By Arnie Leshin
Even the Godfather would have appreciated this.
It wasn’t anything like Paul Revere riding his horse through Boston warning that “The British are coming.” It wasn’t a race of any kind, which was obvious without support from fans lining the road, but to the population of 1,500 in Italy’s small village of Lodetto, it was professional cyclist Davide Martinelli achieving a moral victory.
Everyday, despite the weather, he would hop on his bike to help deliver medicine and other supplies to elderly residents and others during the coronavirus pandemic. And to those in Lodetto, Martinelli’s hometown, the service is of great use to the hard-hit Lombardy region of northern Italy, for the village and the area around it has neither a pharmacy or a supermarket.
First, Martinelli makes a daily trip to Rovato, the next town over, to pick up supplies via orders he receives each night, and then maps out a route for the following day. It is a routine that helps these people survive thanks in part to saviors like Martinelli.
“I’ve got a bike and two legs in pretty good form,” he says, “so riding these six miles a day is no big deal. I wanted to help the people who always support me during the season, and it’s time to give back to them.”
He says he joined up with a Facebook group called “Lodetto Solidale” (Supporting Lodetto), where those in need can place their requests online, by phone or message.
“I go to the pharmacy,” he says, “and when I arrive inside, I put on gloves and a face mask. If I go for three or four people, there’s less risk of contagion.”
The Martinellis, Davide and his father, Giuseppe, are familiar names in Lodetto. Number one, Giuseppe is one of the most successful team directors in ctancling, having guided the likes of Marco Pantani and Vincenzo Nibali to Tour de France victories as well as other riders to Giro d’Italia wins.
He adds that what his son is doing now is a step above a victory for one of his own athletes, and because it’s gratifying to him and to us because he’s part of the family.
Then there’s Davide also being part of his father’s Astana team — the squad Lance Armstrong rode for in 2009 when he came out of retirement. At 26, the young Martinelli still has his best racing years ahead of him. So far in his career, he has won only two stages in minor races, both in 2016.
Thus, this initiative has brought him more recognition than anything else he has done on his bike.
And his proud dad says he had nothing to do with his son’s initiative besides offering fatherly advice.
Says Giuseppe, “I just told him to be careful, be safe, don’t touch anyone, and to use a mask and gloves when he enters the pharmacy. Otherwise, I am very proud of what he’s doing for the needy ones in Lodetto, and they are most appreciative of it.”
Ditto the Godfather.