Friday, February 10, 2012

Flahute's WAG 'tale': Before Brady, there was Coppi.

WAGS get Flahute's
tail wagging
Hoi cafesupporters!   Flahute here! Fast Eddy's pretty tired from a three hour ride with two hours of tempo, but as I've been MIA for awhile, I'm writing today's post...   Another raging bull-etin from your favorite no-bull terrier.
"Ik ben sneller, sterker"

"Thank GOD the Super Bowl is finally over.  Living here in New England, the media hype was over the top.  Forget the game, I'm most annoyed that so many commercials portrayed canines in stupid situations.

That said, I think they should have casted me, Flahute, for that Sketchers ad!  I'd kick that bulldog's butt in any sprint, anyday.  Bah, those French bulldogs are just a passing fad.  Poseur!  Alas,  hard cyclists must not be Sketchers market target...

You go girl!  
And the wall-to-wall coverage didn't stop when the game ended either.  This week was all about a post game video of Pats QB Tom Brady's supermodel wife, Giselle Bundchen, giving it back to of some New York heckler fans after the match who were slagging her 'Tommy'. In the heat of the moment, her retort inadvertently threw the Pats receivers under the bus.  It generated another frenzied case of stupid media overkill beyond belief, as they spun a simple statement of fact into something more than it was.  24/7.

Now if Giselle had drop kicked or bitten one of them, that would be news!  Jeez, you can't blame a girl for standing up for her man to a bunch of dumb ass lager louts.  (And by the way, since when does any lager lout worth his salt take the elevator down from his luxury box, anyway?  I swear, even football hooligans are getting soft.   Thank God we wielersupporters have Koksijde, eh?

Lugano.  Fausto gives Guilia that 'uh-oh' look
 as he realizes 
his public image might have just
'jumped the shark'...  
 
Ah, WAGS.  Those oh so glamorous wives and girlfriends of sports superstars.  Always mouthing off, getting their men in hot water.  It even happens in cycling.  Like in the Giro di Lombardia, way back in 1956.

Let's set the stage:  Fausto Coppi was at the tail end of his reign.  After his illicit affair with 'la dama bianca' Giulia Occhini was so publicly 'outed' on the '53 World's podium in Lugano, his image and popularity took a body blow ofTiger Woods proportions.

1954 was a tough year in the rainbow.  He was spit at and heckled through the Giro, but salvaged his season with a great win in the Tour of Lombardy - winning a group sprint on the Vigorelli velodrome.   Then in '55, despite winning the Italian National championship, he was dropped by Bianchi at the end of the season.  Unthinkable.

But Fausto wasn't ready to exit the stage yet.  For 1956 he teamed up with the progressive and astute Vincenzo Giacotto to form his own team, G.S. Carpano-Coppi.    It was an all-Piedmont super-squad.  Juventus on wheels.  The Turin aperitif brand provided the cash, Coppi provided the bikes, and hand picked the riders.

You've got a dama bianca, so why not a squadra bianca?   Coppi's
men in white.  Photo Pier Rossi, cyclingarchives.com
GS Carpano-Coppi had a rough start.  Fausto was been plagued by more crashes and injuries, and reached autumn staring at a big fat zero on his win list.  Something that had never happened before.  In October his form starting coming back  He won the GP Lugano Time Trial, and turned his attention to the next week's Giro di Lombardia. The final classic, the last chance hotel.   Lombardia was his race.  He'd already won five, one more than Binda, but wanted to make it six and put the record out of reach.  Il campionissimo was desperate to win, to show the world he still 'had it'.  To shut up all those louts who said that la dama bianca was the behind his fall from the summit.

A situation not unlike Tom Brady's at the Super Bowl this year.

Celebrity WAGS.  Can't live without 'em.
Can't muzzle'em either!
In a rainy race, Coppi attacked on the Ghisallo as he'd done so many times before, exploding the lead group, and getting away with Bianchi's 21 year old Diego Ronchini.    The duo dropped Bobet, DeBruyne, Van Looy, Magni and a host of other stars.   The tifosi was delirious.  It was like old times again.

But it's a long, long way to Tipperary.  And what feels like a longer way from the summit of the Ghisallo to Milan's Vigorelli Velodrome.   On the long descent, Coppi drove the gap to over a minute.   Then it got interesting.  Bianchi's Director in the Ammiriglia ordered Ronchini to stop working, because he had an ace in the hole - a young French sprinter named Andre Darrigade who made the selection and was still in the chasing group.   Ronchini didn't have the heart to tell Coppi, he complained of a sore knee, and didn't take a pull.  But Coppi knew the game, and was in a familiar situation.  Un uomo solo, al commando.  He just put his head down and raged against the wind, over wet roads.

Behind, a following car pulled up to the chasing group.  Inside it, Coppi's white lady, la dama bianca Giulia, rolled down the window, and in her excitement, mouthed off to Fiorenzo Magni, sneering  'Ha! my man just screwed all of you'.  Actually it was "Il mio Fausto, ancora una volta vi ha fregati tutti!"  Probably sounded better and more dramatic in Italian.   Probably a hand gesture too, for emphasis.  Magni said it was a 'sneer'.

Now it was no secret in the peloton that Magni and Occhini disliked each other pretty intensely.  Fiorenzo, Il Leone di Fiandre, was also at the end of his career.  He was dividing his training and racing with running his car dealership in Monza.  Conservative, hardworking, a traditional Toscano - he liked his rival Fausto, but disapproved of his affair.  And of her.

After a third Giro win in '55 he'd said '56 would be his last season.   He'd battled through that famous broken shoulder and blizzard on the Monte Bondone to finish a close 2nd behind Gaul in his last Giro.   He had nothing left to prove... but he was riding what he knew was his last classic...

On the line it was Darrigade over Coppi by a hair, with Magni 3rd.
The white lady's taunt had the effect of waving a flag in front of a bull.  And Magni was the original raging bull.  His style?  Break 'em, with power.  Or as Raphael Geminiani put it, "He got his successes with the subtlety of an axe."

Nothing if not proud, Magni went to the front and raged like Jake LaMotta.  Raged even harder than Coppi.  After all, there's nothing like a little hate to make you go really deep.

Practically single handedly, he pulled the regrouped chasers back, catching Coppi and Ronchini with just 12k to the Velodrome.  A group of 18 would sprint for the win.

Onto the track at first it looked like young Belgian Rik Van Looy would take it.  But despite doing the lion's share of the work, the still raging Magni passed him in the finish straight.  The final effort.

Then, as if in a dream, almost unbelievably, a desperate Coppi came around Magni, passed him, and the man they said couldn't sprint was a few meters from a spint to that 6th win.   One meter from redemption.  From immortality.
"The show is over, say goodbye"

Enter the spoiler.  Another French bulldog, Bianchi's mercenary recruit, Andre Darrigade.  With a pure-sprinter rush in the final few meters, he lunged over the line just inches ahead of Coppi.   Bianchi's director said afterward it pained him to do that to Fausto after all their years together. But business is business.

Coppi was distraught, inconsolable.   He burst into bitter tears, as if he perhaps finally realized that this time, it really was all over.

That autumn day in Milan's cathedral of cycling, a setting where he'd set the hour record sixteen years earlier, where he celebrated many Lombardia and Giro d'Italia victories, was the last time he'd contend for a win in a major professional road race.    He staying in the peloton for a few more years though.  The decline was not pretty.

Magni probably had probably helped turn on the water works.  "If your woman hadn't been so offensive," he sneered, "I'd never have had the incentive to come after you. And then the Frenchman wouldn't have beaten you, would he?"   More detail here.

It remains to be seen if last Sunday in Indianapolis was Tom Brady's 'Vigorelli moment'.   I don't think it was.  But I do think it would be interesting to have been a fly on the wall during family dinners at casas Coppi and Brady the day after their respective post WAG-incidents.

I'll bet you a Milk Bone the dialog was identical.

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