“Age and treachery
will overcome youth and skill.”
Fausto Coppi, Italian
"Champion of Champions"

 
March 2006
   
 

By Barry Boyce, CyclingRevealed
Historian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Top 25 All Time Tours #8

1949: A Classic Coppi-Bartali Battle

CR Timeline 1949 [also see Special Notes below]

Cycling in post-WW2 Italy was huge and growing. The sport of cycling seemed to give Italians a diversion from the political and economic struggles of the time. Two grand cycling champions arose from the war torn country:

  1. the an ageless wonder Gino Bartali, who won the 1938 and 1948 Tour de France.
  2. the 1949 Giro d'Italia winner Fausto Coppi , an extremely talented rider, who won all the major races in Europe except the Tour de France.

The 1949 Tour was a showdown between two giants of cycling.

Choosing a national team from the great stars of the professional trade teams is never easy. The process was magnified for Italy 's coach Alfredo Binda, because of the fierce rivalry between his two national heroes. Over the years, Coppi and Bartali each insisted that the other be left off their national team. In 1949, a very diplomatic Binda managed to come up with a last minute agreement between his two superstars to work together for the good of Italy . Thanks to Binda's efforts the Bartali-Coppi duel of 1949 became one the great memories in the history of the Tour de France.

The opening stages in 1949 were not kind to Coppi. Crashes and mechanical breakdowns cost him valuable time and places in the overall classification. On stage 5 from Rouen to San Malo Binda's fragile coalition was put to the test. Coppi riding aggressively broke away from the peloton with the early race leader Jacques Marinelli (Fra). As the breakaway began to establish their lead, misfortune struck Coppi again. Marinelli crashed taking Coppi down with him. Both riders got up quickly but Coppi's bike was broken. A replacement bike was necessary and he looked to the team car. But where were Binda and the team car? The answer was back with Bartali in the peloton. As Coppi waited, he fumed as the leaders sped away. By the time Binda arrived Coppi had lost the desire to ride hard. He finished the stage in a group more than 18 minutes behind the breakaway and 13 minutes behind teammate Bartali's group.

That night Binda's psychological team management put the fragile coalition back together. Coppi wanted to abandon the Tour, saying Binda was not supporting both Italian stars. Somehow Binda, with help from Coppi's Bianchi trade team, was able to convince Coppi that his Tour chances were not done. Binda argued that great time gains could be had on the climbing stages in the Pyrenees and Alps . The coalition was repaired and Coppi continued to race.

T he first individual time trial (ITT) was the 92 km, stage 7 from Les Sables d'Olonne to La Rochelle . A rejuvenated Coppi regained the fire. He won the stage by 4 minutes and 31 seconds on archrival Bartali. The time gain was not as important as the psychological gains for the talented Italian.

Coppi was still trailing race leader Fiorenzo Magni (Ita B team) by 30 minutes going into the brutal stage 11 from Pau to Luchon. The stage featured the ascents of the Col d'Aspin, Col de Soulor, Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Aubisque, and Col du Peyresoude. Coppi started well when he broke away with French climbing specialists Jean Robic and Lucien Lazarides. With the breakaway gaining nearly a 4-minute margin on the final climb, the stage victory seemed well set up for a Coppi win. As the talented climber began to move away, misfortune struck again. This time the mishap came in the form of an untimely puncture. After a quick wheel change, the day was rescued for Coppi. He recovered and finished only 57 seconds behind stage winner Jean Robic. Race leader Fiorenzo Magni (Ita B) finished over 15 minute behind Coppi. As t he Tour left the Pyrenees and headed for the Alps , Coppi's time gap to the overall leader had dropped to 14'46”.

The classic Alpine climbs would be the backdrop for a great TdF battle. Stage 16 from Cannes to Briancon featured the ascents of the Col d'Allos, Col de Vars, and Col d'Izoard. It was this stage that Gino Bartali dominated in 1938 and 1948, and in 1949 Bartali broke away again. He was quickly joined by teammate Coppi and the two rode away from the fading peloton. Early on the climb of the Izoard Coppi punctured, Bartali waited. Further up the climb Bartali punctured, Coppi waited. They rode together into Briancon, with their winning breakaway gaining more than 20 minutes on race leader Magni (Ita B). Defending champion Gino Bartali won the stage and took the race lead. Fausto Coppi shot into second place in the overall classification, 1 minute and 22 seconds behind his teammate.

The battle continued on the next stage from Briancon to Aosta (Ita). The two Italian superstars left the peloton behind as the Tour headed into Italy . Bartali punctured with just 40 km to go and Coppi waited patiently. Several kilometers later Bartali crashed heavily on the slippery rocks of the descent and was slow to recover. Coppi again waited, but anxiously this time. As the seconds ticked off, word came from team manager Binda, “Let Coppi ride for himself.” Instantly, he was away. At the finish he had an almost 5 minute lead on the injured Bartali and over 10 minutes on the main contenders. The stage win put Coppi in the race lead with only one major test remaining between Aosta and Paris.

Coppi put his final stamp on the race with a dominating performance on the 137 km individual time trial. He beat his second place teammate Bartali by 7 minutes and 2 seconds. The Tour de France victory was his.

After almost abandoning after his stage 5 mishap, Fausto Coppi rode into Paris for a grand victory. The Italian “campionissimo” became the first rider to win the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. In addition to the victory in the overall classification, Coppi became the third rider to win both the Maillot Jaune and the Best Climber Prize in the same year.

TdF 1949 Recap

Stage and Distance

Stage Winner

Race Leader

Stage 1 PARIS-REIMS, 182 km

Marcel Dussault (Fra)

Marcel Dussault (Fra)

Stage 2 REIMS-BRUXELLES, (Bel), 273 km

Roger Lambrecht (Bel)

Roger Lambrecht (Bel)

Stage 3 BRUXELLES (Bel)- BOULOGNE SUR MER, 211 km

Norbert Callens (Bel)

Norbert Callens (Bel)

Stage 4 BOULOGNE SUR MER-ROUEN, 185 km

Lucien Teisseire (Fra)

Jacques Marinelli (Fra)

Stage 5 ROUEN-SAINT MALO, 293 km

Ferdi Kubler (Sui)

Jacques Marinelli (Fra)

Stage 6 SAINT-MALO-LES SABLES D'OLONNE, 305 km

Adolphe Deledda (Fra)

Jacques Marinelli (Fra)

Stage 7 LES SABLES D'OLONNE-LA ROCHELLE, 92 km ITT

Fausto Coppi (Ita)

Jacques Marinelli (Fra)

Stage 8 LA ROCHELLE-BORDEAUX, 262 km

Guy Lapebie (Fra)

Jacques Marinelli (Fra)

Stage 9 BORDEAUX-SAN SEBASTIAN (Spa), 228 km

Louis Caput (Fra)

Jacques Marinelli (Fra)

Stage 10 SAN SEBASTIAN (Spa)- PAU , 192 km

Fiorenzo Magni (Ita)

Fiorenzo Magni (Ita)

Stage 11 PAU-LUCHON, 193 km

Jean Robic (Fra)

Fiorenzo Magni (Ita)

Stage 12 LUCHON-TOULOUSE, 134 km

Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel)

Fiorenzo Magni (Ita)

Stage 13 TOULOUSE-NIMES, 289 km

Emile Idee (Fra)

Fiorenzo Magni (Ita)

Stage 14 NIMES-MARSEILLE, 199 km

Jean Goldschmit (Lux)

Fiorenzo Magni (Ita)

Stage 15 MARSEILLE-CANNES, 215 km

Desire Keteleer (Bel)

Fiorenzo Magni (Ita)

Stage 16 CANNES-BRIANCON, 275 km

Gino Bartali (Ita)

Gino Bartali (Ita)

Stage 17 BRIANCON-AOSTA (Ita), 257 km

Fausto Coppi (Ita)

Fausto Coppi (Ita)

Stage 18 AOSTA (Ita)- LAUSANNE (Sui), 265 km

Vincenzo Rossello (Ita)

Fausto Coppi (Ita)

Stage 19 LAUSANNE (Sui)- COLMAR , 283 km

Raphael Geminiani (Fra)

Fausto Coppi (Ita)

Stage 20 COLMAR-NANCY, 137 km ITT

Fausto Coppi (Ita)

Fausto Coppi (Ita)

Stage 21 NANCY-PARIS, 340 km

Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel)

Fausto Coppi (Ita)


Starters: 120

Finishers: 55

Distance: 4,810 km

Average: 32.121 km/h


Best Climber Classification:

1. Fausto COPPI (Ita) 81 pts

2. Gino Bartali (Ita) 68 pts

3. Jean Robic (Fra) 62 pts

 

 

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