Israel’s first professional cycling team are set to remember Italian cycling legend Gino Bartali by embarking on a special ride in his honour.
On March 20th, the Cycling Academy Team will set off from Bartali’s home city of Florence and finish 100 kilometres later in Assisi.
The team will cycle along the route that Bartali used during the Second World War to smuggle letters and secret information over behind Fascist lines on behalf of the Anti-Nazi resistance which helped save Jews escaping from Nazi persecution.
“As representatives of Israel and of its cycling movement, we feel obliged to offer something special in memory of an extraordinary sportsman that did so much for the Jewish people,” team manager Ran Margaliot told the Corriere Fiorentino newspaper on Wednesday.
Bartali used his fame to carry messages and documents to the Italian Resistance. Bartali cycled from Florence through Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche, sometimes traveling as far afield as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name. Neither the Fascist police nor the German troops risked discontent by arresting him.
It emerged in December 2010 that Bartali had hidden a Jewish family in his cellar and, according to one of the survivors, by doing so saved their lives.
Bartali won the Tour de France twice, in 1938 and 1948, as well as the Giro d’Italia three times — in 1936, 1937 and 1946. He was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations in 2013.
4 days after the ride, the team will line up in the 3-day Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali (UCI 2.1) where they will face a number of World Tour teams.