"She wanted to call the boy Angelo after her father but he said he wanted, just this once, to choose. He chose Fausto, his brother's name."
in my naive early years as a wannabe cyclist, i had it figured that if i could train hard enough over the year, eventually i'd be able to ride at 20mph quite comfortably, almost without breaking sweat. i doubt i'm the only one who thought that way and in fact, aside from his tour victories and being shot by his brother-in-law, greg lemond is famous for having pointed out that, in fact, it never gets easier, you just get faster. and that is the truth no matter the speed at which you start from.
in a similar but unrelated manner, that would be the contention with regard to computer and software developments. in the good old days of yore, when i first worked on our local newspaper. photographs for the week's issue were sent off to glasgow on a monday afternoon with specific directions as to page placement, size etc., with the fervent hope that they would return ingrained on zinc plates ready for printing on thursday. at this time of year, when christmas adverts would appear, we had large sheets of photocopied clip-art which would be cut out and pritt-sticked onto the finished page before it was made into a plate for offset printing.
as the years have rolled by and the microprocessor has invaded every walk of life, i was able to scan the christmas trees, baubles, bells and holly and use the page layout software to place all in the location and size desired. additionally, it became no longer necessary to send the photos off to glasgow so early in the week; now we had a scanner, meaning we could include as many photos as the editor felt necessary, placing them wherever we wanted and without the limitations of the cost of two zinc plates. even that system has been usurped by the advent of the digital image which is in the process of making the flatbed scanner all but redundant.
yet despite all these technological advantages, it still takes the same five days to produce each issue. the pagination has increased concomitantly and the ease with which digital images can be manipulated means that page layouts have become more sophisticated, allowing hitherto unknown freedom. the technological leaps bring with them, however, some incongruous behaviour, for many a contributor or advertisers still insists on printing their digital images on the home inkjet and handing it in for me to scan. similarly with those word documents; why not just e-mail them rather than print, for now they have to be scanned using optical character recognition software to turn it back into editable text.
and they call it progress.
such is at least partially the story behind this latest of publications from rouleur magazine, the first of their collaborations with bloomsbury publishing. in this month's issue of the magazine, taz darling, guy andrews and herbie sykes disseminate the story behind the book. it seems this superb volume is predominantly the result of the age of technology. contact any of the photo agencies with requests for a specific genre or subject, and they will perform a search on their digital libraries. but there are thousands upon thousands of images stored in boxes and filing cabinets taken long before the digital age was even thought of, and it is more than likely that these will remain in their boxes and filing cabinets until dave brailsford's sky subscription runs out.
the folks at rouleur, however, are more fastidious than most, and accepted the challenge to wade through printed images, glass slides and transparencies in order to mine the stunning array of fausto coppi images that fill the pages of this book.
author herbie sykes opens the book's introduction with the words "The reality is that I'd promised myself that I would never, under any circumstances, write a book about Fausto Coppi.". the beauty of 'inside the legend of the campionissimo' is that herbie has remained true to his promise. he has not written a book about angelo fausto coppi, at least not in the sense that you'd immediately recognise.
many years ago i wrote an article for 'rhythm' drumming magazine regarding the different ways in which the best of percussors described the beat. some directly play the ones, twos, threes and fours, while others, mostly jazz drummers tended to play everything but. think of how to describe a white line: either take a piece of coloured paper and draw a white line, or take a white piece of paper and colour in every part except that white line. herbie has achieved the latter, writing a book about coppi by filling in everything around the campionissimo.
this he has brought to pass by scurrying the length and breadth of italy, interviewing as many riders as he could find who touched the career of coppi. their stories bring coppi's life to the fore in a manner i doubt has been apportioned since the great man died in january 1960. names such as raphael geminiani, giuseppe minardi, luigi bertazzini, carlo martini and vito liverani, riders whose stories provide a different perspective than the often adulatory and sycophantic biographies and treatises more often experienced from italian bookshelves. herbie's coppi is, though i doubt he'd necessarily agree, a masterpiece of lateral thinking.
and while my narrative rests still upon the book's written words, herbie's article faustin inhabiting pages six and seven, and previously seen in a rouleur photo annual accompanied by ben ingham's imagery, has to be one of the finest pieces of writing ever. really. would i lie to you?
but i think it more than likely that it is the photographs occupying the bulk of the book's pages that will be the principal attraction. many of these have not seen the light of day since the photographers developed them in the 1950s. these, if anything, fulfil the words of pietro nascimbene "I never thought he fully understood who he was or what he meant, and i still don't..." and that may be the enduring attraction of fausto coppi. cast your eyes over the post from the past few weeks, and you'll see reviews of a number of books concerning bradley wiggins. there are even more published that i have not included in this panoply. we now know everything there is to know about brad, yet with coppi, despite the endless number of books and articles written in the past 50 plus years, there is still an air of mystery about the man, and this despite the unrivalled media attention he attracted wherever he went.
i have spent two evenings, over an hour in each, simply wallowing in the incredible imagery contained within this book, dipping in and out of those interviews and subconsciously trying to figure out what it is about coppi that fascinates someone who was only three and a half when the campionissimo died of mis-diagnosed malaria. i seriously doubt that i ever will, and i think it more than likely that the same sense of intrigue occupies the minds of many other coppi acolytes.
this book will not answer your questions, at least, not all of them, but it will bring you closer to thinking that it might.
Fausto told me he's been to Sanremo... He says he's been to Milan and he's been in the clouds."
monday 26th november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................