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Bikes and their riders, saving lives

January 27, 2012

Today the UCI website posted a non-cycling story about a great cyclist.

Gino Bartali — four-time Italian champion, and winner of three Giros and two Tours de France and numerous other races — is thought to have saved 800 persons of Jewish faith during World War Two by smuggling materials for new identity papers inside the frame and saddle on his bike. Since he never spoke about his actions, not even to his wife, an investigation continues to seek evidence regarding the extent of Bartali’s actions.

The story quotes Bartali as having said, “Good is something you do, not something you talk about.  Some medals are pinned to your soul, not to your jacket.”

Reflection one

The peloton’s domestiques, or any rider who serves whichever teammate rides strongest on a give day, heads to the team car or bus after the finish line. For him or her, no kisses on the cheeks, no bouquet of seasonal blooms, no trophy to raise overhead before a sea of admiring fans and camera lenses. If his team leader did not win that day, he might ask himself if he pulled long and hard enough on that last climb, each pedal stroke siphoning oxygen from the fragile capillaries penetrating his heart. He knows he worked as hard as he could. After the race at the dinner table, he discusses the food and the next day’s program.

Reflection two

Bikes save lives. Descendents of those Bartali rescued know this. So do many, many others, by losing weight and building strength in the soul.

  • Michel Marcuse: “I ride to stay alive…riding taught me that I had more determination and inner strength than I was aware of.”
  • Katie Ratcliffe: “
In February 2009, I found a lump on my left breast after a self-examination…If I had not lost the weight [by cycling] I would not have found the lump and could have been dead in a year’s time.”
  • David Grant: “Three years ago, I was dying a slow death and didn’t even know it. My vision was failing, as were my internal organs. It’s a pretty safe bet to say that cycling saved my life.”

[updated 1/29/2012]

From → Essays

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