Voted the most popular Italian sportsman of the twentieth century, Fausto Angelo Coppi was the campionissimo champion of cycling champions. The greatest cyclist of the immediate postwar years, Coppis scandalous divorce and controversial death convulsed Italy in the 1950s and were still making headlines half a century later.In Fallen Angel, William Fotheringham, author of the definitive biography of Tom Simpson, tells Coppis story for the first time for an English-speaking audience. Coppi was the first man to win cyclings 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. His epic rivalry with Gino Bartali divided Italian opinion for a decade. But his significance extends far beyond his sport.Coppis divorce remains a landmark case in Italys shift away from the church. In the 1950s, adultery in Italy was still a criminal offence, punishable by up to a year in prison. Coppi and his lover, the White Lady Giulia Occhini, both married with children, were dragged from their beds in the middle of the night. They were excommunicated, and a clamorous legal battle followed. The White Lady was forced to leave the country; Coppi himself died aged just forty, from malaria contracted during an insignificant race in Africa.Fallen Angel tells the story of Coppis tragic life and death, of how a man who became the symbol of a nations rebirth after the disasters of war died reviled and heartbroken. It is a unique portrait of Italy and Italian sport at a time of tumultuous social change.
William Fotheringham writes for the Guardian and Observer on cycling and rugby. He is the author of a biography of Tom Simpson, Put Me Back on My Bike, which was acclaimed by Vlo magazine as the best cycling biography ever written and Roule Britannia: A History of Britons in the Tour de France.