Friday 2 December 2016

Review: Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi

Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi by William Fotheringham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At his height, Fausto Angelo Coppi, was the best cyclist in the world. He shot to fame after he won the Giro d’Italia at the age of 20 in 1940, something that some though was impossible for someone so young. After war service he resumed his cycling career and in 1949 he was the first to win the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia in the same year. In 1952 he became the second person to win both again. These victories in the grand tours and the one day classics were riden on roads that would nowadays be suited to mountain bikes. He had an epic rivalry with the worlds other top cyclist, the Italian Gino Bartali, as they swapped places and titles. No wonder he was called campionissimo – champion of champions.

But there was another side to his life. In the mid 20th century adultery was illegal in Italy, a law controlled and enforced by the catholic church. His friendship with Giulia Occhini, sometimes known as The White Lady, became much more. As they were both married with children, the authorities took a dim view of this. They were both dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, excommunicated and imprisoned and were the focus of a huge legal battle at the time of huge social changes in Italian society.

Coppi had always been one of the legends of the sport, and Fotheringham has written a carefully considered biography of him. It is a celebration of his cycling achievements and a considered account of his failings and tragic early end of his life. One for the true cycling buff though.

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