Bicycle ridden at Paris-Roubaix was stolen from villa near Venice where it was on display

A bike ridden by Fausto Coppi has been returned to a museum it was stolen from on Monday after its 81-year-old owner made an emotional appeal for the thief to give it back.

Coppi rode the Bianchi bike at the 1949 edition of Paris-Roubaix – a race in which his younger brother Serse, who would die two years later, achieved the biggest success of his career, being declared joint winner in a dead heat with the French rider, André Mahé.

The bike was among 130 on display at the 18th Century Villa Farsetti in Santa Maria di Sala, a small town around 15 kilometres from Venice that will host the finish of Stage 18 of this year’s Giro d’Italia.

It belongs to 81-year-old Bruno Carraro, who among other things is honorary president of the Gruppo Sportivo Madonna del Ghisallo and a long time race organiser who is heading up the local organising committee for the Giro d’Italia’s visit.

The bicycle disappeared on Monday afternoon, and according to a report by the Corriere della Sera, Carraro burst out crying when he noticed it was gone.

He had been bequeathed it by a friend who died in 2015 who had received it from Coppi himself, and it is one of just four ridden by il Campionissimo known to be in existence.

Carraro’s appeal for the return of the bike quickly went viral on social media and on Tuesday evening it was found abandoned on a grass verge by the entrance to the Villa Farsetti, to his evident relief.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.