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Giro d’Italia 2021, Stage 12: Siena – Bagno di Romagna. Like an old oak tree


Giro d'Italia 2021 Siena – Bagno di Romagna Tappa 12

Stage 12: Siena – Bagno di Romagna. Like an old oak tree

In May 1928, Alfredo Martini was at the roadside in Pistoia, waiting for the peloton of the Giro d’Italia. His silver Francioni bicycle shone bright in the blinding diffuse light that was already a hint of summer. Catching sight of the mighty Binda clad in the rainbow jersey left the young Martini amazed and breathless. It was an awe-inspiring experience. He had waited so long to see him. What if that wasn’t real? But his idol was real, indeed. And Martini knew that cycling would never fail him.

In 1927, his father bought him his first bicycle, building up two months’ worth of savings – 420 lire – at the Ginori blast furnace in Colonnata, burning his hair and lungs while firing ceramics. In 2019, he had a cycle track named after him near the house where he used to live in Sesto Fiorentino – the turning point of a stage leading from Siena to the restorative thermal springs Valle del Savio. And all the while, riding a bicycle never once let him down. To begin, cycling gave him time for thought – both while riding and while waiting for the peloton to zip by, as quick as lightning.

In second place, cycling never failed Martini – quite the contrary – because it would let him wander and run free, not only with his legs but also with his mind

Cycling had made him prominent. His friends would wait for him after he finished training to hear his stories. Pistoia would become Cape Horn, Fiesole would become as fierce and exotic as a Himalayan climb. Besides, cycling was knowledge. Riding a bicycle allowed him to explore the sharp, clayey cliffs of the Valdarno, the crete around Siena or the tree-filled climbs such as the Passo della Consuma. «And it felt like plunging into the beautiful Tuscan landscape. A beauty that is perfect, severe and harsh at points». 

And finally, cycling never let him down because it has gotten him anywhere. In the words of Marco Pastonesi, Martini was everywhere: «in his hometown Sesto Fiorentino, at all race starts and finishes, which are equally his home, in cafés and taverns, in a car, on the phone, at the roadside, at the library, in theatres, at church». He was right behind Coppi and Bartali at the Cuneo-Pinerolo, a witness to history (together with Astrua and Cottur, as he always pointed out). He was in a hotel somewhere between Monaco and Milan, hearing Binda and Villa talk about cycling and rainbow jerseys, which he would be celebrating in the following decades with his athletes of the national team in San Cristóbal, Goodwood, Colorado Springs, Renaix, Stuttgart and Benidorm.

Martini will be everywhere at the Giro again this year, like an old oak tree at the side of a straight, clear road – “no one lurking round the bend, over there” Gianni Mura would have said – casting its large shadow over the thoughtful spectators waiting for the Giro d’Italia to pass by.

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