Book Review: Gino Bartali's Road to Valor
So much has been written about Bartali in the anglo cycling press, but more about his cycling exploits, less about the man. For me, his character is a lot more interesting. A new book, Road to Valor, goes deeper into the story of a man who during the World War II risked everything to save Jewish refugees...and who after the war crucified Bobet and Robic in the Alps to literally save all of Italy from the brink of revolution.
Although I thought I knew everything about the Bartali story, having read many Italian language books and magazines in the past, I found this one to be an excellent, well researched story. You won't get details on the races, but you will learn read some new insights and facts about the life of Gineattaccio I'd never seen printed anywhere. Hats off the the McConnons, wonderful book.
|Gino in his private chapel back in 1994. (Photo from BS June 1994)
Read the book. See just how much he risked.
|Cicli Bartali for Bambino.
Then I heard 'the voice'.
That gravelly, unmistakable voice. (hear it yourself below)
|Gino was still working the Giro at 80+.
He spent so much time during of his last years in public, just 'being Gino Bartali.' Even well into his 80's,, he was paid to do appearances for Sprite, Club 88, working the Giro.
It kinda took me aback at the time: This man whose exploits helped save his nation from revolution, and whose anonymous good works saved some of the faceless forgotten was still working hard for his money. The cruel reality of professional cycling, particularly is that many ex-champions don't make enough to retire comfortably. They have to keep hustling. 1982 Coors Classic winner and Tour de France king of mountains jersey wearer Jose Patricinio Jimenez still drives a taxicab in Medellin. Vuelta winner Eric Caritoux is out working his family vineyard in the shadow of the Ventoux. And Bartali did appearances into his 80s.
'He was a soldier of Rome. Honor him.'- the final scene in 'Gladiator'
After Bartali passed away a dozen years ago, I convinced a group of cyclosportive friends to do our own, small, tongue-in-cheek pilgrimage ride to remember Gino Bartali. It involved a group of five 40-something, mostly out of shape businessmen. Guys with a lot of intended miles, but precious few real ones in our legs. Some screen printed yellow Biemme jerseys. A rented RV, filled with Beer. And an autumn escape west on the Mass Pike to assault the highest climb in Massachusetts, Mount Greylock. OK, so it wasn't the Izoard, but for us, that year, it might as well have been. To beat back middle age, some boys go to Vegas. Some ride up mountains. That's just the way it is.
|G.S. Piano atop Greylock. Vecchio. Veloce. Feroce. (and a more than a little soprapeso!)
That saturday morning climb up Greylock ended up being a grovel in a cold October rain, a fitting homage to the Alpine stage in '48 that saw Gino seal his 2nd Tour. I've no doubt that Gino was up there laughing at us. But I know his Tuscan spirit animated the post ride festa at a great Italian restaurant in Williamstown. Our squadra's own wine professional Nick leveraged his metier as one of New England's preeminent experts in all things vino, making sure the bottles of rosso were perfect. Lot of talking, talking, talking. Nice memory.
Being the total Bartali fanatic, I finally snagged myself a real wool replica Bartali jersey a few years ago. It's a rare one, made by Santini for the film Il Grande Fausto. Few were made.
Someday I hope to wear it in the Eroica, but I'm afraid if I ride Gino's strada biancha, and drink the local Chianti, they might have a hard time getting me back on the plane. Or that my voice might get gravelly and never come back.
What am I saying...then again... I'd miss the cold rain, winter rides and veldridjen. Would be a nice trip though...
That read is called 'the Wisdom of Tuscany', and it makes a pretty compelling case for why the Tuscan lifestyle is superior, and offers suggestions as to how we might all partake in our share of it, no matter where we live.
Mate's thesis cites multiple factors: Family orientation, small town rural living, attachment to the soil, orientation toward artisinal pursuits, the omnipresent family business, incredible thrift, socially oriented childhoods not dominated by technological gadgets, a practical DIY orientation and of course, those pillars of tradition and faith... It's a good read. And a better life philosophy, I think. I was sold. (Just don't tell my wife, or she'll call me on it and expect me to trade time cycling for gardening...)
It's the perfect accompaniment to the Road to Valor. Enjoy them both cafesupporters.