The Coppi Meeting at Herne Hill - 14 September 1958
Posted: Friday 21st August 2020
The first “Coppi Meeting” at Herne Hill took place on the 14th September, 1958 and was extremely well attended, possibly one of the largest attendances there after WWII. At that time most of us could only read about the cycling stars of the day in the cycling magazines and especially the Miroir Sprint and But et Club bought at newsagents in Soho. In the 1950´s there also being practically no TV or newspaper coverage of any cycling events. So for us racing cyclists the chance to see Fausto Coppi and the other stars live was a fantastic opportunity and couldn’t be missed.
The event was to be held on a Sunday, perhaps because most of the Italian restaurants and cafes in London were closed on that day but that led to a problem: one couldn’t charge entrance fees to sporting events on Sundays. The organiser got round this. Instead of charging an entrance fee they sold membership to the VC Sacchi and this gave one entry to the track.
Actually the racing wasn’t particularly serious and one could see that Coppi, who was well passed his prime, was allowed to look as if he was doing well in the events but this didn’t seem to matter to us spectators. That he was there was enough for most of us! One thing I can recall is that most of the riders used “Eau de Cologne” which could be smelt every time they passed us, not usual amongst British cyclists at that time!
The organiser of the meeting was London-Italian Italo Berigliano who owned the Beriano bike shop in Fulham (see advert at bottom of page) with sponsorship from various Italian societies in London, including the Italian Restauranteurs Association. The Beriano shop imported some interesting components such as the first of the plastic saddles, the Unica, and SILCA pumps and had also their own brand Beriano racing frames made by Faliero Masi, mechanic to Fiorenzo Magni.
There was also a VC Sacchi racing club which was connected in some way to Beriano. It was only a small racing club and had, amongst other riders at that time, Ted Saunderson and Mick Coward who were later to ride as independents for Fred Dean Cycles.
There was a second meeting in 1959 where amongst other riders attending was Andre Darrigade who was world road champion that year. I am not too sure of the details of this meeting and whether it was run on the same lines as the first meeting but if I remember correctly there wasn’t the same number of spectators.