The Giro’s highest accolade
The Cima Coppi is the name given each year to the highest point of the Giro d’Italia route. Named after the late, great Campionissimo the champion of champions, Fausto Coppi. Fausto Coppi was winner of his home grand tour no less than five times (1940, 47, 49, 52 and 53). Which would be remarkable enough. But in between times he also won another little race called the Tour de France twice (like you do) in 1949 and 52. The World Championships in 1953, add in five Giri d’Lombardia, three Milan-San Remo titles, a Paris, Roubaix and a La Flèche Wallonne. Oh, and the world hour record in 1942. It was famously said that watching Coppi pedal his bike, was like watching water being poured from a glass, he was that smooth.
His was an effortlessly stylish pedalling action, almost lazy and languid to watch – his long relatively thin levers belied the power he could deliver to the pedals. It was a fluid style that was forged as a child. Besotted with bikes as an often poorly youngster, he began to ride a heavy butchers delivery bike on the steep roads around his home in Castellania. Cycling quickly became Fausto’s passion. The family wasn’t well off, so Fausto’s father made him a set of wooden rollers for training. Every day from the age of 13, the young Coppi would pull them out from under the family stairs, into the dark narrow tiled space between the kitchen and the sitting room, open the front door to let in some air, light and the view across the rolling Piedmont hills and proceed to do four hours on the home-made rollers. Every. Single. Day.
Coppi never lost his love and innate ability to climb mountains, with a flair and panache that would be recognised and celebrated with his own Giro prize. – to celebrate the rider who crossed the highest point of the Giro – the Cima Coppi.
This year the Cima Coppi will be on the summit of the Passo Pordoi (2239m). The Pordoi has been a regular climb of the Giro d’Italia since 1937. In fact, the 22-hairpin ascent that tests the mettle of every rider, the Pordoi was the very climb, dominated by Coppi – first to cross it on five occasions – that led to the Cima Coppi being created. The Pordoi is the ancestral home of the Cima Coppi.
Who will claim the Cima Coppi for the 2021 Giro d’Italia? Hard to say, but the slight, bird-like figure of Ineos Grenadier Columbian Egan Bernal could well be in the hot seat. His win on the dirt slopes of Stage 9 showed that he may be coming back to peak form and the sort of power that saw him win the 2019 Tour de France.
As a side note, if you want to know more about Fausto Coppi, read the book Fallen Angel by William Fotheringham. A fascinating clear-eyed look at the life and times of a true cycling legend.
If you visit his home village of Castellania (and you really should make the pilgrimage), then you can, if you’re lucky, get a personal tour of the Coppi Family home – the house where he grew up. It has been left as a time capsule and to be in his house, his kitchen and bedroom, so see the rollers under the stairs, his bikes and all the private things in his life, is truly something special.
One funny thing, is in the sitting room. In pride of place on the sideboard is a small black and white TV that Fausto had won. He gave to his aging parents, despite the fact their house had neither electricity or any television signal to watch it.
photo; Cycling Media Agency