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Francois the Postman

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One does these things and then that's that
« on: January 28, 2012, 15:27 »
When people talk about the Great Ones of our sport, people inevitably trace their way back through time, dropping names from eras that we weren't witnesses to. I sometimes need to remind myself that for most posters nowadays, the likes of Merckx and Hinault fall into that category too.

There is a list of obvious names. But usually, this trip through time stops at Eddie Merckx. Sure, we all have heard of Jacques Anquetil, Fausto Coppi, and other legends of the black and white era, but if we have seen anything, or know anything, it can usually summed up by a few movie reels and a Wikipedia page.

I count myself lucky that my dad was besotted with cycling from an early age, has an amazing ability to recollect his early days, and that the Tour de France has plenty of flat sprint stages that are best spent talking about other things.

One of those other things was Gino Bartali, his spats with arch-rival Coppi, and how he pulled Italy back from a civil war brink by winning the Tour in 1948, unifying the parties around a national hero's success. A bit overblown when it is put like that, but it is not without foundation either.

Years later I became more and more interested in this black and white pioneers era myself, which, at times, feels like a different sport altogether, compared to the well-oiled pr-circus, orchestrated to suit ad-breaks, globally, that we enjoy these days. The differences, and similarities, are striking.

Then, last Friday, I read that Israel was about to pay tribute to Barteli, for helping to save around 800 Jews during WWII. What? Where did that come from? I dug around, and discovered a chapter in Bartali's life that had totally escaped me. And what a wonderful chapter it was.

It turns out that Bartali was using his status as national sport's hero to smuggle false papers and photos on his bike, in hollow tubes and tucked in the saddle, whilst pretending to be on training rides. Apparently he even smuggled people to the Swiss Alps too, pulling a cart with a hidden compartment "for training". What a guy! And a story he kept humbly to himself to, it seems, as it was through records of the people he helped that all this emerged, months before he died.

Now we often talk about cycling heroes, but if you are gonna define what it takes to become one, this man appears to have put himself in exceptional category.

It will be hard to top what Bartali put on his palmares, and how he used the status he earned for something this grand, and risky. In between all the rotten stories of our sporting heroes justly being toppled off their pedestal, it is nice to stumble into one who totally deserves his.

And not a branded armband in sight. "One does these things and then that's that". Chapeau!

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  • just some guy

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    Re: One does these things and then that's that
    « Reply #1 on: January 28, 2012, 15:50 »
    was a great thing to read this morning when I checked on the UCI website.

    A true Cycling Legend
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  • Fignon - In my day, doping methods were derisory and the riders´exploits were massive.
    For the last 15 years or so  it has been the other way rond: there is a huge number of ways in which riders can dope, and any exploits are derisory.

    Amsterhammer

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    Re: One does these things and then that's that
    « Reply #2 on: January 28, 2012, 20:44 »
    I saw it on Dutch text this morning and was going to report it, but the OP beat me to it.

    Lovely post, Francois. Now I know what they're talking about over there. ;)
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  • Rock On and keep the Faith

    benotti69

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    Re: One does these things and then that's that
    « Reply #3 on: January 28, 2012, 21:01 »
    Nicely put Francois.

    For me it puts Bartali up there as the greatest cyclist that ever lived.

    To use one's talent to help fellow humans escape death at great risk to one's life is beyond words and is truly heroic.
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  • "ahaha, ever had the feeling you been cheated?" JL SF Jan'78

    Training Wheels

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    Re: One does these things and then that's that
    « Reply #4 on: January 29, 2012, 01:08 »
    I think what is rare is an athlete who has the capacity to both think about something other than his own performance and then actually do something about it - truly exceptional.
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    Martin318is

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    Re: One does these things and then that's that
    « Reply #5 on: January 30, 2012, 02:20 »
    Thanks for that.
    I read William Fotheringham´s book on Coppi late last year and Bartali certainly is discussed in it.  However given the context of the book the bias leads you to think of Bartali as being somehow the ´bad guy´in Coppi´s career.

    It really drives home the point that there is always more than one source for information and that you need to take a step back and investigate for yourself before forming a longer lasting opinion.  THanks for helping a lot of us (many who wouldnt have noticed the story otherwise) do that re Bartali
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    The Hitch

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    Re: One does these things and then that's that
    « Reply #6 on: January 30, 2012, 03:48 »


    Then, last Friday, I read that Israel was about to pay tribute to Barteli, for helping to save around 800 Jews during WWII. What? Where did that come from? I dug around, and discovered a chapter in Bartali's life that had totally escaped me. And what a wonderful chapter it was.

    It turns out that Bartali was using his status as national sport's hero to smuggle false papers and photos on his bike, in hollow tubes and tucked in the saddle, whilst pretending to be on training rides. Apparently he even smuggled people to the Swiss Alps too, pulling a cart with a hidden compartment "for training". What a guy! And a story he kept humbly to himself to, it seems, as it was through records of the people he helped that all this emerged, months before he died.

    Now we often talk about cycling heroes, but if you are gonna define what it takes to become one, this man appears to have put himself in exceptional category.

    It will be hard to top what Bartali put on his palmares, and how he used the status he earned for something this grand, and risky. In between all the rotten stories of our sporting heroes justly being toppled off their pedestal, it is nice to stumble into one who totally deserves his.


    It was also revealed last year that he had hidden a entire Jewish familly for a long period inside his house. The nazis had ironically allowed Bartali to be unmolested because they feared doing so would hurt their reputation, so they let his house go unchecked.

    http://road.cc/content/news/28770-gino-bartali-hid-jewish-family-florence-home-protect-them-holocaust

    However not everything is black and white. According to issoisso who is one of the best cycling minds on cnf, Bartali would do some shameful sh*t too.

    Quote
    No offence, but you need to read up on Bartali

    None of the two was a pleasant person. Bartali was hardly a saint. Once during a Tour of Switzerland he saw a rider on a swiss team by the side of the road, struggling to breathe, begging for water.
    Bartali dismounts in front of the guy, picks up his water bottle, drinks a sip, and then empties the bottle on the ground before laughing at the guy.

    That's just one tidbit. Bartali pulled these kinds of stunts on a constant basis. So did Coppi. So don't try to pass one off as a saint and the other as a sinne

    http://forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php?p=547497
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  • « Last Edit: January 31, 2012, 00:38 by The Hitch »
    Despite the self-serving data benders and associated propaganda to the contrary, I am led to believe that there are pockets of organised, highly sophisticated dopers, even within 'new age' cycling teams. Personally, I don't accept that the 'dark era' has ended, it has just morphed into a new guise.

    Francois the Postman

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    Re: One does these things and then that's that
    « Reply #7 on: January 30, 2012, 19:23 »
    Oh, I am well aware of the stuff he would pull of as a rider. It is hard not to know, if you start to scratch even the surface, really. As far as I can see, it is nigh impossible to be a top athlete and not have some sort of unsavoury way in which the self-centered and self-obsessed qualities to win, that give you that winning-edge and killer-instinct, show themselves in other ways too.

    Which kinda makes it all the more remarkable that a guy like that took these type of risks, solely for the benefit of others, and also never bragged about it afterwards either. Not even to his wife. I can think of many who, if they ever would have had the guts to do the same, would not have passed up on the opportunity to also take the spotlight somehow, and get full credit for it. As if you should keep it quiet, if you can be that proud.

    Never had him down as a saint, U have read far too much, and people are far too complex for that simplistic label anyway. But some stuff graces folk in ways which are hard to surpass, and Bartali's extracurricular activities add a chapter to the story of cycling that is one of the more humbling ones that I have stumbled across. It sure is one heck of a way to use your earned status, risking your life too.
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  • « Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 19:24 by Francois the Postman »

    Dim

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    Re: One does these things and then that's that
    « Reply #8 on: January 30, 2012, 21:13 »
    Spent a good hour yesterday looking at the people who had been recognised for their efforts by the State of Israel. A lot of little known people, and well known people who did some amazing things including a fellow in South America who personally arranged the visa's for 13,000 jews. Amazing.
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  • BYOP

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    Re: One does these things and then that's that
    « Reply #9 on: February 28, 2012, 01:02 »
    For what he did during the war he is Righteous among the Nations.
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