Home » On the trail of Bottecchia: the fascist shadows on death, the three funerals, the dedicated museum and the recovered memory of the first Italian who won the Tour

On the trail of Bottecchia: the fascist shadows on death, the three funerals, the dedicated museum and the recovered memory of the first Italian who won the Tour

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On the trail of Bottecchia: the fascist shadows on death, the three funerals, the dedicated museum and the recovered memory of the first Italian who won the Tour

1/8 on the barrel traces (4)

Sitting outside the restaurant “At the old meeting place” – a San Martino di Colle Umbertoprovince of Treviso, on the provincial road that leads from Pordenone to Vittorio Veneto – you can’t help but notice the facade of a house where one is posted bicycle racing, a photo of a man in yellow, a vintage tubular. The writing on the wall indicates that a little further away is the house where he was born Octavius Bottecchiathe first Italian to win one hundred years ago Tour de France. Just three hundred meters from the bar, run by descendants of Bottecchia and in fact here too there is a metal engraving depicting the cyclist, there is an ancient grindstone (a small mill with hammer and forge) which for a few weeks has hosted, thanks to the commitment of the Pro Loco chaired by Tiziana Gottardithe small but delicious Ottavio Bottecchia Museum. In the suggestive place, open every first Sunday of the month, you can find a cyclist’s bike, one sweater yellowracing glasses, a watch donated by the team with which he ran the laps France and several photos. It is the first museum entirely dedicated to the Venetian cyclist. Three great-grandchildren (their grandparents were Ottavio’s brothers) donated what they had in the house of their most famous ancestor. For a long time they wanted the sample was remembered after years of oblivion.

Domenico and Franco are brothers, they have both past eighty and their surname is Bottecchia. They were born in the same house where Ottavio and their grandfather grew up. Domenico tried in his youth to do the cyclist, he trained and looked after his bike like a treasure, but at a certain point his father made him understand that it was better for everyone if he dedicated himself full time to work. The passion for cycling it remained with all three, with the two brothers and also with Renato Zarpellonwho does not bear the famous surname but is related twice: the paternal grandmother she was Ottavio’s sister and her mother was Caterina’s sister, the wife of the champion. “We are happy – says Renato a ilfattoquotidiano.it – because everyone here had forgotten a bit about Bottecchia. The inhabitants of the country and the administrators. There wasn’t much talk about it even in our family, even his wife Caterina, who I happened to question when I was little, never broached the topic of his initiative. She was making a gesture with her hand as if to say forget it, it’s been a long time.” In fact, the mystery of Ottavio Bottecchia’s death has never been solved.

Ottavio had a short but record-breaking cycling career, winning due Tour de France by fila, one even holding the yellow jersey from the first to the last day. He will die young at the age of 33, in circumstances that have never been completely clarified. Start the adventure from amateur cyclist at almost 26 years old in the spring of 1920, after returning with the bronze medal to military valor from WWI. He turned professional in 1922 and the following year took part in the Giro d’Italia and above all in the Tour de France as a gregarious rider. Henri Pellissier, as captain perhaps he could have achieved the success he achieved in 1924 earlier. No Italian had ever achieved it. In 1925 he replies and wins again. “Baptism” the French are starting to call it. With the money he earns he sets up his entire family, the one he is building with his wife Caterina and those of his family family members tighter. In May 1927 he was reached, while he was at Paris to run, by terrible news: his brother Giovanni to whom he is very close is killed by a car (owned by a hierarch fascist). He returns to Italy, he wants his brother’s family to have justice, including economic justice. But he doesn’t accept the low proposal that comes to him from the fascist. Ottavio has always tried to keep himself as far away as possible from the interference of the fascist party. His ideals are socialist inspired. A few days later, on 3 June 1927, Ottavio, who had gone out to train alone, was found seriously injured on the street in the municipality of Trasaghis, in Friuli. He will die on June 15, 1927. He remains the mystery. Trivial fall in the street, fascist ambush or something else? Impossible to solve the mystery a century later.

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Il funeral was threefold: Gemona del Friuli, Pordenone and Colle Umberto. Many people showed up to say their last goodbyes to Ottavio. Among these it was difficult to identify politicians and Italian champions of his era. However, my colleague from Ravenna was present Michele Gordini, a couple of years younger. Gordini had 17 children from two different marriages, the youngest Bartolomeo he is still one of the best trained masters of boxing. “My dad and Ottavio were friends – remembers “Meo” a ilfattoquotidiano.it – in the 1925 Tour in the evening they found a place to sleep together after the stages. My father always remembered that he was the only one who had more strength than him on climbs, when he died it was as if a Brother. My dad and Ottavio were both socialists of Turati, they spoke clearly without hiding their ideas. My father was convinced that fascists had something to do with his friend’s death. He himself had also suffered repercussions for not having taken out a fascist party membership card. He was winning the round Tuscanywhen he was ambushed on the street, almost they killed with a spanner of eight, he had the scar until he died in 1970.” “Ottavio was a generous man – continues Zarpellon a ilfattoquotidiano.it – as was his son Danilo, who died prematurely. The boy was also very strong on a bike, but he didn’t have his father’s hunger to do it runner. Personally I regret that one of Ottavio’s bikes, which was here in the house, is not here today San Martinobut for some time at the cycling museum of Portobuffole”.

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In the last years of his life Bottecchia went to live in Pordenone and in the streets of Friuli he would have had the tragic accident. The Pordenone stadium (as well as the sports field of Colle Umberto) is dedicated to him. Over the years in Friuli more than in Veneto they remembered the cyclist. We are in a borderland between the two regions, and today most people tend to mistakenly think that Ottavio was Friulian. The birth of the museum could change the perspectives of memory Italian collective.
In the village there is a monument that commemorates the sample and his wingman Alfonso Little one. Even at the site of the accident, a good hour’s drive away, in the municipality of Trasaghis, province of Udine there is one. “When I pass by – Domenico says emotionally – it’s always aemotion. I wasn’t born when the tragedy happened, but it’s still a part of my family that’s gone forever.” Ottavio is buried in the cemetery of Saint martin, from the center of the hamlet there is a small hill to climb. The campoanto it is small, the family tomb is located at the bottom on the right. Renato he placed a nice photo of the cyclist in yellow shirt. Here there are many Bottecchias and just as many Vendrame buried, the enthusiasts who came from outside to place a flower on the grave or dedicate a thought to him never found the place of burial. Now it’s easier to geolocate. Ottavio is buried with his wife Caterina and his children DaniloElena and Lucky Vittoria. Soon there will also be a theatrical performance and the recreational-sports event “Insegue Bottecchia”. The museum, in addition to attracting curiouswill open up to the littlest ones in schools and to kids who do mountain bike with the local team that bears the name of Bottecchia. In the year of the centenary of the first Italian victory of the Tour de France, the most important stage race in the world, starts from Italy: for four days it will travel through the places of BartaliCoppi, Pantani, Nencini. The places of Ottavio Bottecchia were left out. Who is trying to keep the memory of his brother of his grandfather would like to be present on the roads to admire with emotion the passing of the yellow jersey.

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