The Italians came to the 1949 Tour well equipped. In addition to defending champion Gino Bartali, they brought along an up-and-coming star named Fausto Coppi. Bartali took the early lead when Coppi fell on stage five, and when Coppi entered the Pyrénées with a 30-minute deficit, the Tour neophyte wanted to abandon. He stuck it out and came into his own in the Alps. Bartali still had the yellow jersey when the Tour raced into Briançon, but when he flatted on the next stage, Coppi took off with the stage--and the overall race.
Not only was the Gino Bartali-Fausto Coppi duel of 1947 one of the greatest moments in Tour history, but it was also a monument to chivalry. After dropping the field on the stage from Cannes to Briançon, Bartali began to struggle. When Coppi started to surge away with the race, Bartali made one last request: Wait, he said. Today is my birthday. We finish together. Tomorrow you can win the Tour. Coppi held back, Bartali won the stage, and as promised, Coppi went on to win the Tour.
Thanks to his diplomacy, Italy's coach, Alfredo Binda, manages a Coppi - Bartali arrangement just two weeks before the start.
Last rider: De Santi (55th) at 6 h 7 min. 21 sec.
Coppi and Bartali on top of things.
A stage finishes in San Sebastian, Spain for the first time; three categories of climbs are established for the best climber award.
Rainier III becomes prince of Monaco; 12 nations sign the North Atlantic Treaty; the possession of an atomic bomb by the Soviet Union is revealed; Albert Einstein puts forth the theory of relativity; Rita Hayworth marries prince Aly Khan.