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Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi (Yellow Jersey Cycling Classics)

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Voted the most popular Italian sportsman of the twentieth century, Fausto Angelo Coppi was the campionissimo - champion of champions. The greatest cyclist of the immediate post-war years, he was the first man to win cycling's great double, the Tour de France and Tour of Italy in the same year - and he did it twice. He achieved mythical status for his crushing solo victorie Voted the most popular Italian sportsman of the twentieth century, Fausto Angelo Coppi was the campionissimo - champion of champions. The greatest cyclist of the immediate post-war years, he was the first man to win cycling's great double, the Tour de France and Tour of Italy in the same year - and he did it twice. He achieved mythical status for his crushing solo victories, world titles and world records. But his significance extends far beyond his sport. Coppi's scandalous divorce and controversial early death convulsed a conservative, staunchly Roman Catholic Italy in the 1950s. At a time when adultery was still illegal, Coppi and his lover were dragged from their bed in the middle of the night, excommunicated and forced to face a clamorous legal battle. The ramifications of this case are still being felt today. In Fallen Angel, acclaimed cycling biographer, William Fotheringham, tells the tragic story of Coppi's life and death - of how a man who became the symbol of a nation's rebirth after the disasters of war died reviled and heartbroken. Told with insight and intelligence, this is a unique portrait of Italy and Italian sport at a time of tumultuous change.


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Voted the most popular Italian sportsman of the twentieth century, Fausto Angelo Coppi was the campionissimo - champion of champions. The greatest cyclist of the immediate post-war years, he was the first man to win cycling's great double, the Tour de France and Tour of Italy in the same year - and he did it twice. He achieved mythical status for his crushing solo victorie Voted the most popular Italian sportsman of the twentieth century, Fausto Angelo Coppi was the campionissimo - champion of champions. The greatest cyclist of the immediate post-war years, he was the first man to win cycling's great double, the Tour de France and Tour of Italy in the same year - and he did it twice. He achieved mythical status for his crushing solo victories, world titles and world records. But his significance extends far beyond his sport. Coppi's scandalous divorce and controversial early death convulsed a conservative, staunchly Roman Catholic Italy in the 1950s. At a time when adultery was still illegal, Coppi and his lover were dragged from their bed in the middle of the night, excommunicated and forced to face a clamorous legal battle. The ramifications of this case are still being felt today. In Fallen Angel, acclaimed cycling biographer, William Fotheringham, tells the tragic story of Coppi's life and death - of how a man who became the symbol of a nation's rebirth after the disasters of war died reviled and heartbroken. Told with insight and intelligence, this is a unique portrait of Italy and Italian sport at a time of tumultuous change.

30 review for Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi (Yellow Jersey Cycling Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    A good complement to Buzzati's The Giro D'Italia: Coppi Vs. Bartali at the 1949 Tour of Italy, though the two works written in very different styles -- Buzzati impressionistic and lyrical, whimsical at times, narrower in scope, and Fotheringham direct and clear, equally adept at exposition and description, which serves him well for a full biography well placed in historical context. (WF plays homage to DB by quoting his book a few times.) The drama of Coppi's personal life and the excitement of h A good complement to Buzzati's The Giro D'Italia: Coppi Vs. Bartali at the 1949 Tour of Italy, though the two works written in very different styles -- Buzzati impressionistic and lyrical, whimsical at times, narrower in scope, and Fotheringham direct and clear, equally adept at exposition and description, which serves him well for a full biography well placed in historical context. (WF plays homage to DB by quoting his book a few times.) The drama of Coppi's personal life and the excitement of his racing skills are, of course, the focus and main appeal of the book, but as the book progressed, I found myself becoming increasingly interested in larger cultural matters such as the importance of the bicycle in impoverished, post-war Italy, which WF highlights to great effect with commentary on famous Italian movie "The Bicycle Thief," and the role of sports in efforts by the Church to reestablish its authority in healing the social divisions wrought by the nightmarish sins of the war. A statue of a cyclist outside the chapel of the Madonna Del Ghisallo, a place visited by Popes, bears message, "God created the bicycle as an instrument of effort and exaltation on the arduous road of life." This very pubic melding of the spiritual and temporal contributed both to Coppi's heroic status at the height of his hugely successful racing career and his eventual downfall when his personal life became such a public spectacle. As for Coppi the man, his character is probably best summed up by the French sports journalist Jacques Goddet: "The man drags constant worry in his wake and it is his most cruel adversary."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nick Sweeney

    I love everything William Fotheringham writes, from his journalism to his books (I think I've read all of them). He's a classically good writer in that he is an expert in his subject (pro cycling, if that's not clear) but never condescends, never gets too geeky, and always pitches his work at exactly the right level. I had every faith that this biography of Coppi would be what I'd been after ever since I heard of Coppi. The bare facts are that Coppi, from a small village in Italy, was set for cy I love everything William Fotheringham writes, from his journalism to his books (I think I've read all of them). He's a classically good writer in that he is an expert in his subject (pro cycling, if that's not clear) but never condescends, never gets too geeky, and always pitches his work at exactly the right level. I had every faith that this biography of Coppi would be what I'd been after ever since I heard of Coppi. The bare facts are that Coppi, from a small village in Italy, was set for cycling stardom when the Second World War intervened. He didn't see too much action, luckily, and, again luckily, was captured by the British, who treated him tolerably, and even let him get back to riding while still a POW. The end of the war brought a risorgimento to Italian cycling in a divided, broken country, always on the verge of either bankruptcy or the dreaded communism, and it was partly Coppi's cycling triumphs that gave Italians something to be cheerful about. Coppi's marriage, to a woman called Bruna, who believed in him as a man and as a cyclist, fell apart when Coppi, notoriously, took up with doctor's wife Giulia Locatelli, known as the White Lady, though scarlet would have been a better colour in the moral scheme ruling Italy. Other figures fascinate: Fausto's beloved brother Serse, who died during a race, his blind masseur who had such an influence on him, and, famously, his rivalry with the other great Italian cyclist of the day, Gino Bartali. It's all there, and all told in such a way that I didn't want this book to end.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    At his height, Fausto Angelo Coppi, was the best cyclist in the world. He shot to fame after he won the Giro d’Italia at the age of 20 in 1940, something that some though was impossible for someone so young. After war service he resumed his cycling career and in 1949 he was the first to win the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia in the same year. In 1952 he became the second person to win both again. These victories in the grand tours and the one day classics were riden on roads that would nowaday At his height, Fausto Angelo Coppi, was the best cyclist in the world. He shot to fame after he won the Giro d’Italia at the age of 20 in 1940, something that some though was impossible for someone so young. After war service he resumed his cycling career and in 1949 he was the first to win the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia in the same year. In 1952 he became the second person to win both again. These victories in the grand tours and the one day classics were riden on roads that would nowadays be suited to mountain bikes. He had an epic rivalry with the worlds other top cyclist, the Italian Gino Bartali, as they swapped places and titles. No wonder he was called campionissimo – champion of champions. But there was another side to his life. In the mid 20th century adultery was illegal in Italy, a law controlled and enforced by the catholic church. His friendship with Giulia Occhini, sometimes known as The White Lady, became much more. As they were both married with children, the authorities took a dim view of this. They were both dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, excommunicated and imprisoned and were the focus of a huge legal battle at the time of huge social changes in Italian society. Coppi had always been one of the legends of the sport, and Fotheringham has written a carefully considered biography of him. It is a celebration of his cycling achievements and a considered account of his failings and tragic early end of his life. One for the true cycling buff though.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul Convery

    The Passion of Fausto Coppi is a fitting title for a book telling the life story of one cycling's true legends. While it was a story I was already familiar with (most notable thanks to Pedalare! Pedalare! by John Foot), William Fotheringham does an excellent job of telling the story of Fausto Coppi's life without getting caught up in all the drama and speculation that still surrounds it to this day. The real highlight of the book is how Fotheringham manages to give Coppi a real character, one th The Passion of Fausto Coppi is a fitting title for a book telling the life story of one cycling's true legends. While it was a story I was already familiar with (most notable thanks to Pedalare! Pedalare! by John Foot), William Fotheringham does an excellent job of telling the story of Fausto Coppi's life without getting caught up in all the drama and speculation that still surrounds it to this day. The real highlight of the book is how Fotheringham manages to give Coppi a real character, one that is a determined cyclist who trained and prepared for races in a way which would be recognisable to modern professionals, but who struggled through his entire career with mental fragility. All that is captured with an easy to read style that doesn't distract from the story being told. Even with the events in the book happening long before my time, reading about the rise to greatest and the subsequent decline and tragic death of Fausto Coppi still managed to have a good pull at my heart strings. Well worth a read for any fan of cycling, or anyone interested in sporting history. Fausto Coppi was truly one of the greats. "Coppi il mito"

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    A moving and detailed history of the life of the Italian cyclist. I took my time reading it, as I enjoy Fotheringham's style of writing and wanted it to continue as long as possible. Even though I knew how Coppi's life ended, I found myself feeling intense frustration at the seeming ineptitude of the physicians in charge of his care in his final days. The tales of his childhood and his close relationship with his brother, Serse, were particularly moving and quite revealing of Coppi's character. A A moving and detailed history of the life of the Italian cyclist. I took my time reading it, as I enjoy Fotheringham's style of writing and wanted it to continue as long as possible. Even though I knew how Coppi's life ended, I found myself feeling intense frustration at the seeming ineptitude of the physicians in charge of his care in his final days. The tales of his childhood and his close relationship with his brother, Serse, were particularly moving and quite revealing of Coppi's character. At times I wished Fotheringham had considered writing a fictional account of il Campionissimo's life, because I believe he could do such a story justice. As with his book about Tom Simpson, Fotheringham brings a freshness and even an urgency to Coppi's story, which had me turning pages in rapid succession to read more and more. I recommend this book highly to anyone looking to learn more about Fausto Coppi, his life and his loves.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Reginald

    Although I was aware of Coppi from a very early age I was not aware of the enormity of his reputation (Italians still rate him their finest athlete 50 years after his death). This is an easy book to read but I suppose it would be of limited interest to non cyclists. The crux of the book is not,surprisingly, his exploits and achievements as a cyclist but his adulterous relationship with a female fan. Amazingly he finished up in court as adultery in Italy was still illegal (this law was not repealed Although I was aware of Coppi from a very early age I was not aware of the enormity of his reputation (Italians still rate him their finest athlete 50 years after his death). This is an easy book to read but I suppose it would be of limited interest to non cyclists. The crux of the book is not,surprisingly, his exploits and achievements as a cyclist but his adulterous relationship with a female fan. Amazingly he finished up in court as adultery in Italy was still illegal (this law was not repealed until 1968). Controversy dogged his whole life and his tragic early death at the age of 40 is still seen by some as murder or manslaughter. I recommend this book mainly because of Fotheringham's easy style. I have also read his book on the death of Tom Simpson which is also a good read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laura Anderson

    This was an interesting, engaging read about the life of Fausto Coppi, clearly told by an expert. An over-reliance on the humble semi-colon put a dampener on the book a little, as did the author's tendency to jump forwards and backwards in time for certain passages (causing something akin to 'spoilers' for those of us who don't already know everything about Coppi's life and races!). Still, great to read the fascinating story behind a cycling legend. This was an interesting, engaging read about the life of Fausto Coppi, clearly told by an expert. An over-reliance on the humble semi-colon put a dampener on the book a little, as did the author's tendency to jump forwards and backwards in time for certain passages (causing something akin to 'spoilers' for those of us who don't already know everything about Coppi's life and races!). Still, great to read the fascinating story behind a cycling legend.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    a very interesting read on one of the greats of the sport of cycling. I found it fascinating and Fotheringham's writing was excellent a very interesting read on one of the greats of the sport of cycling. I found it fascinating and Fotheringham's writing was excellent

  9. 4 out of 5

    Giles Knight

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The book was well written and well researched. The story of Coppi is an interesting one with similarities to his compatriot and great rival Gino Bartali who I read about In "Road to Valor" recently but with this book being my reference point, I was disappointed at times with Fallen Angel. Like Bartali, he grew up as a peasant and became a national icon for his exploits on a bike. Both had careers greatly effected by WW2 and both lost their brother / team mate in a crashes during their careers but The book was well written and well researched. The story of Coppi is an interesting one with similarities to his compatriot and great rival Gino Bartali who I read about In "Road to Valor" recently but with this book being my reference point, I was disappointed at times with Fallen Angel. Like Bartali, he grew up as a peasant and became a national icon for his exploits on a bike. Both had careers greatly effected by WW2 and both lost their brother / team mate in a crashes during their careers but this is where the comparison ends. Bartali however was a war time hero and risked his life saving Italian Jews whereas Coppi saw very little service and caught malaria in a POW camp and the deaths of their siblings brought out different emotions; Bartali built a chapel / shrine to his and Coppi became an impossible team mate. Bartali and Coppi often refused to ride together for most of their careers but when Bartali aged he frequently helped Coppi where as the latter destroyed young up coming team mates careers if they threatened his own (Loretto Petrucci). Basically, I just didn't like Coppi so much! Especially after reading Road to Valor. I did however enjoy reading about his training rides, his Milan San Remo exploits and his legendary trainer but towards the end of the book I was pleased to read of his former team mates victory over him in the Giro do Lombardi (Nino de Fillipis) after his lover had given him a rude gesture!! I think that sums it up really

  10. 4 out of 5

    D

    Fotheringham - described by another writer as the monk of cycle journalism has really captured the aura that surrounds the god-like Coppi. He came at a time when the newly reformed ITALIA was recovering from the beating they took in the War. Coppi did his time in the army - and came out with a determination to make his career a total success - making up for the years that was stolen from him due to the war. He rose to dizzying heights - and when the rode rose up - he took flight. But the fall was a Fotheringham - described by another writer as the monk of cycle journalism has really captured the aura that surrounds the god-like Coppi. He came at a time when the newly reformed ITALIA was recovering from the beating they took in the War. Coppi did his time in the army - and came out with a determination to make his career a total success - making up for the years that was stolen from him due to the war. He rose to dizzying heights - and when the rode rose up - he took flight. But the fall was almost as fast. His affair with the Lady in White, his separation from his wife, the tragedy of the cycling death of his brother, all lead to a decline, and finally his early death - enshrined the legend.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gordon

    A well researched and written story of the epic, iconic, and tragic life of Il Campionissimo. It is the enthralling story of Fausto Coppi's rise from humble beginnings to the premier sports legend of his time and father of European bike racing to his tragic, phsyical and moral decline and untimely death. His life gripped and defined the Italians of his time and his unique physical prowess and larger-than-life personality have made him a legend that lives on. Coppi's example is the epitome of mas A well researched and written story of the epic, iconic, and tragic life of Il Campionissimo. It is the enthralling story of Fausto Coppi's rise from humble beginnings to the premier sports legend of his time and father of European bike racing to his tragic, phsyical and moral decline and untimely death. His life gripped and defined the Italians of his time and his unique physical prowess and larger-than-life personality have made him a legend that lives on. Coppi's example is the epitome of mastery and dominance of a sport. A great companion to The Road to War, the history of Coppii's renown rival - Gino Bartali.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Celeste

    This book was interesting in its descriptions of cycling, Coppi and life in Italy in the 40s and 50s, but it often seemed like it was interesting in spite of the author, not because of him. I felt that a better writer could have made it a better book. But when I mentioned this to a fellow reader, his reply was, "You haven't read a lot of cycling biographies, have you?" And I haven't. So I am rating it on content, and how much it made me want to go to the Giro de Lombardia. And ban girlfriends fr This book was interesting in its descriptions of cycling, Coppi and life in Italy in the 40s and 50s, but it often seemed like it was interesting in spite of the author, not because of him. I felt that a better writer could have made it a better book. But when I mentioned this to a fellow reader, his reply was, "You haven't read a lot of cycling biographies, have you?" And I haven't. So I am rating it on content, and how much it made me want to go to the Giro de Lombardia. And ban girlfriends from team cars. As a bonus to me, there was not only cycling but also malaria.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jude Nonesuch

    Also finished this ages ago. Way better than the Merckx one; maybe it's cos it all happened long enough ago for there to remain a sense of mystery and magic about the whole thing, but the thing that he tried in the Merckx biography that didn't come off, of trying to explore the inner life and motivations of the subject, really really worked really well in this one; maybe Coppi's just a way more interesting person. Also finished this ages ago. Way better than the Merckx one; maybe it's cos it all happened long enough ago for there to remain a sense of mystery and magic about the whole thing, but the thing that he tried in the Merckx biography that didn't come off, of trying to explore the inner life and motivations of the subject, really really worked really well in this one; maybe Coppi's just a way more interesting person.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zia Laura

    It's OK. I've probably read too much already on Coppi and failed to find a new sparkle for this book. Nevertheless, it's a great account of cycling heroes' personalities and achievements. It's also a fab way to actually get inspiration for retracing historic rides and mountain passes that I so want to go riding now! It's OK. I've probably read too much already on Coppi and failed to find a new sparkle for this book. Nevertheless, it's a great account of cycling heroes' personalities and achievements. It's also a fab way to actually get inspiration for retracing historic rides and mountain passes that I so want to go riding now!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    A fascinating biography of one of the greatest cyclists of all time. Well researched, balanced and insightful. Written by the same author who wrote the Tom Simpson biography. However, this should be reserved for cycling fanatics only.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    You cant call yourself a cyclist until you know the story of Fausto Coppi. The greatest cyclist ever according to many. Was an interesting read, not all about his racing but plenty about Italy through the 2nd world war and how it changed during this period.

  17. 4 out of 5

    James Webster

    I like Fotheringham's attention to detail. This is a fascinating insight into the life of one of cycling's greats. When this author's Merckx biography comes out in paperback, I'll definitely be buying it. I like Fotheringham's attention to detail. This is a fascinating insight into the life of one of cycling's greats. When this author's Merckx biography comes out in paperback, I'll definitely be buying it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Claire Webster

    Fascinating examination of the man behind the myth, and of the myth as well. I appreciated the insights into the life of cyclists of the time - the terrible conditions, the murderous slogging: but better than a life of peasant drudgery.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Every year I celebrate the tour-de-France with a cycling book. This year I chose well. Actually cycling does very well. There is an awful lot of good writing about men turning pedals. I was turning pedals while reading it (not literally) and the book got me from Larne to Omagh.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Fran Hawkes

    Fascinating account of the life of one of cycling's greatest heroes. His achievements on the bike were incredible and the scandal that threatened to ruin him is unbelievable to modern readers. Well written and interesting. Fascinating account of the life of one of cycling's greatest heroes. His achievements on the bike were incredible and the scandal that threatened to ruin him is unbelievable to modern readers. Well written and interesting.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    I obviously couldn’t wait until the Giro for some Giro-themed reading. If I want more Giro-themed reading in May, it’s going to be hard to top this one. Coppi is a legend of the sport for a reason; this book brings him to life.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book about one of my favorite cyclists, and it also gave an insight into racing in Italy & the rest of Europe after WW2.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Simon Curtis

    This is an outstanding book looking at the life of Italy's most famous sportsman, cyclist Fausto Coppi. Fascinating. This is an outstanding book looking at the life of Italy's most famous sportsman, cyclist Fausto Coppi. Fascinating.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sean Perry

    Very insightful and sympathetic study of il campionissimo

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

    a very interesting account of one of the greatest cyclists of the 20th century. I knew nothing of his personal problems, so that was enlightening. good read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Wright

    Great insight into the early days of professional cycling in Italy. Fantastic personal story of a flawed champion struck down by a hypcritical public.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jon Simmonds

    Not a bad book. I tend to find sporting biographies pretty dire, so this was a refreshing read. A life fully lived !

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mark Bennett

    Inspirational story of Fausto and the old legends of the tour. Takes cycling back to its basics, a story of a man versus his environment and ultimately his untimely death

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tim Dyson

    The Don of cycling writing doing what he does best in bringing to life the tale of a long departed superstar. Vivid and perceptive, a tale of times a changing as much as legs a pedalling.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paulisbored

    Plodding narrative and a confusing ordering of events combine to diminish the telling of the incredible story or Coppi's life. Plodding narrative and a confusing ordering of events combine to diminish the telling of the incredible story or Coppi's life.

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