Gino Bartali was born in Florence on July 18, 1914, the third son of four children of a small landowner, Torello Bartali. As a young boy, he earned pocket money by selling raffia to makers of covers for wine bottles. He began work in a bicycle shop when he was 13. He started racing at the same age, became a promising amateur and turned professional in 1935 when he was 21. He was the Italian champion the next year. On November 14, 1940 Bartali married Adriana Bani in Florence. The wedding was celebrated by Cardinal Della Costa and was blessed by Pope Pius XII, to whom Bartali donated a bicycle.
Bartali won a stage of the 1935 Giro d’Italia and was King of the Mountains, the first of seven times he won that title in the Giro. In 1936, before he turned 22, he won the Giro and the Giro di Lombardia, although his season was marred when his brother, Giulio, died in a racing accident on June 14. Bartali came close to giving up cycling.
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