Coppi's racing days are generally referred to as the beginning of the golden years of cycle racing. A factor is the competition Coppi had with Gino Bartali. Italian tifosi (fans) divided into coppiani and bartaliani. Bartali's rivalry with Coppi divided Italy. Bartali, conservative, religious, was venerated in the rural, agrarian south, while Coppi, more worldly, secular, innovative in diet and training, was hero of the industrial north. The writer Curzio Malaparte said:
Bartali belongs to those who believe in tradition... he is a metaphysical man protected by the saints. Coppi has nobody in heaven to take care of him. His manager, his masseur, have no wings. He is alone, alone on a bicycle... Bartali prays while he is pedalling: the rational Cartesian and sceptical Coppi is filled with doubts, believes only in his body, his motor.