From the very beginning, the Giro d’Italia hosted a great drama, and one of them is the story of Faust Copi, the heroic and tragic figure of the Golden Age of biker racing. Every year on January 2, a big event takes place in Castellania, a small village in the Italian region of Piedmont. Cycling enthusiasts from all over come to pay their respects. This morning began with a Mass in a small church, followed by awards for journalists; there was a special opening of Casa Coppi, and in the afternoon a visit to the neighboring Novi Ligure and the Museo dei Campionissimi. Because on January 2, 1960, more than sixty years ago, Faustus Copy died and the legend of cycling began.
The Greek playwright Meander (342 BC-292 BC) wrote: “He who is loved by the gods dies young.” At the time of Faustus Copy’s death he was 40 years old, and although most of his career took place from 1949 to 1952, he never grew fat, aged or quarrelsome like his great rival Gina Bartoli. His racing record has been excellent, but since then others have done the same or better. Yet deceased horsemen who were remarkable at the time, like Jacques Anquetil or Luisan Bobe, are not the subject of pilgrimages like Faustus Coppie six decades later. Who is this man and why is he still haunting our cycling dreams?
Faust Copi and Fornar during the Giro d’Italia, Florence, Italy. Photo by Roger-Viollet / Rex Features
Probably the best English-language book about Faustus Copy “The Fallen Angel: The Passions of Faustus Copy” William Fotheringham and published in 2009 and is still readily available. Kopi’s life story is well known, but retold here as well: how he grew up in Castellania, a poor farming village, and showed a love for cycling; how he came under the care of Biagio Cavanaugh, a blind masseur / co-host / trainer; how he was the unexpected winner of the Giro d’Italia in 1940; how his career was ruined by World War II; how he became the first racer to win the Giro and the Tour de France in the same year; as his rivalry with Gina Bartoli intensified Italy. The world champion, the owner of the watch record, a man who himself left the Milan-San Remo race in 1946 and finished almost a quarter of an hour ahead of the next competitor. Man alone. Heron. The champion.
But the book gives us a much broader portrait. In many ways, Kopi was the man who invented the modern professional bicycle in terms of how he trained and ate, how teams were formed around him, how his equipment was managed and maintained. Although he was always small (and the author discredits the story that Kopi suffered from malnutrition as a child), Kopi was surprisingly diverse in his cycling skills. A remarkable climber, he was the first person to win a stage at the Alpes d’Huez during the Tour de France, but was also an excellent time racer, having twice won the de facto World Time Race Championship, the Grand Prix of the Nations. On the track he twice won the World Chase Championship. He looked beautiful on a bicycle and was famous for his spinning shape. He was a perfectionist and a leader.
This is one Kopi. Next there is personal life, and Faustus Coppy seems to be one of those people who go on living outside looking inside. He was quiet, reserved and surprisingly gentle temperament. His younger brother Sears rode with him on the Bianchi team, and it feels like Sears was like a domestic dog or donkey that racehorses love to have in their stables to keep them calm. Other top professionals had the same arrangement – Jean Bobet for his brother Louison; Prudencio Indurain for Miguel; Stefan Ulrich, a reliable mechanic of his brother Jan; Antonio Nibali and so on. In 2009, there were still many people who had personal contacts with Coppis, in which the author could interview, and, oddly enough, everyone remembers the antics of entertaining Serse, but no one had anything to say about looking inside Faust, nothing memorable. . He seems to be talking through his bike.
He really wanted to rise in the world. Although brought up in a peasant environment, he was polite and well-mannered. As the money came in, he enjoyed beautiful clothes and fancy cars, although the taste in the houses sounds a little underdeveloped. He loved hunting, had well-trained dogs and expensive guns. Becoming more secular had its consequences when his personal life changed. His marriage to a local girl in 1945 broke up and he began a relationship with a married woman Julia Aquini. This caused a massive scandal and brought us to the third Kopi in the book: Kopi as an Italian.
Much of it “Fallen Angel” it is about Italy and what happened when the country moved from a predominantly agricultural society to an industrial, more sectarian and less Catholic one, but also about how the country moved from the authoritarian fascist state of Mussolini to a conflict-ravaged nation in post-war democracy. . In times of national frustration Faustus Copy, a glamorous, talented, superhuman cyclist, gave hope. The professional bicycle was rebuilt very soon after World War II, and when Kopi won the Tour de France in 1949, it was a popular victory not only in Italy but also in France itself. It is said that because every city wanted to give Copi the best look, all roads were paved as he drove to the Giro d’Italia and approached, helping to rebuild the nation. In this way he acquired a part of his persona larger than life.
Another, albeit less positive, path was through his divorce. The invasion of privacy must have been incredibly painful for this self-deprecating man, although much of the blame for the end of his marriage was laid at the feet of Signora Aquini, usually for the time. She was actually imprisoned for four days because adultery was considered a crime. Kopi could not escape. The Pope refused to bless the Giro riders for one year as “Was a public sinner” among them. All sorts of people tried to intervene and force Kopi to reconcile with his wife. It is hard for us today to believe what the society was like then. On the other hand, Jacques Anquetil’s novel arrangements remained an open mystery long after his death. The French seem to have been different.
La Mitica 2022
Great cyclist. A symbol of revived Italy. Public sinner. Then there was only a tragic end: Kopi died at the age of 40 due to medical failure, a misdiagnosis of malaria was made while hunting in Africa, and the legend came to life, and pilgrimages began. Every June there is a retro attraction La Mitica, similar to l’Eroica in Chianti, which gives lovers of old bikes the opportunity to ride on the same roads around Castellania as Faust and Copi. There are famous photographs, such as the image of Faustus Coppy and Gina Bartoli in 1949, who pass a bottle to each other during the Tour de France. Bianchi, the bicycle company most associated with Kopi’s career, continues to trade his name and history. You can visit Casa Coppi (Faustus Copy House Museum) in Castellania, family home, on weekends. Piedmont residents are still proud, and if you go there, you may be well prepared with their website: www.faustocoppi.it
The book has beautiful photographs, and the visuals around Kopi are striking in the pre-television era and when sporting events like the Giro were only covered in newsreels. The black-and-white photographs of that period are so atmospheric, so sharp and timeless that it also contributed to the legend, as for another famous rider, Hugo Koblet, whose life ended early and tragically.
“Fallen Angel” it is a magnificent reflection of these three Koppi athletes; person; symbol. 60 years later we are still touched by those events and it is worth understanding why through this masterful story.
These glorious Bianca from Copi came back to life in a wonderful book that was published in Italy in 2013 by Ediciclo Editore, “Le Bici di Coppi”. Perfectly crafted, it’s the love work of a pair of bike collectors and aims to fill the gap. They believe that many books have been written about Faustus Coppy, which focus on the man, the sports hero, but very little on his bikes. As mentioned, Kopi was obsessed with equipment (unlike Bartoli, who seemed to suffer frequent mechanical accidents), and when he joined Bianchi’s team, he brought Giuseppe with him. Pinella de Grandi, master mechanic. De Gandhi (1908-1981) received a nickname “Golden Pliers” director of the Tour de France Jacques Godde after witnessing the rapid change of tubular tire in the 1949 race.
The authors found that de Gandhi’s granddaughter had a suitcase that the mechanic had taken to the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, and it was filled with documentation concerning bicycles that de Grandi built for Kopi and other Italian riders, as well as photographs and memorable souvenirs. It includes a register of bicycles made in the well-known division of Reparto Corse Bianchi, which has long been considered lost as the company frequently moved. From these documents it can be determined that between 1945 and 1958 (with the exception of 1956 and 1957, when Coppi rode Coppi’s bicycles), Bianchi built 70 bicycles for Il Campionissimo, with 53 for road and 17 for track. The register includes dates, measurements and serial numbers so that it is possible to determine whether a bicycle was indeed registered as a Kopi.
Based on materials from the de Grandi archive, the authors identified fourteen existing bicycles used by Kopi, and they are illustrated in the book in beautiful photographs. Each bike (9 road, 5 track) has its own history and detailed components. It always seemed that Kopi had extremely long legs (hence the nickname “L’Airone” – heron), and this is confirmed by these frames, which have seats 60 cm long and 57 cm upper tubes, an amazing size for a rider 5 feet 9 inches (175 cm) tall.
“Le Bici di Coppi” my subtitles “The treasure of Pinella de Grandi and the true history of Campionissimo bicycles rediscovered” and is a must for any cycling enthusiast, even if your Italian is limited as it is monolingual. It’s a gorgeous hardcover book with great photos and tells the story of Faustus Coppy (the man who demanded fresh tape for each stage) that tells a lot about the professional athlete of the time. Because on January 2, 1960, more than sixty years ago, Faustus Copy died and the legend of cycling began. The legend, of course, lives on, and the 14th stage of the Giro d’Italia 2022 passed by the monument to Faustus Coppi, erected in 2002 in memory of his many victories and located in the Michelotti Park in Turin.
“The Fallen Angel: The Passions of Faustus Copy” by William Fotheringham
283 pp., Illustration, hardcover
Yellow Jersey Press, London, 2009
“The Fallen Angel: The Passions of Faustus Copy” by William Fotheringham there is available from AMAZON.COM.
“Le Bici di Coppi” by Paolo Amadori and Paolo Tulini
192 pp., Illustr., Hardcover
Ediciclo Editore, Venice, Italy, 2013
Price: 34 euros.
“Le Bici di Coppi” by Paolo Amadori and Paolo Tulini there is available from AMAZON.COM.
# For those interested in skiing on Kopi’s native roads, here’s information on La Mitika, the annual commemorative trip to Castellania: www.lamitica.it. #