Coppi remembered in Italy

New exhibition opens on the 51st anniversary of his death

Today marks the 51st anniversary of the death of Fausto Coppi, arguably the greatest ever Italian cyclist and legendary figure because of his tragic death from malaria at just 40.

Yet again family, friends and former teammates gathered for a memorial service in the village of Castellania, where Coppi was born in 1919 and where his body is kept in a special monument alongside his brother Serse, who also rode as a professional.

Last year 10,000 people attended the ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of Coppi's death. This year just a few hundred made the pilgrimage but a new museum room was opened in the local school, while a new exhibition at the Museo dei Campionissimi in nearby Novi Ligure will celebrate the many monuments that have been erected to remember Coppi. These include statues and plaques at the summit of the Passo Stelvio, Passo Pordoi, the Bochetta and outside the Museo del Ghisallo near Como. In Italy dozens of streets and squares have been dedicated to his name.

Fans of Coppi have even created a Facebook page to remember him, with many people leaving messages of remembrance today.

Coppi was known as the 'Airone' (heron) for his thing legs but powerful build. He first raced as a professional in 1940, winning the Giro d'Italia at just 20. He then broke the hour record in Milan in 1942 before being taken a prisoner of war in Africa.

He returned to win the Giro d'Italia a further four times and also won the Tour de France in 1949 and 1952. He was the first rider to ever win the Giro and Tour in the same season in 1949 and also won many of the major classics. He won the world title in 1953 and then kept riding into his late thirties. He contracted malaria while combining a hunting trip with a series of winter criteriums in Africa.

Coppi was a role model and inspiration for millions as Italy tried to recover from the war but was also the centre of a huge scandal when he left his wife to live with Giulia Occhini, who was already married. They had a son together but she was forced to give birth in Argentina so that Faustino could have the Coppi surname.

Coppi traveled to Africa with close friend Raphaël Géminiani. He also caught malaria but was treated correctly in France and survived. Italian doctors reportedly refused to treat Coppi in the same way and he died at 8:45 on January 2, 1960.

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