The Tuscany city of Florence is working on a bid to host the grand depart of the 2014 Tour de France to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Gino Bartali and recall other great Tuscan riders including Gastone Nencini, who won the Tour de France in 1960 and Franco Ballerini who died in February last year.
Bartali won the Tour de France twice, in 1938 and then again after the second world war in 1948. This second win has become legendary because it reportedly distracted the Italians from supporting a civil war. Bartali was born in Ponte a Ema, near Florence and was a huge figure in the sport until his death in 2000.
"The other day the assistant mayor called me about an idea that we've had for five years and that now is finally coming to life," Andrea Bartali, Gino's son revealed to Tuttobiciweb.
"I can reveal that the first steps have been made to make a request to the Tour director Prudhomme asking that Florence host the start of the Tour de France in 2014. It'd be a great way to remember Nencini, Ballerini and my father because 2014 is the 100th anniversary of his birth."
The importance of winning the 1948 Tour de France
Andrea Bartali recalled how his father went on to win the 1948 Tour de France after getting a call from the head of the Italian Parliament, asking him to win to ease the tension in post-war Italy. At the time workers had occupied factories and Palmiro Togliatti, the head of the communist party, had been shot outside parliament.
"Dad got a call from De Gasperi asking him to win the Tour so that people would be distracted from supporting the protests. He promised to win the next day's tough stage and told his teammates 'We've got to win for Italy.' He went on to pull back the 21 minutes he'd lost in the Pyrenees and arrived in Paris in yellow with a lead of 26 minutes."
Florence is the home to many famous Italian riders, including Mario Cipollini, Paolo Bettini, Michele Bartoli, Andrea Tafi and former Italian national coach Alfredo Martini, who rode with Bartali during his own professional career.
The 2011 Tour de France will start in the Vendee region of western France. The 2012 Tour will start in the Wallonne region of Belgium, while Corsica is likely to host the 2013 Grand Depart.
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