Italian Gino Bartali (1914-2000) is one of the greatest champions in the history of sport. Double winner of the Tour de France 10 years apart in 1938 and 1948, God alone knows how many times he would have triumphed if the war had not put the Tour in parentheses during this long and dark period.
When he won the 1938 Tour, at the same time as the victory of the "Squaddra Azzura" at the World Cup, Bartali is the hero of the fascist Italy of Mussolini. The monster wants to make him the symbol of his delirium. When she appears before him in Rome to be honored by his exploits, the entire Italian Tour team greets the dictator by raising his arm to do the "saluto romano". One rider does not do it, probably at the risk of his life: Gino Bartali with the yellow jersey on his back.
It goes even further: "Gino the stake" takes advantage of the moment to make the sign of the cross, which at that time, even 200 m from the Vatican, is a challenge to the regime. Fortunately, we do not touch a hero and Mussolini pretends to see nothing. From his hands, Bartali even receives the highest fascist distinction. On his way home, Gino will throw the medal into a river.
He saves 800 Jews
Because yes, Bartali is a hero, a real one. During the war, the winner of the Tour travels by bicycle from one end to the other of Italy and at the risk of his life, false papers to save the Jews and persecuted. He hides them in the tubes of his machine and travels up to 350 km a day to get them from one point to another.
Many times he is controlled by the "black shirts" and misses going to camp, all Bartali that he is. The henchmen of the regime never find anything. Thanks to Bartali, who also hosts a Jewish family hidden in his cellar, 800 Jews, mostly children, are saved between 1943 and 1944.
Bartali never talks about it. When he won the Tour in 1948, no one knows what an admirable resistance he was. It is only after his death that the secret of this "just among the righteous" is revealed.