Friday, September 14, 2018


99 years ago today, in a tiny village called Castellania above Novi Ligure, Fausto Coppi, the second Campionissimo, was born (the first being my hero, Girardengo, born just down the hill in Novi some 26 years earlier).

I was lucky enough to make a pilgrimage there in 2012. You begin to sense the history on the long road up the hill towards the town in the middle of (or on top of) nowhere. Around twisty bends, 100-year-old buildings are covered in mega posters of their champion.

I was able to talk my way into his childhood home, normally a museum and closed for most of the year and certainly on a January evening. A modest donation to the caretaker and the guided tour was on by a cousin of the great Coppi! Honestly, I think everyone in town claims to be a close relative. Why not?

The great Italian sports writer (and much more than that) Gianni Brera described Fausto Coppi:

“The bicycle is his the other half. He forgets about his looks, with his breastbone that could be stolen from a chicken, his short neck, his shoulders practically attached to his face, and his two feet that look like seal fins. The bike becomes a part of himself and his lopsided bones.”

Not what you would expect from someone who would become the most important sporting icon in Italy and the cultural symbol of a postwar nation trying to enter the modern age. He seemed fragile, but unbeatable on a bike. The kind of thing that every scrawny kid imagines when turning his pedals in anger...

Fausto and Serse's final resting place.

Fausto's childhood bedroom.

Serse's room.

Local shops still post his photo in the window.

Guide to monuments around Italy dedicated to Coppi.

To the left of il Gira, Coppi's wall at the Museo dei Campionissimi in Novi Ligure.

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