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Giro d’Italia 2021, Stage 5: Modena – Cattolica. The first “Coppino”

11/05/2021

On 31 May 1958, the Giro d'Italia landed in Cattolica for the second time

Only a year earlier, the race had celebrated the newfound popularity of the Queen of the Adriatic, a major fairground and seaside city that had grown into a symbol of the novel well-being of Italy in the post-war period. That year, Guido Carlesi, a young rider from Collesalvetti, entered his maiden Giro d’Italia at the age of 22. He rode for Chlorodont, with Magni and Belloni. Everybody would compare him to Coppi because of his thin face and hooked nose. The Campionissimo was still competing, but he was so worn out that his fans were eager to find his successor. And this is how the young Carlesi came to be called Coppino.

It was stage 13 of the 1958 Giro, from S. Benedetto del Tronto to Cattolica. Tino Coletto had taken the leader’s jersey the day before, after a long and crowded breakaway that the GC contenders didn’t try to stop. The following day, as the route was moving up the Adriatic coast, nobody actually tried to force a split. The peloton rolled at a leisurely pace, as if they were just jogging. The fight wouldn’t start until the stage finale along the Panoramica, the scenic route that runs high along the coast, starting in Pesaro, weaving its way through a brace of bends and climbs and descents. Carlesi, ‘il Coppino’, shot out of the peloton. Upon the first pass in Cattolica, the gap was 35” and counting. In Castel di Mezzo, after crashing in a tricky bend along the descent, he got back on the saddle as swift as a cat, his jersey torn, bleeding from his left arm, warding off the peloton that was coming back from behind, finishing 12” ahead and sealing his first Giro stage win.

 

The Coppino and the Campionissimo

One week before, he had already put on quite a show at the Chiavari – Forte dei Marmi stage. After breaking away with his fellow Tuscan, friend and former team-mate Guido Boni, naïve as he was, the poor Coppino was fooled right on the finish line. Boni said he was exhausted, and he begged Carlesi not to drop him. He could rest assured; he would be the eventual winner. No sprint needed. With 500 metres out, when Carlesi saw Boni tighten the straps, he started getting doubtful. His suspicions were later confirmed at the -100 metre marker, when his treacherous friend zipped past him twice as fast. After the two crossed the finish line, it was hard to keep them separated. They wouldn’t talk to each other for years.

Despite his nickname, regrettably, his career wasn’t nearly as good as Coppi’s. But he scored major achievements anyway. He sealed a further six stage wins at the Giro, after the one in Cattolica, finishing the Corsa Rosa on the top ten for five years in a row. However, his golden season was 1961, when he sealed stage wins in Antibes, Toulouse and Paris at the Tour, finishing in second overall, behind Jacques Anquetil. At the age of 94, now, Guido Carlesi has long since forgiven his friend Guido Boni.

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