian National Road Race Championship;1946:Milan-Sanremo:Giro di Lombardia:Grand Prix des Nations:Giro della Romagna:Giro d'Italia:::Winner stages 4, 13 and 14;1947:Giro d'Italia::: Winner overall classification::Winner stages 4, 8 and 16:Giro di Lombardia:Grand Prix des Nations:flagicon|ITA Italian National Road Race Championship:Giro della Romagna:Giro del Veneto:Giro dell'Emilia;1948:Milan-Sanremo:Giro di Lombardia:Giro d'Italia:::::Winner stages 16 and 17:Giro dell'Emilia:Tre Valli Varesine;1949:Giro d'Italia::: Winner overall classification:: Winner mountains classification::Winner stages 4, 11 and 17:Tour de France::: Winner overall classification:: Winner mountains classification::Winner stages 7, 17 and 20:Milan-Sanremo:Giro di Lombardia:flagicon|ITA Italian National Road Race Championship:Giro della Romagna:Giro del Veneto;1950:Paris-Roubaix:La Flèche Wallonne;1951:Tour de France:::Winner stage 20:Giro d'Italia:::Winner stages 6 and 18:Gran Premio di Lugano;1952:Giro d'Italia::: Winner overall classification::Winner stages 5, 11 and 14:Tour de France::: Winner overall classification:: Winner mountains classification::Winner stages 7, 10, 11, 18 and 21:Gran Premio di Lugano;1953:flagiconUCI World Road Cycling Championships:Giro d'Italia::: Winner overall classification::Winner stages 4, 19 and 20:Trofeo Baracchi;1954:Giro d'Italia::: Winner mountain classification::Winner stage 20:Giro di Lombardia:Coppa Bernocchi:Trofeo Baracchi;1955:Giro d'Italia:::Winner stage 20:flagicon|ITA Italian National Road Race Championship:Giro dell'Appennino;1956:Gran Premio di Lugano;1957:Trofeo Baracchi

ee also

* List of doping cases in cycling

Notes and references

External links

* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=22306 Find-A-Grave profile for Fausto Coppi]

NAME=Coppi, Fausto
DATE OF BIRTH=1919-09-15
PLACE OF BIRTH=Castellania
DATE OF DEATH=1960-01-02

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