OTTAVIO BOTTECCHIA THE ITALIAN POWER
San Martino di Colle Umberto 1 August 1894 – Gemona del Friuli 15 June 1927. First Italian to win the Tour De France in 1924, wearing the yellow jersey from the first to the last stage. The Bricklayer from Friuli, Ottavio Bottecchia, has become an undisputed legend of cycling.
“He advances in strides, precise as the balance of a pendulum: he seems to be the only one who doesn't make efforts beyond his possibilities. He has sixteen minutes on the second place. But today he isn't singing.”
STORY OF A LEGEND - 18th TOUR DE FRANCE - THE FIRST ITALIAN TO WIN THE TOUR
Ottavio Bottecchia, Italian legend of international cycling, was the most sensational revelation of the Tour de France. He makes history by being the first Italian athlete to win the Tour de France, wearing the legendary yellow jersey from the first to the last day and defending it at every stage. Taciturn and obscure, without knowing a word of French and without ever having seen a street beyond the Alps, he proves to be a great champion.
Since he was a boy, Ottavio participated in prize competitions and in one of these he won a gold watch for coming first. Enlisted at the outbreak of the Great War, he was part of a special corps: the "assault explorers", equipped with folding bicycles, where he distinguished himself for actions that earned him the bronze medal for military valor. Teodoro Carnielli, owner of a small bicycle factory and president of the Vittorio Veneto Sports Association, was the first to give him a racing bike; and sent the future champion to the managers of the Pordenone Sports Union, where he began to reap his first successes.
The eleventh edition of the Giro d'Italia was won by Costante Girardengo, but fifth in the general classification, and, first in the isolated and junior classifications, was Ottavio Bottecchia. The Giro therefore earned him the consecration of the press as the "best man in the race". The fifth place obtained by Ottavio Bottecchia in the 11th Giro d'Italia, in his third year among the professionals, was noticed by Aldo Borella of the French manufacturer Automoto who proposed him to join the team and race the Tour de France alongside the fearsome Pélissier brothers. From the first stage it was clear that Ottavio Bottecchia was a unique champion and a great champion: at the end of the first stage, 381 km from Paris to Le Havre, Ottavio crossed the finish line second out of over 200 participants. The French fans have adopted him, his name is on everyone's lips “Bottescià! Bottescià!“. But the real surprise turned out to be the next stage when he took first place and the prestigious yellow jersey. French journalists do not fail to praise the Italian survey on a daily basis. The first Tour de France of the Italian champion, who had won the hearts and support of all Italians, ended with a fantastic second place behind his team captain, Henri Pelissier.
In June 1924, Bottecchia was in top shape, he pedaled without any effort on any slope, his breath was perfect, his morale was very high. The revelation athlete of the previous edition surprised all the participants, crossing the finish line first from the first stage, winning the much coveted maillot jaune. Read more about: “The Calvary of the Tour de France” There was no race that year nor history for anyone: Bottecchia put on the yellow jersey at the first stage and didn't take it off until Paris, crowning himself champion ahead of Frantz and establishing the record of being the first athlete to wear the yellow jersey of the Tour from first to last stage. On 22 July the front page of the Gazzetta dello Sport headlined in capital letters: "Bottecchia triumphantly wins the Tour of France and reaches the goal that the strongest Italian routers had been pursuing in vain for 20 years". Bottecchia is not only the first Italian to win the prestigious French competition, but also the first rider in the history of the Tour to have worn the yellow jersey from the first to the last stage. Not content, after the absolute triumph of 1924, he won the Tour de France also the following year, in 1925: at the end of the twentieth Tour de France, out of 130 riders only 49 returned to Parc des Princes. Wearing the yellow jersey since the first stage, Ottavio also climbs onto the first step of the podium in the 6th, 7th and final stages of the Tour, wearing the maillot from the ninth to the eighteenth stage. At the finish line in Paris, Ottavio wins, confirming his first place in the general classification from the previous year, ahead of Lucien Buysse, 54'20” behind, and Bartolomeo Aimo (56'17”). The welcome for Bottecchia was triumphant and Italian sport was resting on its laurels. The career and life of Ottavio Bottecchia died early, on 15 June 1927 in Gemona del Friuli, in the province of Udine, in a context over which the mystery. A strange accident, probably caused by a still unexplained illness, struck the 33-year-old Ottavio while he was walking along the familiar streets where he used to train and even today there is no certainty about it. What is certain is that a great champion passed away that day.
La carriera e la vita di Ottavio Bottecchia si spensero presto, il 15 giugno 1927 a Gemona del Friuli, in provincia di Udine, in un contesto sul quale aleggia ancora il mistero. Uno strano incidente, causato probabilmente da un malessere tutt’ora inspiegato, colpì il 33enne Ottavio mentre percorreva le familiari strade dove era solito allenarsi ed ancora oggi non si hanno certezze a riguardo. Quel che è certo è che quel giorno si spense un grande campione.