Fausto Coppi (1967)

Fausto Coppi

was a fantastic human being

most at ease when alone


Invincible in the mountains, he

was a fantastic human being


Took leave of this world prematurely,

fausto coppi

fausto coppi

A poem about the great Italian cyclist by Jorgen Leth, the Danish experimental film director whose work includes three remarkable films about sport cycling, A Sunday in Hell (1976 – about the Paris-Roubaix race), Stars and Water Carriers (1974 – about the Giro d’Italia), and The Impossible Hour (1975 – documenting an attempt on the hour record). Somewhat improbably, for a director of art cinema, Leth has a subsidiary career as a commentator on Danish TV coverage of the Tour de France.

The photograph at the top is probably the most famous image of Coppi (who is the visual model for ‘Champion’, the stoic protagonist of the French animated feature Les Triplettes de Belleville (Chomet, 2003), and who died of malaria at the age of 40), apparently passing back a water bottle to his arch-rival, Gino Bartali, during the 1952 Tour de France in a gesture of condescending generosity or pity (although Bartali insisted he was handing it to Coppi).

John Foot’s history of Italian cycling, Pedalare! Pedalare! (Bloomsbury, 2012) discusses Coppi’s career in fascinating depth.