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5.0 out of 5 stars
An excellent page-turner..., 15 July 2012
This is an excellent book in which John Foot tells the compelling story of Italian cycling, intertwined with discussion of Italian culture and politics.
The book is at its best when telling interesting and engaging anecdotes about the legendary cyclists and trainers. The author makes the cycling careers of Ganna, Coppi, Girardengo and Bartali much more personal when recounting their training plans, physical injuries and relationships with women, friends and rivals. We also hear of lesser known riders and the lengths they went to in order to endure a stage of the Tour de France or Giro D'Italia, whether it be hitching lifts on trains, sneaking in barns to warm up or enjoying free meals from keen locals. Alongside these well-researched and intimate anecdotes is discussion of important events such as the significance of ending a Giro D'Italia stage in post-war Trieste, and Bartali winning in the Tour de France at a time of strikes and unrest back home in Italy. The combination of light-natured and more serious is well-balanced by the writer.
Another positive is the readability of the book, helped by its structure and organisation. The book starts with the origins of cycling in a poor, young Italy and ends with cycling in a modernised, urban Italy. The great cyclists get a chapter each, something which makes the often intertwined lives of the great men easy to follow and understand.
Perhaps the only negative is that sometimes the book makes over-generalised statements about the importance of cycling in Italy, without any real qualification. Given the excellent research the author has evidently undertaken, it would have been helpful to support these statements with a reference.
Overall this is an excellent book, sure to be an engaging read for cycling enthusiasts, lovers of sport or those looking for an alternative take on Italian history, culture and politics.