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Fausto Coppi

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Fausto Coppi (September 15, 1919 in Castellania (Province of Alessandria), Italy, - January 2, 1960 in Tortona, Italy) was an Italian racing cyclist. Nicknamed Il Campionissimo ("champions 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).

Professional success

Fausto Coppi celebrated his first large success in 1940, winning the Giro d'Italia at the age of 20. In 1942 he set a new world hour record (45.871km) which held for fourteen years (broken by Jacques Anquetil in 1956). His promising career was then interrupted by the Second World War. In 1946 he resumed bicycle racing and in the following years achieved a series of remarkable successes which would be exceeded only by Eddy Merckx.

Twice, 1949 and 1952, Coppi achieved a "double" - winning the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. The "Campionissimo" totalled five victories in the Giro; together with Alfredo Binda and Eddy Merckx he holds the record. His record also includes nine Classic victories: he won the Tour of Lombardy five times and took first place three times in Milan-San Remo and once in Paris-Roubaix. In addition he was the 1953 World Road Champion.

Fausto Coppi's racing days are generally referred to as the beginning of the Golden Years of the Cycle Racing. An important factor for this is the competition Coppi had with the five years older 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 had robbed Bartali of any chance of overall victory). When Bartali and Coppi, probably the greatest Italian cyclists of all time, met one another it was the most famous rivalry of cycle racing history and the enormous Italian fan base (tifosi) divided into camps of the "bar valleyists" and the "Coppists".

Tragedy

In addition, Coppi's career was shaped by strokes of 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 suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died (a curious parallel with Bartali, who also lost a brother, Guilio, in a 1936 racing accident). Fausto suffered countless bone fractures in the process of his career. In 1953 it became public that Coppi had left his wife, to live with Giulia Occhini, la Dama Bianca ("the lady in white"). In the Italy of the 1950s this was quite a scandal. Their love story was portrayed in the 1993 film "Il Grande Fausto". Coppi and his companion were condemned legally and morally. Coppi continued his career, but he could never match his old successes.

At the end of 1959, while on a cycling and game hunting trip in the African Upper Volta (now known as 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 the age of 40 years.

Legacy

Although the success list of Eddy Merckx is without a doubt longer than Coppi's, many experts call Fausto Coppi the greatest cyclist of all times. To this day, the Giro remembers Coppi as it goes through the mountain stages. A special mountain bonus, called the Cima Coppi, is awarded to the first rider who reaches the Giro's highest summit. In 1999, Fausto Coppi placed second in balloting for greatest Italian athlete of the 20th century.de:Fausto Coppi es:Fausto Coppi fr:Fausto Coppi it:Fausto Coppi nl:Fausto Coppi

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