Gino Bartali - The Everlasting

 


Nicknamed the Everlasting, Gino Bartali was a great road cyclist, with a twenty-seven years career, one of the longest and most successful in the cycling history. He is also known for his iconic victory at the Tour de France in 1948 and the rivalry with Fausto Coppi, that has gripped and divided Italy at the time of heroic cycling.

The life of the champion

1914 - Gino Bartali was born in Ponte a Ema, near Florence. At thirteen he already rode on his bike.

1934 - He made his debut as an amateur and won his first race, the Bologna Cup.

1935 -
He participated in the Milano-Sanremo as an independent. He found himself in the lead, surprising everyone and even overtaking Learco Guerra, but due to a mechanical failure, he lost the first position and ranked fourth. Thanks to that result, however, he was hired by the company Frejus, and with it, he participated in his first Giro d'Italia finishing seventh. That same year he ended the season winning the Escalada at Montjuïc, the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Italian championships.

1936 -
Bartali passed to the Legnano team, and thanks to the captain of the team, Learco Guerra, who sensed his talents and decided to be his domestique, he won his first Giro d'Italia. Unfortunately, a few days after that victory, Giulio, Bartali's younger brother and cyclist himself, took part in an amateur race and was hit by a car, dying two days later. He was only 19. Because of that terrible loss, Gino considered the idea of leaving cycling but eventually decided to continue to race and ended the season winning the Giro di Lombardia.

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1937 -
Bartali became captain of the Legnano team and participated in his first Tour de France, but due to a fall in a stream during the Grenoble-Briançon stage, he was forced to retire. The following year, however, he made up for it, winning the Tour and also two stages.

1939 -
On his fourth attempt, he finally managed to win the Milano-Sanremo.

1940 - Bartali won for the second time the Milano-Sanremo and participated for the third time in the Giro d'Italia, taking as domestique the newcomer to the team Fausto Coppi.
The day after the end of the Giro (won by Coppi), however, Italy went to war and for the next five years, there were no more races.

1943-1944 - Bartali was not only a great cyclist but also a good man. In fact, in the last years of the war, he joined the clandestine organization DELASEM and made numerous trips by bicycle and carrying documents and photos hidden in the tubes of the bicycle frame so that a secret printing house could falsify the documents necessary for the escape of Jewish refugees. For this reason, he was sought by the police and forced to hide, with the help of friends and relatives, in Città di Castello for five months. Then, in 1945, when the war ended, he was finally able to start running again.

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1946 -
The return to the races brought him back to success. Bartali won the Giro d'Italia, beating Coppi, which at the time had joined the Bianchi team, for 47 seconds, and the Tour de Suisse.

1947 -
He won for the second time the Tour de Suisse and for the third time the Milano-Sanremo.

1948 - Because of the problems during the Giro d'Italia, Bartali was the only one of the great Italian cyclists of that period to be able to participate in the Tour de France. Although he was already 34 years old and the Italian team was improvised, Bartali succeeded in an incredible feat and won the Tour. That same year he participated with Coppi in the world road championship in Valkenburg. The two champions, however, both made a bad impression because of their rivalry, which led to their withdrawal from the race and disqualification of two months.

1950 - Fourth victory at Milano-Sanremo, despite the bad weather conditions, and fifth participation in the Tour de France, from which he withdrew due to aggression from a group of French fans.

1952 -
Bartali won his last great title at the Italian Championships.

1953 -
After winning the Giro Della Toscana, Bartali had a serious car accident. Because of the gangrene, he risked losing his right leg, however, he managed to recover and to participate once again in the Milano-Sanremo, without obtaining good results.

1954 -
Bartali ended his career as a professional running on a circuit created in Città di Castello especially for the occasion.

1959 -
Bartali created the San Pellegrino Sport project and called Coppi to be the captain of his team, but the project was eventually abandoned because of the death of Coppi because of malaria.

In the following years, he reduced his presence in the world of cycling more and more, but he continued to fight against the evils of this sport: doping, corruption and hiring too high. He died of a heart attack on May 5, 2000, in Florence.

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The memory of the man

2006 - The President of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi awarded Gino Bartali the gold medal of posthumous civil merit for saving hundreds of Jewish citizens. The medal was given to his wife Adriana.

2011 - Bartali was included among the Righteous of the Holocaust in the Garden of the Righteous of the World in Padua, again for the help offered to the Jews during the Second World War.

2013 - Bartali was also declared Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the official Israeli memorial to the victims of the Holocaust founded in 1953, recognition for non-Jews who risked their lives to save even one Jew during the Nazi persecutions. Andrea Bartali, with the help of his daughter Gioia, also wrote a book where he collected all the testimonies and information regarding the activities of his father Gino in favour of the persecuted.

2017 - The Israeli cycling team Cycling Academy paid tribute to Bartali by organizing a race from Ponte a Ema to Assisi, along the same route that he travelled many times to help the persecuted Jews.

The most recent recognition is in 2018 when Israel posthumously appointed Bartali as an honorary citizen, a great champion in cycling and also in humanity.

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(1) Gino Bartali at the Giro Della Lombardia 1936
(2) Gino Bartali 1945
(3) Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi, Giro d'Italia 1954
(4) Gino Bartali 1994

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