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2010 Giro d'Italia - The Greatest Italian
By John Summerson
Date: 5/4/2010
2010 Giro d'Italia - The Greatest Italian

2010 Giro d'Italia - The Greatest Italian
As the Giro d’Italia draws near it is important to note that 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Italian great Fausto Coppi, an event that will be commemorated during this year’s race.

Coming out of the devastation of World War II Italy was in desperate need of distraction and a hero and Coppi certainly filled that bill. His list of cycling triumphs is an accomplished one.

Despite the war’s intrusion into the prime of his career, his palmares  include:
 22 stage wins and five overall victories (1940, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953) in the Giro d’Italia (tied for the most ever),
Two Tour de France wins (winning both the overall and king of the mountains titles in 1949 and 1952),
A World Championship and numerous one day classics victories, including Milan-San Remo, Fleche Wallonne, Tour of Lombardy and Paris-Roubaix.
He was also the first cyclist to win both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France  in the same year; and accomplished the feat twice (1949 and 1952).

Fausto Coppi was the youngest winner of the Giro d'Italia
1940 (20 years, 8 months, 25 days)

Fausto Coppi 'Il Campionissimo'

Coppi may be most remembered for his rivalry with fellow Italian Gino Bartali and how he won several high profile races through dominating performances in the mountains. One of his greatest victories was in the 1946 Milan-San Remo classic. Coppi attacked with nine other riders just 3 miles into the 181 mile race.

the climb up the Turchino, he dropped all and went on to win by 14 minutes over the second placed rider, and by 18:30 over Gino Bartali and the rest of the peloton.

Coppi after his 1949 Milan-Sanremo win.
Photo courtesy Gazzetta dello Sport

A day of the 1949 Giro is also of particular note. The 17th stage used the legendary Cuneo-Pinerolo route and was a truly memorable moment in that year’s race. The route went over five major climbs in a row through the Italian and French Alps: Colle della Maddalena, Vars, Izoard, re-entry into Italy via Monginevro and, finally, Sestrière before arriving in Pinerolo. Almost two hundred and fifty kilometers in length, much of the stage was on dirt roads.

Fausto Coppi’s performance that day is legendary, his 190-kilometer breakaway solo ride began halfway up the first climb of the day, the Colle della Maddalena and concluded at the finishing line in Pinerolo. He won by 11 minutes and 52 seconds over his historic friend and rival Gino Bartali who placed second. Third place went to Alfredo Martini but who it was said was first among mere mortals as he finished over 20 minutes behind Coppi. Riding alone ride through the mountains that day immortalized both rider and landscape and is considered one of the greatest moments in cycling.

In the 1953 Giro Coppi rallied late in the race with a legendary ride on the now famous climb of the Stelvio. Attacking at the beginning of the brutal ascent (unpaved in 1953) he went on to win the stage to take the pink jersey. From that day forward the Stelvio is known as Cima (top) Coppi and each year the highest point of the Giro is noted as such and a prize awarded for the first rider to reach it.

Tragically Fausto Coppi passed away in 1960 at the young age of 40 from malaria. To this day he continues to be an almost mythic figure in cycling circles and was truly one of the most dominant riders of all time.

More on Fausto Coppi
Part Two - Part Three - Part Four
More Daily Peloton Articles on History & Memorials
Book Review: fallen angel - The Passion of Fausto Coppi
All-Time Best Road Cyclist 2007 - 8th Edition Part 1
Who are the Best 20 Classics Riders in History?
Part 1 - Part 2

        Celebrating our tenth year!

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