by admin

article by Nicholas Pucci

It certainly cannot be said that Antonio Bevilacqua shone with reflected light. Because if it is true that his figure as a passer of extraordinary power and effectiveness has been largely overshadowed by that of the “champion” Fausto Coppi, none the less it has achieved enormously prestigious successes on the track as well as on the road.

Venetian from Santa Maria di Sala, born in 1918, Bevilacqua entered the world of professionals in 1940, when the war already forced the major cycling competitions to stop. And if in the first years he doesn’t go beyond a success at the Turin-Biella of 1941, when he runs for the Railway after work, finishing second at the 1942 Milan-San Remo behind Adolfo Leonithat’s it in 1943, however, he found a way to put the Italian track pursuit title on the bulletin board, succeeding Coppi in the roll of honorwinner in the three previous editions, beating Fiorenzo Magni and Cino Cinelli.

Antonio, whom friends call nicely “Toni“, pedals as fast as a speeding train, endowed as he is with a powerful physique and muscles of steel, and with the end of the second war he has the opportunity to put on particularly light, putting in a trio of successes in the Italian individual pursuit championship, from 1949, when he beats Coppi himself, who had preceded him the year before, to 1951also showing up at the appointment with the World Championships on track always in great shape and with the credentials to compete with the best.

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In the world championship, in fact, Bevilacqua is silver in Paris in 1947, always behind Coppi, and bronze in Amsterdam in 1948anticipated by the favorite of the house Gerrit Schulte and by Coppi, then breaking the bank in 1950 when, in Rocourt, Belgium, he gets the better of Win van Est and the Frenchman Paul Matteoli, and granting an extraordinary encore the following year, in Milan, at the Vigorelli he takes the enormous satisfaction of defeating a certain Hugo Koblet, fresh from his victory in the Tour de France. And not to deny his reputation as a great interpreter of the track chase, Toni, in the two years that followed, 1952 and 1953, he was again on the podium at the World Championships, second in Paris and third in Zurich, when the Australian Sid Patterson won on both occasionsfor a total of six world championship medals.

However, Bevilacqua’s exploits on the road are also remembered, and we have already mentioned the second place in Sanremo in 1943, which only confirms his particular propensity for Italian races. In fact, Toni not only proves to be a good climber finishing second in the 1950 Giro di Lombardiabeaten in a four-man sprint by Renzo Soldani, but above all collecting 11 victories on the roads of the Giro d’Italiafrom the stages of Genoa and Prato, the latter a time trial, in 1946, when he also obtained an honorable 17th place in the general classification, to those of Siena and Milan in 1952, also adding a tricolor jersey conquered by winning in 1950 on the Tre Valli Varesine track in front of Alfredo Martini.

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There would also be victories at the 1950 Baracchi Trophy, coupled with Fiorenzo Magni, at the 1951 Giro del Veneto, in the sprint over Luciano Maggini, at the 1952 Milan-Modena, overtaking Angelo Conterno, and at the 1953 Bernocchi Cup, when he shares with Giorgio Albani the prize intended for the winner, but something must also be achieved outside the national borders. And then, starting from 1951, when the springs are already 33, Bevilacqua not only, on 2 September, closes on the third step of the podium at the World Championship in Varese, becoming the protagonist of the decisive breakaway and then surrendering in the sprint to Ferdi Kubler and Fiorenzo Magni, but in spring, on April 8, he goes to take the victory that every runner would like to put on the bulletin board.

It runs that day, the 49th edition of the “queen of the classics“, or Paris-Roubaixand Toni, who wears the colors of Benottounleashed as never before, paves the stones by overwhelming everything and everyone, including two champions of the pedal caliber of Louison Bobet and Rick van Steenbergen, and only reaching the finish line with an advantage of over 1 minute and a half.

Yes, king of the track and prince of the road, Antonio Bevilacqua is not just any runner. It’s a pity that fate then turned against him: In fact, Toni died on March 29, 1972, at the still young age of 53, due to a trivial accidentwhen, while passing through Martellago, in the province of Venice, while training on the road with two young cyclists, he accidentally bumps into a girl standing by the roadside, slipping to the ground and banging her head violently on the asphalt, closing her eyes forever.

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