Gino Bartali (right) keeps a watchful eye on Fausto Coppi
“Age and Treachery will overcome Youth and Skill”. The infamous Fausto Coppi quote, emblazoned across the front of one of our best-selling t-shirts, is one that strikes a chord with a fair number of cyclists out there, especially those who have perhaps given up hope of receiving a call-up from Team Sky!
Yet when it comes to the Giro d’Italia, Coppi’s remark has special resonance and in celebration of the 100th edition of the race, which begins on the island of Sardinia on May 5th, two books chart the fascinating history of what many claim to be the best of the three Grand Tours.
The tales of skulduggery and controversy, coupled with the fierce rivalries blended with Italian swagger and style, never fail to entertain! Italian cycling has always been a tacit acceptance of the fact that some riders will do anything – absolutely anything - in order to secure a place on the podium!
In Corsa Rosa, author Brendan Gallagher has provided a sweeping history from the inaugural event in 1909, right through to the present day. It’s a warts and all account, detailing the lengths that many of the main protagonists would go to in order to seal victory, or at the very least, ensure their rivals didn’t take the spoils!
Somewhat plodding recounts of how races unfolded are punctuated by some great stories: Gino Bartali’s obsessive stalking of Fausto Coppi, for example, which he hoped would confirm his suspicions that his younger rival was routinely doping. The book even delves into the accusations that Nibali’s victory in 2016 was a little too miraculous.
Likewise, Colin O’Brien, in Giro d’Italia: The Story of the World’s Most Beautiful Bike Race presents a complete overview of the race from the early 1900’s to the present day. It’s an enjoyable read and O’Brien deftly weaves background information on the most gifted protagonists as he recounts how some of the most notable Giro’s unfolded.
Entertaining it may be, but we shouldn’t dwell for too long on the often cynical, uncompromising character so rife in Italian cycling, but remind ourselves that Italy, as illustrated in our Giro Spaghetti t-shirt, has provided cyclists the world over with a lexicon of cycling parlance, famous marques and unforgettable heroes. We can be sure of one thing - the Giro and all that it represents, will continue to enthrall long after the crowds disperse after the finish in Milan on Sunday 28th May.
Corsa Rosa: A History of the Giro d’Italia
by Brendan Gallagher
Published by Bloomsbury Sport in paperback. RRP: £12.99
Giro d’Italia: The Story of the World’s Most Beautiful Bike Race
by Colin O’Brien
Published by Pursuit (27 April) in hardback. RRP: £20