Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Last of Coppi's "Angels" Passes Away

L-R: Carrea, Coppi and Ettore Milano

Andrea Sandrino Carrea, born in Gavi Ligure in 1924, the last of the "angeli di Coppi" has passed away. He was a professional from 1948 to 1958 and for much of that time rode as a domestique for Fausto Coppi. "He was a gregario par excellence," said the journalist Jean-Luc Gatellier. "The incarnation of personal disinterest... showing to perfection the notion of personal sacrifice. He refused the slightest bit of personal glory."

Carrea was riding for Coppi in the Tour de France of 1952 when a group rode clear of the main field on the way to Lausanne. Carrea went with it to protect Coppi's interests. Carrea had no idea until he crossed the line that he had become the race leader. When officials told him, he looked bewildered, then distressed, and burst into tears. He had to be dragged to the podium. He had oustaged Coppi and he dreaded the consequences saying, "Without knowing it, I had slid into the important break of the day and at Lausanne, to my great surprise, I heard I had inherited a jersey destined for champions. For me, it was a terrible situation."

As a result "Sandrino" then became the first to ride the Alpe d'Huez in the yellow jersey as leader of the Tour de France (the Alpe d' Huez was introduced into the Tour that year, 1952). The stage was won by Coppi who took the yellow jersey from Carrea and became first to triumph on the Alpe; Coppi would go on to win the Tour .

For years after retiring, he rode up Alpe d'Huez ahead of the Tour de France, recognized only rarely by spectators. It was, he said, "A pilgrimage that nothing would make me miss."

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