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Gino Bartali:
Portraits of a Champion in Pirelli Magazine

The cyclist Gino Bartali passed away twenty years ago, on 5 May 2000. He had notched up an endless string of victories, between the 1930s and 1950s, wearing his Legnano-Pirelli jersey and also with the Italian national team. It would be impossible to retrace the entire career of this cycling champion here, from his debut as a young amateur in 1934 – he was born in Ponte a Ema in 1914 – until he retired from racing in 1954. By the end, he had reaped huge international success and, partly due to his historical rivalry with Fausto Coppi, he had become a living legend. However, we would like to show you Bartali as he appeared in so many pages of Pirelli magazine, which – as a periodical of “information and technology” – always devoted ample space to the sports phenomena of its day, with articles by famous writers and journalists like Orio Vergani. It was indeed Vergani who, as a correspondent of the Corriere della Sera, wrote an article entitled “How I know Gino and Fausto”, published in Pirelli magazine no. 4 of 1950. It painted a precise portrait of the two heroes of the time: on the one hand the tenacious Florentine from out of town, with his “strange, obstinate, furious, almost unruly way of pounding on the pedals”, and on the other the silent, tormented Fausto. Deep down, in this epic clash between Fausto Coppi – who is compared to Achilles, the “son of a goddess, dismayed by the supernatural gifts received from nature” – and Gino Bartali, who is imagined as Ulysses, the “son of common mortals, patient and irascible”, the journalist appears to take the side of the man, who “lives out his Odyssey with patience and nerves of steel”.

Another great expert on cycling was Giuseppe Ambrosini, the founder, amongst other things, of Guerin Sportivo magazine, who in the previous year wrote an article entitled “Bartali and Coppi: the secret of power”, in Pirelli magazine no. 3 of 1949, making a meticulous comparison between the two champions. Ambrosini describes Gino Bartali’s “benevolent generosity”, in perennial contrast to the hypersensitivity of Fausto, “whose morale is extremely influenced by his physical condition, by his opponent, by everything around him”.

Gino Bartali certainly loved fine food. In 1951, Pirelli magazine commissioned Nino Nutrizio, another magnificent scribe, to write a new article about him: the former apprentice of the bicycle mechanic in Ponte a Ema had now become a hero, captured in a moment of well-deserved rest after the cycling season: “born tough, old, and hardened, Bartali smoked more than he should have done during the winter, indulging in some abundant dishes, and he didn’t disdain a dance or even two with his young wife, whom he loved so dearly.” These are portraits of a champion, revealing all his humanity, in both sport and life.

The cyclist Gino Bartali passed away twenty years ago, on 5 May 2000. He had notched up an endless string of victories, between the 1930s and 1950s, wearing his Legnano-Pirelli jersey and also with the Italian national team. It would be impossible to retrace the entire career of this cycling champion here, from his debut as a young amateur in 1934 – he was born in Ponte a Ema in 1914 – until he retired from racing in 1954. By the end, he had reaped huge international success and, partly due to his historical rivalry with Fausto Coppi, he had become a living legend. However, we would like to show you Bartali as he appeared in so many pages of Pirelli magazine, which – as a periodical of “information and technology” – always devoted ample space to the sports phenomena of its day, with articles by famous writers and journalists like Orio Vergani. It was indeed Vergani who, as a correspondent of the Corriere della Sera, wrote an article entitled “How I know Gino and Fausto”, published in Pirelli magazine no. 4 of 1950. It painted a precise portrait of the two heroes of the time: on the one hand the tenacious Florentine from out of town, with his “strange, obstinate, furious, almost unruly way of pounding on the pedals”, and on the other the silent, tormented Fausto. Deep down, in this epic clash between Fausto Coppi – who is compared to Achilles, the “son of a goddess, dismayed by the supernatural gifts received from nature” – and Gino Bartali, who is imagined as Ulysses, the “son of common mortals, patient and irascible”, the journalist appears to take the side of the man, who “lives out his Odyssey with patience and nerves of steel”.

Another great expert on cycling was Giuseppe Ambrosini, the founder, amongst other things, of Guerin Sportivo magazine, who in the previous year wrote an article entitled “Bartali and Coppi: the secret of power”, in Pirelli magazine no. 3 of 1949, making a meticulous comparison between the two champions. Ambrosini describes Gino Bartali’s “benevolent generosity”, in perennial contrast to the hypersensitivity of Fausto, “whose morale is extremely influenced by his physical condition, by his opponent, by everything around him”.

Gino Bartali certainly loved fine food. In 1951, Pirelli magazine commissioned Nino Nutrizio, another magnificent scribe, to write a new article about him: the former apprentice of the bicycle mechanic in Ponte a Ema had now become a hero, captured in a moment of well-deserved rest after the cycling season: “born tough, old, and hardened, Bartali smoked more than he should have done during the winter, indulging in some abundant dishes, and he didn’t disdain a dance or even two with his young wife, whom he loved so dearly.” These are portraits of a champion, revealing all his humanity, in both sport and life.

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