However, I'm determined to get back into the proper headspace for 27 Stages, and I made a little headway last night, thanks in part to a documentary Alle and I watched about Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi. Yesterday was the fifty-first anniversary of Coppi's death from malaria at the age of forty-one, and since Coppi was one of Italy's greatest cyclists, it is not a day likely to pass without commemoration in this country.
It's hard for me to imagine, now, that an extramarital affair could be punished by sending the participants to prison. It's hard to imagine how strongly he must have felt for "la dama in bianco" -- "the woman in white", as she was described in the press at the time -- that he would be willing to endure such public outcry (which included being spat on by spectators of the races he rode) and criticism (from no less than the Pope himself).
But he did.
He loved her and gave up his family and a good deal of his popular acclaim in order to be with her. Right or wrong, he followed his heart and did what he thought he had to in order to be with her. They dealt with the consequences, started their family (they had a son in spite of the fact they couldn't legally wed in Italy) and tried to go forward together. In the end, of course, it didn't work out the way they'd planned. Coppi died after contracting malaria during a safari trip in Burkina Faso. (The malady was misdiagnosed as influenza when it emerged after his return to Italy.)
In the last few weeks, I've seen this documentary and I've read William Fotheringham's biography of Coppi. Viewing what Coppi went through makes the prose on the page still more vivid.
After watching the documentary on television yesterday, Coppi has been on my mind even more: what he sacrificed and what he salvaged, who he loved and who he hurt, his own private losses throughout it all (his brother, Serse, who became a cyclist after Fausto did, died after crashing during the final sprint in the Giro del Piemonte in 1951).
And all of this gets turned over and over in my head, tiny elements sticking together and becoming a different whole.
Because their stories deserve no less.