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« Vuelta a Espana 2013 | Main | Group Riding »

Coppi: By Herbie Sykes

Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi was one of the most successful and popular cyclists of all time. 

Born in September 1919, his career spanned both sides of WWII.

His pre-war successes came early, he won his first Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy.) in 1940 at age 20; to this day the youngest ever to do so.  

After the war he won the Giro four more times in 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953. He won the Tour de France twice in 1949 and 1952. He won many of the Classics and was World Champion in 1953.

There have been numerous books published on the life of Fausto Coppi. So many in fact that in this latest one, published by Bloomsbury, Herbie Sykes, opens the book by asking, “Why would anyone add another Fausto Coppi book to the slush pile?”

This book is different in that it is a compilation of short stories told by people who actually knew Coppi. Other ex professional cyclists who rode with him, raced with him and against him, ate with him, lived with him, and so on.

Coppi died at the young age of 40 years, in January 1960, when he contracted malaria during a hunting trip to Africa. Had he lived he would be in his 90s now, and so too are the people who actually knew him.

Like WWII vets, they are becoming fewer with every passing year, so this is an important thing that Herbie Sykes has done in committing these people’s words to print, preserving them for us and future generations.

There is a short piece (Page 296.) by Raphael Geminiani who shared a room with Coppi on that same African hunting trip, and also contracted malaria. Geminiani was diagnosed correctly in France, and was treated with a simple quinine shot. Coppi was miss-diagnosed by his Italian doctors, and died.

Along with these stories are photos, many that have never been published before. There are pictures of Coppi racing, and others of him before and after races. There are also many of him just going about his everyday life, and looking at them one is struck by the fact that this man was not just a racing cyclist, but a super star of his day.

Followed by the Paparazzi in the way that music and movie stars are today.

Coppi’s affair with Giulia Occhini, for example, dubbed by the press as “The Woman in White,” when they were both married to other people.

This would have been a story on the lines of Brad and Angelina today.

However, back in the mid 1950s in a deeply Catholic country like Italy, it was a huge scandal that lost Fausto a lot of fans. At the height of this scandal, the Pope refused to bless the Giro d'Italia because Coppi was riding.

It all goes to show the high esteem (And expectations.) in which cyclists like Fausto Coppi were held in Italy and on the Continent of Europe in the immediate post war era.

One cannot imagine photos like this in such a book, featuring the likes of Alberto Contador, Phillip Gilbert, or Fabian Cancellara being published some 60 years from today.

I would class this as a Coffee Table Book, in that it is one you can read though but then return to it time and time again. Enjoy the photos over and over, and share with others. It would make a nice gift for any cyclist, especially vintage enthusiasts.


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Reader Comments (5)

I am definitely adding this book to my pile. I have in my collection a book by Jacques Augendre. It is gorgeous book with large pictures of Coppi in his glory days.

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJorge

Hi Dave!

I came across your blog as I was looking for old prints from the Tour de France. My husband is a cycling enthusiast and his birthday is coming up. I thought I nice print would be a good gift. A quick internet search yields the same 5-10 old prints. I really liked the prints on your blog post seen here. http://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/blog/2009/4/1/tour-de-france-could-become-fixed-again.html

Could you tell me where you got these photos? Or any idea where I can get some cool prints ordered?



September 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

Coppi ALSO played 'footie' FOOTBALL or SOCCER. Have a jen photo of him taking a corner kick in the 50s.

September 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercrumpy

I have several real nice prints from past year Portraits of theTDF calendars 12"x 14" from Buonpane Prods in Englewood Colorado Email me at crumpy6204@aol.com

September 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

I have a nice F. Coppi steel frame waiting for me to get around to building it up some day. I'm sure he lent nothing but his name to it, but like the F. Moser I have (built into a bike) it's a small homage to history.

September 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteveP
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