Fausto Coppi (1919-1960) was the man. He lived, raced and loved in an unapologetic way. Il Campionissimo, (the champion of champions) embraced what was given to him and he fought and earned everything else he had, and we can respect that.
Why we like him:
He was good – He won the Giro D’Italia 5 times (’40,’47,’49,’52,’53) The Tour De France twice in three attempts (’49,’52) The World Championship once (’53) and set the world hour record which stood from 1942-1956. He also won many of the one-day classics: Giro Di Lombardia (’46,’47,’48,’49,’54), Milan-San Remo (’46,’48,’49), Paris-Roubaix (’50), La Flèche-Wallonne (’50). Yet somehow he is seldom mentioned with Merckx, Hinault, Armstrong, Indurain and Anquetil as one of the all time greats, likely because of his tarnished reputation.
He served in the war – We’re not big fans of war, but we also have an idea that the state of the world at that time probably demanded one’s involvement, as opposed to requesting it. The point is, imagine how many more wins he would piled up if he had been racing in 1943, ’44 and ’45.
He was a proud, but controversial man – Doping, Affairs, and pissing off the Pope are also not things we endorse, but we can appreciate an individual who is not ashamed by the measure of his behavior by others. Unlike in current times of riders consistently fabricating stories to conceal unbelievable performances and positive doping results, Coppi was a person who never hid from his ‘faults’ or his vices. He instead rode on, right through the decline of his career, when spectators spat on their sullied champion, yelling at him and begging him to stop racing.
All things told, Fausto Coppi just truly loved being on his bicycle, and that, quite simply, is more than good enough for us.