- (1919–1960)In the view of many experts, Fausto Coppi was the greatest cyclist of all time; nobody would deny that he was the most spectacular. His willingness to break from the main group in lengthy, solitary fughe of tens, even hundreds of kilometers, made him a byword for stamina and courage. His duels with another great Italian cyclist, Gino Bartali, are one of the greatest chapters in the history of the sport. The fact that Coppi was associated with the left, while Bartali was a devout Catholic, only added spice to their rivalry.In a career spanning 17 years (1939–1956), Coppi won 128 races, including the Tour de France twice, the Giro d’Italia five times, and the World Road championship in 1953 by over six minutes from the second-place finisher—a performance that many regard, even today, as the finest ever seen in a one-day race. He smashed the one-hour distance record in 1942. Had his career not been interrupted for four years by the war, there seems no doubt that this imposing list of victories would be even longer. Coppi’s life, however, is also important for nonsporting reasons. In September 1954, he caused a national scandal when the police, applying to the letter Italy’s laws against adultery, arrested his married lover, the actress Giulia Occhini. In 1955, Occhini was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for abandoning her husband’s home and Coppi was sentenced to two months. The sentences were conditional only, so neither actually spent time behind bars, but the affair highlighted the Italian state’s readiness to interfere in the private lives of its citizens. The adultery laws were later repealed in 1969. Coppi died on 2 January 1960, in his native Alessandria (Piedmont), of malaria contracted during a holiday in Africa.
Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. Mark F. Gilbert & K. Robert Nilsson. 2007.
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