TOUR DE FRANCE – The Israeli team honors Italian champion Gino Bartali at Florence synagogue

The start of the Tour de France, the annual multiple-stage bicycle race which this year originated in Florence, was dedicated to Gino Bartali. To honor the Tuscan champion recognized in 2013 as a “Righteous Among the Nations” (the honor given to non-Jews who took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust) a race was previously held in 2018 in Jerusalem. It was the memorable opening of a Giro d’Italia that passed through Haifa, Tel Aviv, Eilat, and concluded three weeks later in Rome. Bartali, the most renowned Italian cyclist before the Second World War, won both stage races: the Giro d’Italia in 1936 and 1937 and the Tour de France in 1938. Without WWII, his record of accomplishments might have been richer.
Sport and humanitarianism were intertwined in Florence at a reenactment of Bartali’s exploits organized at the Florence synagogue,by Israel Premier Tech, the Israeli professional cycling team participating this year in its fifth consecutive Tour de France. Sylvan Adams, the team’s patron, emphasized the importance of Bartali’s selfless altruism. “It’s a story we never grow tire of recalling,” said Adams. Alongside him were Ron Baron, the team’s other owner, Gioia Bartali representing the “Righteous” champion’s family, and Enrico Fink, president of the Florence Jewish Community.
At the conclusion of the event, there was a poignant dual testimony. Israel Premier Tech presented two survivors of the October 7 massacre. Sharon Shabo and Avida Bachar, both from kibbutz Be’eri, are amateur cyclists. October 7 changed their lives forever: in the terrorist attack, Bachar lost his wife, a son, and a leg. He returned to cycling in Florence with the aid of a prosthetic leg.
During the Florence presentation, led by UCEI journalist Adam Smulevich, a message from Honorary Consul of Israel Marco Carrai was read. The entire team was present in the synagogue and ready to take on the roads of the Tour with the declared objective of a stage victory: from Danish veteran Jakob Fuglsang, silver medalist in road cycling at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, to Canadian newcomer Derek Gee. Last year, Gee won the award for the most combative cyclist in the Giro d’Italia. For everyone, a propitious final toast was organized by the Jewish Community and the Italy-Israel association, opened with the Hebrew wish “LeChaim.” “To life!”

Photo: Noa Arnon