5 giugno 2023

The 70th anniversary of Cima Coppi


It is June 1, 1953, and Fausto Coppi wins the stage on the Stelvio Pass, which allows him to take his fifth and final victory in the Giro d'Italia: start in Bolzano, finish in Bormio, in between forty-eight hairpin bends to climb on the South Tyrolean side and forty descents on the Lombardy side. Ever since that memorable climb by the cyclist who went down in history as "the Heron," the Stelvio Pass with its 2757m altitude is the Cima Coppi par excellence, while from year to year the title is given to the highest point touched by the Giro d'Italia.
To commemorate and tell the story of Fausto Coppi and that stage that marked the history of Italian cycling, the Bella Vista Hotel, owned by the family of ski champion Gustav Thöni, will set up an outdoor exhibition entitled "1953-2023: 70 Years of Cima Coppi." Photographs of the 1953 Giro d'Italia champions, Fausto Coppi, Hugo Koblet, Pasquale Fornara and Gino Bartali, will be displayed along the 46th hairpin bend of the Stelvio Pass road, in front of the Bella Vista hotel, a silent spectator of that extraordinary cycling feat, which went down in history as the "Duel of the Giants." The exhibition will be open freely to the public throughout the summer.

 The Bolzano-Bormio stage of the 1953 Giro d'Italia kicked off at 1:15 p.m. on June 1, 1953, on a day of uncertain weather conditions and high winds, with the risk of finding a blizzard at the top of the Stelvio. The sporting chronicles of the time tell that in Trafoi, right in the passage in front of the Bella Vista hotel, the group was still compact: it was shortly after that that the real "battle" began. At 12 kilometers from the summit, Nino Defilippis sprinted forward, provoking the reaction of the Swiss Hugo Koblet, until then 'pink jersey' of the Giro.

The "climber" Coppi then began his sprint, certain that he could gain kilometers of advantage over Koblet, known instead for his speed on the descent: overtaking everyone, the Heron gained the first position, distancing the Swiss cyclist by a good 4½ minutes on the highest point of the Stelvio Pass, with a grandiose climb that amazed and thrilled all the reporters of the time. As could be expected, on the descent to Bormio Hugo Koblet began to gain ground on Coppi, but too much daring caused him to fall 2 times on the hairpin bends of the Lombardy side. At 7 kilometers from Bormio, Koblet's race was interrupted by a puncture: despite the team's quick intervention to replace the wheel, the accumulated delay marked the end of his Giro. Coppi was by now at the finish line, greeted by a rapturous crowd.

 With a total time of 118 hours, 37 minutes and 26 seconds, Fausto Coppi won his fifth Giro d'Italia, 13 years after the first. Hugo Koblet, who had worn the "pink jersey" for as many as 12 stages, ended up finishing second with a 1-minute, 29-second gap, with Pasquale Fornara on the lowest step of the podium 6 minutes, 55 seconds behind. Coppi's great rival, Gino Bartali, finished fourth with a gap of more than 14 minutes. The Stelvio had thus pronounced its sentence.

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