In the 1930s and 1940s, Bartali's reputation preceded him across Europe. At the time, the Italian from Florence was the most famous cyclist and was considered a national hero in his country.
Bartali, a devout Catholic, who went to church after every competition and was therefore nicknamed "the pious," won the won the France twice, the Giro d'Italia three times, and numerous other races.
While everyone knew about his achievements as a cyclist, no one knew that during World War II, Bartali used his unusual status to help Italian Jews who hid to survive.
Bartali was one of the members of an underground network headed by Cardinal Dalla Costa of Florence. He served as a courier and hid documents and food stamps for Jews in the handlebar and seat of his bicycle.
He also hid a Jewish family which survived the persecution in the basement of one of his homes.
Bartali died in 2000. Several years ago, Shlomo Paz from the Israeli city of Kfar Saba, who hid in that basement as a child, asked Yad Vashem to recognize the Italian cyclist as a righteous gentile. He was joined in his request by his brother, who lives in Italy, and by 91-year-old Giulia Baquis from the Israeli town of Karkur.