How Geminiani beat Gino Bartali in the mountains
‘In 1952 I was in the Giro riding for Bianchi and Fausto [Coppi, the Bianchi team leader] had the pink jersey. Bartali was leading the mountains classification and people were only cheering for him. Coppi couldn’t stand it: here he was winning the Giro and the crowds were only cheering for Bartali. On the Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard, Coppi and I attacked but 150m from the summit Bartali left us standing.’
‘Coppi was thinking: shit, he’s going to win the mountains jersey and everyone’s talking about him more than me.
I said to Fausto: “What’s this col we’ve got coming up?”
“It’s the Simplon.”
“What’s it like?”
“Oh goodness, it’s really tough at the beginning.”
“OK,” I said. “Listen, let me try something.”
‘And on the Simplon, right from the foot of the mountain, I went on the attack: bang! I pulverised the peloton, and Bartali was amongst the pulverised. I led over the top of the Simplon and Bartali was something like 25th. I won the mountains prize, Coppi was second, and Bartali was only third.’
‘That evening Coppi said: “How did you do that? Why did you attack there?” “Have you never noticed how Bartali has difficulty keeping the pace when he’s at the foot of a climb, but when he’s at the top, he’s unbeatable?”
Coppi said: “It never occurred to me to attack down below. I never thought of that.”
‘Coppi was always at the head of the peloton, but I noticed that Bartali always attacked the mountains from behind, and that he had difficulties at the start of climbs. He was always panting. He was a smoker and at the foot of a climb he was always short of breath. Coppi, who was always up ahead, never noticed. But I did.’
Good riders, Raphaël Geminiani will tell you, need to keep a sharp eye on their rivals. That doesn’t just mean knowing where they’re sitting in the peloton, but paying close attention to every detail of how they race, from their individual quirks to what’s in their pockets. Here are three tales about the importance of staying alert.