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By Fabio
Date: 1/7/2003

After exploring, in the previous part of the report, the “left room” at the ground floor of Fausto Coppi’s house-museum and seeing all the pictures and “vintage clips” there, we move to the right one, usually hosting exhibitions dedicated to various cycling stars of the past (from Fausto and Serse to Girardengo to the Piedmontese champions of the 50s and 60s), but also “historical” bikes once belonging to the ”Campionissimo” and other great riders of the time. In the above picture you can see FOUR different bikes.

The light-blue bike on the left is probably the most valuable one in the room; a Bianchi track cycling bike used by Fausto, with no brakes, no different gears, and whose rear wheel is blocked, moving only when the guy in the saddle keeps pushing on the pedal.

The grey bike (with blue handlebar and flask) besides belongs to a different manufacture: Fiorelli-Coppi. Actually Fausto turned a pro in the late 30s with the Legnano team, as a (not so loyal) domestique of future archrival Bartali, well-known winner of the 1936 and 1937 Giros. It didn’t take long for the future “Campionissimo” to show off all of his skills and be appointed team leader, but nonetheless in 1941 he moved to Bianchi, the squad he will be riding for until 1956. Then, at the age of 37, the man set up a team of his own, the Carpano-Coppi squad, sponsored by a famous beverage firm, and riding bikes bearing Fausto Coppi’s name, produced by Novi Ligure-based Fratelli Fiorelli (Fiorelli Brothers: namely Rinaldo, Mario and Lino) firm.

The piedmontese town of Novi Ligure was a kind of “cycling capital” in that period. Besides a good number of excellent riders, wishing to follow the example of Coppi (and before him another character from Novi, Costante Girardengo, a star of the 20s and 30s whose accomplishments were a source of inspiration to Fausto himself), there was also several bike producing firms, often managed by single families. Along with the Fiorelli brothers, we can mention the Santamarias (Giuseppe e Mario), who kept producing the ”Biciclette Bartali” in 1948, after “Gino il Pio” stopped riding Legnanos and promoted bikes bearing his own name. Along with Gino, also the likes of Corrieri e Kubler raced with the Santamaria-Bartali outfit.

Before Coppi & Bartali, even Costante Girardengo, after he pulled out from cycling, had started funding the production of his own bike firm. And quite paradoxically, it was Girardengo’s firm to build many of the bikes the greatest sprinter ever (perhaps along with Mario Cipollini), Belgium’s Rik Van Steenbergen, rode to defeat Fausto Coppi many a time.

But glory and success come and go in every field, business included, and nowadays as much as Piedmont hasn’t got any real star in the pro peloton, whereas the current big names of Italian scene are mostly from Tuscany, Veneto and part of Lombardia, also its bike-producing tradition has got lost. Both the Girardengo (just a few days ago) and Santamaria firms went bankrupt. As for Fiorelli, the firm was completely taken over in the early 90s by the Fratelli Masciaghi manufacturers, whose main goal was to own the Fausto Coppi’s trademark. So the Fausto Coppi bikes are still produced by the Masciaghi firm, although no longer in Novi Ligure, but in the Brianza area of Lombardia.

Back to the “room on the right” now: and to the “bike on the right” too. The model you can see on the right side of the above pic indeed is a bicycle used by Serse Coppi when he was an amateur. Before turning a professional rider, Fausto’s younger and beloved brother (who was used to say “Yes, I’m a Coppi, but one of the kind that goes slowly”) raced for many different teams in lesser categories, first in Lombardia and later in his home region Piedmont, also winning in 1945 (ahead of Fausto) one of the most important Classics of the time: the Milano-Varzi, no longer disputed, but once a great “open” race, marked by the participation of several amateurs and big names of the pro peloton alike.

As well as pics and clips of Gino Bartali, also other historical relics belonging to Coppi’s main rival are shown in the Museum at Castellanía. And here’s a yellow bike, dating back to 1935, used by the tuscan rider. The bike features an extremely unusual and “archaic” derailleur, designed by Bartali himself, and wooden rims.

A closer view of the original “derailleur” of Bartali’s Legnano bike. Hardly the most comfortable way of changing your gear.

After visiting both rooms at the ground floor, let’s continue our “cybertour” of Fausto Coppi’s museum by moving upstairs, where we can find more relics of the “age of the Campionissimo”.

No need to take the elevator anyway, just CLICK HERE TO GET ACCESS TO THE NEXT PAGE

And click on the links below to get access to the previous parts of this report.

Fausto Coppi – The Legend: Part 1

* PAGE 1 (Introduction: Coppi’s life and legend)

* PAGE 2 (Castellanía and the Museum)

Fausto Coppi – The Legend: Part 2

* PAGE 3 (Outside the Museum)

* PAGE 4 (Inside the Museum – Historical Pics)

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