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Memories of Salerno, 1949: Coppi’s sprint before becoming a legend


In that 1949 edition, Fausto Coppi was about to deliver the most legendary exploit of his extraordinary career in the Cuneo-Pinerolo stage of the Giro d’Italia, beating second-placed Gino Bartali by more than 11 minutes and taking the Maglia Rosa off the shoulders of Adolfo Leoni.

In that year’s Corsa Rosa, however, the Campionissimo had already won two stages, the first of which in Salerno, in the endless 292 km Cosenza-Salerno. The finish line was located inside the old Stadio Comunale and the stage had been very demanding, as it featured a gruelling journey across the mountains of Calabria and Lucania before heading towards the sea. The turning point came right in the heart of the city, with just a few hundred metres to go: the three breakaway riders Adolfo Leoni, Antonio Bevilacqua and Giorgio Cargioli were caught shortly after entering the city. 

Coppi picked an unimaginable spot to place his attack, sprinting up the ramps of Via dei Principati and catching the breakaway shortly before producing a furious sprint in which he overtook Leoni and his lifelong rival Bartali. On the podium that afternoon, wearing Rosa was Giordano Cottur, who held the jersey for a few days before surrendering it to Mario Fazio, then to Adolfo Leoni and, finally, after the epic day in Pinerolo, to the Campionissimo, in what was to be his third overall victory at the Giro d’Italia. A month after the Superga tragedy and the loss of the entire Grande Torino football team, Italian sport had found a reason to smile again.

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