You know, this anticipating business is taxing. Mr. Diarist came home from the library the other day with this book, though, and I’ve spent several happy hours reading it, and, hence, somewhat distracted from my present, Brompton-less, state.
The McConnons’ Road to Valor. is essentially a biography of Italian bicycle racer Gino Bartali, but interwoven through his story are all sorts of corollary histories: the development of the Tour de France; fascism, bicycles and propaganda in Italy and in Germany; the social history of much of Italy during Bartali’s early years, and more.
Though I have no interest at all in competitive sport, I was hooked from the very first pages, and especially taken with the acknowledgment of what bicycles meant, particularly to the young in villages like the one from which Bartali came. Two wheels, in the early 20th century, meant unheard-of mobility, and the potential for equally improbable freedom.
[Gino] and [his brother] Giulio rode on their bikes all over the countryside near Florence, with a band of their classmates like a herd of Tuscan horses that galloped in the grasslands nearby. “I felt like one of those foals,” Gino said, “the young horses who ran with their manes in the wind without the slightest restraint.”
Bartali was an internationally famous bicycle racer and a Tour de France record-holder, but who among us — among those of us who love cycles — doesn’t have, at times, moments as glorious as those Bartali describes? But you needn’t be a cyclist, a history buff, or a sports fan to enjoy this utterly fascinating read — anyone with a lively and curious mind will find it entertaining, and a fine way to while away the hours you might otherwise spend yearning for some treasure of your own, which has yet to arrive, should you find yourself in that particular situation.