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Fotheringham's finest hour
on 30 August 2009
Bill Fotherigham writes very well on cycling and I always look forward to his latest offering. For me this his best effort to date by some distance and also the best cycling biog I've read.
The reason for this is that, in this book, he avoids the usual formula of the racing and results and a potted history of the person. Insofar as the results are concerned, cycling is hamstrung by the palmares of Eddy Merckx, which is like like comparing the batting averages of Don Bradman against everyone else. There is no comparison: the gulf is too large. What he has done instead is weave a multi faceted story: the rags to riches story of the poor boy made good; the complex rivalry between himself and Gino Bartali; and of course his 'interesting' domestic life that polarised Italy. All this is interspersed against the historical, social and political upheaval of the war and after, and the social mores of Italy moving from the control of the church to a secular society. Ultimately, the story of the man is more interesting than the career.
Coppi and Bartali were two of Italy's greatest ever sports stars and the various photos that turn up in this book and elsewhere are iconic. They attained film star status with the media attention they attracted. And it makes me wonder what results they would have achieved but for the intervention of the War. Fotheringham also did a good thing in managing to get Raphael Geminiani onside as it's apparent he's good for a quote and very opinionated; and, quick to take umbrage like he did with Paul Howard's book on Jacques Anquetil.
I would recommend this book to any sports fan, not just to those interested in cycling because the sporting angle becomes subsumed in the life story, which makes it all the more worthy.