Tour de France: Fausto Coppi and ‘La Bomba’ – Updated

Jorgen Leth Tour
If you haven’t got any real plans for the summer, here’s your deal: Le Tour is the thing! Even though the first two stages were more exciting than expected, Tour de France is of course at its best when it reaches the Alps (14th to the 17th of July, Sunday being a resting day) and the Pyrenees (23th to 25th of July). So, should you be reluctant to spending endless hours watching the Tour on TV, do check for the mountain stages where legends are born…

I hope to follow the Tour, and hopefully to blog about it now and then. In my first Metabunker post on cycling, I discussed Bjarne Riis’ doping confession. At the moment, Bjarne Riis’ Team CSC holds the maillot jaune, but Riis himself is not with his team, due to the pressure from the media caused by his doping confession, as well as former CSC-rider Jörg Jaksche’s allegations (see here and here). But it’s also worth noting that Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme has condemned Bjarne Riis harshly, and made it clear that he would prefer Riis to stay away, because the presence of the former Tour de France winner would soil the grandeur of the race. In fact, Monsieur Prudhomme wants to reclaim Bjarne Riis’ maillot jaune, and erase him as winner of the 1996 Tour de France.

Now, in the illustration above, Metabunker Mentor Jørgen Leth recites one of his old “Sport Poems” about legendary Italian rider Fausto Coppi; Coppi is often considered the greatest rider in history, even though he ‘only’ won the Tour twice – 1949 and 1952. Though there weren’t doping laws at the time, most riders were doped. Amphetamines, caffeine, opiates, ether, cocaine, chloroform and alcohol have been among the ingredients in riders’ water bottles from the very first Tour in 1903. Later, they would take pills called la bomba, packed with selections of the above-mentioned drugs. Fausto Coppi – Il Campionissimo – did also subscribe to la bomba. In an interview, Coppi was asked if he took la bomba, and he replied, “Only when I have to“. Pressed to define when that was, he acknowledged, “Almost all the time“.

Will Monsieur Prudhomme please reclaim Fausto Coppi’s two yellow jerseys? And, by the way, Richard Virenque’s polka-dot mountain jerseys? And Erik Zabels green sprint point jerseys? And …

The poem “Fausto Coppi” is translated from Jørgen Leth’s Sportsdigte (1976) by Steffen Maarup, with love, but without written permission. Illustration by myself.

If you read Danish, Jyllands-Posten has a great interview with Jørgen Leth, defending Bjarne Riis. Click here, go read.

P.S. By the way – did you watch stage 3 yesterday? Bloody amazing, the maillot jaune seems to belong to the right man these days, whew!

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