by admin

article by Nicola Pucci

Virtually everything has been written and said about Fausto Coppi and his rivalry with Gino Bartali. But the “Very champion“, in the course of a career so extraordinary as to force fate, cursed in his case, to have a hand in making it tragic, he battled with pedal strokes with champions of excellent stature.

Take, for example, the Swiss Kobletil “charming Hugo“as the French defined him, for that habit of combing his hair at the end of the races so as not to lose his charm in the presence of the misses, which was not only the first foreigner to win the Giro d’Italia (1950)who did not limit himself to repeating the success of his compatriot Ferdy Kubler achieved the year before at the Tour de France (1951), but he fought an epochal battle with Coppi at the 1953 Giro d’Italia.

Fausto, who won the Corsa Rosa in 1952 for the fourth time in his career, aims to reduce the odds in the 36th edition of a Giro d’Italia which starts and arrives, as already happened in these early fifties, in Milan, from 12 May to 2 June for a total of 21 stages and 4035 kilometers of effort.

Il “vecchioGino Bartaliwhich is now approaching 39 springs, and the other Toscanaccio Fiorenzo Magnitriumphant in 1951 and Fausto’s successor in 1952, are expected at the performance, with Hugo Koblet himself, which after the success of 1950 did not go beyond a sixth and an eighth place in the following two seasons, which aims to reinvigorate its reputation as a champion for major stage races. A Frenchman with great hopes is also in the game, Louison Bobetwho in the summer will achieve the first of three consecutive successes at the Tour de France, but for the transalpine the time has not yet come to be appreciated in the “Boot” (as he was able to do in 1957, finishing second behind Gastone Nencini) and will be forced to retire in the seventh stage, as the Belgian is expected Stan Ockerssecond in the last Tour, beaten by Coppi,

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And indeed the Swiss seems well on his way to breaking the bank, wearing the pink jersey on the day of the time trial in Follonica, 48 kilometers starting from Grosseto in which Koblet is not only the fastest of all, but leaves a heavy gap to the champion from Castellania, who usually loves the exercise against the hands, 1’21”, also beaten by Pasquale Fornara, second on arrival with a delay of 46″. And if in Roccaraso, a few days earlier, Coppi had proved himself to be very skilled in the mountains by taking the victory, the Swiss leads the Giro d’Italia without too many worriesgiving in 26″ in the Modena team time trial won by Bianchimaking equal matches at San Pellegrino and Riva del Garda, and increasing his lead in the ranking by 1’04” at Auronzo di Cadore, the day of Bruno Monti’s second consecutive victory, when he overtook Coppi on the downhill in the storm.

Fausto has chosen the next stage, 164 kilometers which from Auronzo di Cadore lead to Bolzano passing through Lake Misurina and bypassing Falzarego, Pordoi and Sella, the ideal one to launch his attack on the pink jersey. And the challenge between the two rivals is one that makes your wrists tremble with emotion, with Koblet holding out on Flazarego, once again attacking downhill, in Arabba he passes with 2 minutes on the Piedmontese, maintaining a good margin on Pordoi, 1 ’15”, but is caught up and overtaken on the Sella. Coppi gets over the top with an advantage of 1’25” but towards Bolzano Koblet carries out a vehement pursuit which allows him, at the finish line, to cross the finish line immediately behind his main opponent for the final victory. Who raises the white flag and he says on the radiothe Giro is now over, Koblet won it…“. We will soon see that this will not be the case.

On 1 June 1953 the penultimate stage took place, from Bolzano to Bormio. Koblet has a reassuring margin of 1’59” over Fausto Coppi, but what scares the Swiss is not the kilometres, but one pass, the Stelvio and its 2,752 meters of altitude, the highest peak of the Giro.

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It should be remembered that the year before Koblet went on a trip to Mexico, and upon returning to Europe he reported breathing problems when climbing above 2000 metres. AND the climb of the Stelvio, in truth, seems to really worry him. In the morning, in Bolzano, Koblet signs autographs, but Ettore Milano, Coppi’s wingman, convinces him to take off his black glasses (which he usually wears) to take a photo, revealing a pair of beautifully dilated pupils. Too many celebrations for the now certain victory? Amphetamine abuse? Or more likely a sleepless night? We’ll never know, the fact is Coppi and the entire Bianchi team are ready to do battle, despite the declarations of non-belligerence on the eve of.

We leave at 1.15pm. Magni tries immediately, eighth in the standings at over 17 minutes, tackled by the “guards” Biancocelesti Stefano Gaggero and Michele Gismondi. It’s then the turn of Guido De Santi, sixth at 15 minutes, chased by Armando Barducci, and then swallowed up by Donato Piazza, Gaggero and Gismondi, all men in the service of the Bianchi captain. So it’s Koblet who gives a shake, just to make it clear that he’s there: perhaps he breathed the air of war that hovers in the group.

In Prato allo Stelvio, when the asphalt runs out and the dirt road begins, when the valley turns into an ordeal and climbs in 48 hairpin bends of pure suffering, Sandro Carrea, Coppi’s historic wingman, stomps on the pedals, lowers his head, raises his pace, sets the race on fire. The group explodes. Carrea continues, Coppi follows him like a trailer, Koblet follows Coppi like a shadow.

12 kilometers from the summit, the boy snaps, the “CitNino Defilippis. The first to respond is Koblet himself, but with the excuse of chasing him, Fausto can finally feel free to make the run, dissolve the non-belligerence pact and attack Hugo. Fausto flies with his impeccable style as a fluid and light climberamong the snowdrifts and under the eyes of Giulia Locatelli, “to the white lady“, which follows the race along the road, Connected si pianta. 6 kilometers from the summit, Coppi has 40″ on Fornara, 1’20” on De Filippis and an irreducible Gino Bartali, who started the stage fifth in the standings, 1’30” on Agostino Coletto, 1’40” on Koblet. At the mountain grand prix, the lead increased to 2’17” over Fornara, 2’48” over Bartali, 3’27” over Defilippis, 4’20” over Carrea and 4’25” over Koblet. 22 kilometers to go until the finish line. And towards Bormio there is only downhill. Coppi takes a risk, skids but saves himself. Koblet takes a risk, flies, flies twice, first to the ground, then to the finish line. Coppi first, Fornara second, Bartali third, Koblet recovers but not enough to save the record, finishing at 3’28”. And Fausto also overtakes him in the standings, with a margin of 1’29”. The pink jersey, the fifth of his career, equaling Alfredo Binda, is now his.

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For that feat on the carrion ramps of the Stelvio Pass, the myth is being forged more than ever of the “Very champion“. E the Cima Coppi was born, which would then be introduced in the Giro d’Italia in 1965. Up there, where the “Heronhe opened his wings and took flight.

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