Happy birthday to Gino Bartali, who was born on this day 1914.
Born in Florence on July 18, 1914, Gino Bartali was a typical Tuscan: hard working, hard-headed and deeply religious.
Although nicknamed “Gino the Pious”, Bartali was ruthless on the road. Early in his career, two famed Italian sprinters tried to box him in at the finish of a road race. Instead of going around them, he rode right between them, causing all three to crash in a bloody mess. After that, no one tried to box in Gino.
Bartali is mostly remembered for his long standing battle with Fausto Coppi which resulted in epic physical struggles in the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Milan-San Remo and Tour of Lombardy. Bartali was five years older than Coppi and was the established star in Italian cycling.
At least as much as Coppi, but perhaps more so, World War II took its bite out of Bartali’s career, since the war happened during Bartali’s peak athletic years (late twenties to early thirties).
Bartali won his first climber’s jersey in the Giro in 1935 at age 20 and won his last cycling monument classic in the 1950 Milan-San Remo at age 35. He rode professionally for twenty years and was competitive in major races even after age 40.
Bartali was a great climber who won the mountains jersey competition in the Giro d’Italia a record seven times.
He won five Grand Tour titles including the Tour de France twice and the Giro d’Italia three times.
Bartali was the first rider to win the Tour de France overall title and mountains jersey in one year, 1938.
He repeated the same feat ten years later in 1948, the year in which he won seven stages. These were the only years in which he won the Tour de France.
Bartali was second to Fausto Coppi in the 1949 Tour de France.
In 1950, Bartali led the Italian team, but on the second mountain stage he was accosted by a drunken mob and threatened with a knife. The next day, the entire Italian team withdrew from the race.
In addition to his prowess in the Grand Tours, Gino was also a force in one-day events.
He also won the Milan-San Remo four times and the Tour of Lombardy three times.
The Tuscan didn’t compete often in the major classics outside of Italy because, at the time, they weren’t deemed that important to the Italian riders and fans.
In addition, he never won or placed in the top five in the World Championship Road Race.
Nevertheless Bartali was a complete rider in both the Grand Tours and major classics with more than 170 professional victories.
Bartali retired in 1954 at age 40, and died on May 5, 2000, at the age of 85.
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