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Water! Cycling’s iconography about this theme is so ample. Many pictures portray cyclists who drink or attempt to cool down in every way you can think of. One need only think of the photo that, no doubt, became an icon of cycling: the transfer of the water bottle between Bartali and Coppi.
Of course, today it has become easier for cyclists. Team cars and motorcycles always ready, vests designed to hold as many bottles as possible by the team’s staff, drinks with vitamins supplements… But in the past, cyclists’ life was certainly more difficult, especially for the assistants who had to worry about caring for and supplying their captains.
Getting water was not that easy, they had to make do. Therefore, they stopped at the fountains to fill the bottles or the audience would make it available. They even stopped in the bars along the way. To cool down, they would anxiously wait for someone to sprinkle some water with systoles or buckets.
Water represented life for cyclists! Ending a race or having to withdraw in a crisis could depend on having quenched their thirst or not. Think of a race like the Tour de France that takes place in July with infernal temperatures, the massive fatigue of climbing the Alps or the Pyrenees!
Water is an essential element that united everyone in the race. If someone ran out of it, someone else was ready to give them what was left in their bottle.
Alfredo Martini said: “So much has been discussed about the famous photography of the exchange between Coppi and Bartali. But the point is not who gave it to whom. The point is that two runners, rivals, have swapped a sip of water. Cyclists who can not meet for ten years, but when they do, it’s as if they had left the day before, because they split fatigue, they split this sip at the bottom of the bottle. Here’s what cycling is, here’s what generosity is.”