Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book: "Fausto Coppi, un uomo solo al comando"

On the occasion of the Giro del Centenario several other books are being published in addition to "Un Secolo di Passioni" ( We will report on these over the next week.

Yesterday we saw Fausto Coppi in a newsreel video of the 1953 Giro d'Italia so let's learn more about the new book, "Fausto Coppi, un uomo solo al comando". This biography authored by Paolo Alberati, published by Giunti Editore, is based upon years of research and collaboration. The author has interviewed the Coppi children, Marina and Faustino; teammates Sandrino Carrea and Ettore Milano; and Coppi's second wife, Giulia Occhini (the “dama Bianca”, woman in white).

The book covers all aspects of Coppi's life, from his military service in Africa during WWII which interrupted his racing career, his post WWII racing and rivalry with Bartali, to his shocking death from malaria after a visit to the Republic of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso).

Fausto Coppi won five times the Giro d'Italia (1940, 1947, 1949,1952, 1953), twice the Tour de France (1949 and 1952), and was the first to win the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in the same year. Among his other victories: World Championship in 1953, the Milan-Sanremo in 1946, 1948 and 1949, Paris-Roubaix, and set the hour record (45.798 km) in 1942. Because of his dominance he was named "Il Campionissimo", champion of champions.

As an aside, in doing some research of my own I learned that Coppi became a prisioner of war in Africa of the British, and of this story: At the prison camp Coppi was given odd jobs to do. The British cyclist Len Levesley said he was astonished to find Coppi giving him a haircut. Levesley, who was on a stretcher with polio said, "I should think it took me all of a full second to realise who it was. He looked fine, he looked slim, and having been in the desert, he looked tanned. I'd only seen him in cycling magazines but I knew instantly who he was. So he cut away at my hair and I tried to have a conversation with him, but he didn't speak English and I don't speak Italian. But we managed one or two words and I got over to him that I did some club racing. And I gave him a bar of chocolate that I had with me and he was grateful for that and that was the end of it."

Photo: book cover

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