From the start-line of the 1949 Tour de France, issues were already apparent with the Italian team. Both Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi had the ability to lead the national team, but there were clashes between the two, and Coppi felt undervalued and sidelined by his team. The tensions between Bartali and Coppi had been building up since the previous tour, in which Coppi had refused to enter. In 1949 however, Coppi would have to learn to put this behind him and get on with with, so to speak, as he rode alongside team-mate and fellow countryman Bartali.
As if his confidence hadn’t been knocked already, Coppi’s start to the race wasn’t helping this, as he experienced a weak start, lagging behind the race leader, Jacques Marinelli, by a huge 36 minutes at the end of stage 4. All looked lost for the 29 year old Italian, and he needed heavily persuading to continue the next day from team manager Alfredo Binda.
Next up, was a time trail, and with the mentally and physically worn out Coppi on the start line, it was now or never. Coppi chose ‘now’, and pulled out a strong performance, winning the stage and taking 8 minutes back into his hands. Usually this would be a clear winner, but with Coppi’s time deficit already so large, this was merely the first of many stepping stones he needed to take.
Playing it relativity sensibly, and thinking about his chances carefully, Coppi was faced with a 190km haul from Col d’Aubisque to the Peyresourde, and noone was sure what was going to happen next. Coppi, as it turned out, was quite good at this sort of cycling, and performed well, closing his gap further and reducing it to 14 minutes, hanging in there with Jean Robic.
Only attacking when he needed to, Coppi now had an intelligent gameplan, and no longer looked like a lost cause. In the final time trial stage, everything was about to change as Coppi powered on through and took the stage win by 7 minutes, again proving himself as time trial king and turning the whole tour around.
Coppi made the points up in the final stage of the race and took the General Classification as well as the Mountains Classification. The Team Classification of course, went to Italy.