Gèminiani survived the same malaria as Fausto Coppi

The 'Great Rifle' won in his city of Clermont Ferrand. He did it in 1951, the year in which the Tour de France visited his town for the first time.


There is an iconic photo of Spanish sport in which Federico Martín Bahamontes is seen climbing the Puy de Dôme and in the background a city with an imposing cathedral: Clermont Ferrand. From there two chronoscaled climbs started towards this volcano in the Massif Central. In that first one in 1959, Bahamontes laid the foundations for his victory on the Tour. In the second, in 1983, another Spaniard, Ángel Arroyo, won, who finished second in that edition and, above all, reopened the doors of the Grand Boucle in front of the Reynolds.

But the first time the Tour visited Clermont Ferrand had been before, in 1951, with the victory of the local idol, Raphaël Gèminiani, El Gran Fusil. Since leaving Limoges, all eyes that day were on Gem, who met expectations. He responded to an attack by José Mirando, left alone and endured the harassment of Jean Robic to be the winner at home. Gèmianiani finished second that Tour, behind Hugo Koblet, and won the Mountain.

The second time he was on the podium in Paris was in the 1958 Tour, which started in disgust, because he was not selected by Marcel Bidot to race for the French team and had to do so with the Center Midi regional team. On the way out, in Brussels, he baptized a donkey that he had received as a gift with the name of Marcel. In his honor. That year was the only time he wore yellow, for four days. He lost it in Aix les Bains, four from the end, with a tremendous anger. "They are all Judas," he said about the French team of Jacques Anquetil and Louison Bobet, whom he accused of not helping him. Charly Gaul and Vito Favero preceded him in the classification.

In December of the following year, Fausto Coppi called Gèminiani to replace Bobet, who had become ill, on a safari in Upper Volta, present-day Burkina Fasso. Gem agreed. On his return, before the Christmas holidays, Coppi phoned the Frenchman to tell him about a new team, and at the end of the conversation they commented that none of them were feeling too well, that they were greasy ... or so they thought. On Christmas Day, the Geminiani fever reached 41.6 degrees. Doctor Mora, who was treating him, could not find the diagnosis. Luck was the appearance of the young doctor Brugière, who had experience in Africa, and discovered that he suffered from malaria. He was saved with a quinine treatment. In parallel, his family called Coppi to warn him, but the remedy arrived in Italy too late. Coppi died on January 2, 1960.

Geminiani is still alive at 95, after a long career in cycling in which he was also the prestigious director of champions such as Luis Ocaña, Lucien Aimar, Jan Janssen and Joaquim Agostinho.

Photos from as.com
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