Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation

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Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Aili McConnon , Andres McConnon
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 12, 2012
Road to Valor is the inspiring, against-the-odds story of Gino Bartali, the cyclist who made the greatest comeback in Tour de France history and secretly aided the Italian resistance during World War II. 
   Gino Bartali is best known as an Italian cycling legend: the man who not only won the Tour de France twice, but also holds the record for the longest time span between victories.  During the ten years that separated his hard-won triumphs, his actions, both on and off the racecourse, ensured him a permanent place in Italian hearts and minds.

   In Road to Valor, Aili and Andres McConnon chronicle Bartali’s journey, starting in impoverished rural Tuscany where a scrawny, mischievous boy painstakingly saves his money to buy a bicycle and before long, is racking up wins throughout the country.  At the age of 24, he stuns the world by winning the Tour de France and becomes an international sports icon.

   But Mussolini’s Fascists try to hijack his victory for propaganda purposes, derailing Bartali’s career, and as the Nazis occupy Italy, Bartali undertakes secret and dangerous activities to help those being targeted.  He shelters a family of Jews in an apartment he financed with his cycling winnings and is able to smuggle counterfeit identity documents hidden in his bicycle past Fascist and Nazi checkpoints because the soldiers recognize him as a national hero in training. 

   After the grueling wartime years, Bartali fights to rebuild his career as Italy emerges from the rubble.  In 1948, the stakes are raised when midway through the Tour de France, an assassination attempt in Rome sparks nationwide political protests and riots.  Despite numerous setbacks and a legendary snowstorm in the Alps, the chain-smoking, Chianti-loving, 34-year-old underdog comes back and wins the most difficult endurance competition on earth.  Bartali’s inspiring performance helps unite his fractured homeland and restore pride and spirit to a country still reeling from war and despair.

   Set in Italy and France against the turbulent backdrop of an unforgiving sport and threatening politics, Road to Valor is the breathtaking account of one man’s unsung heroism and his resilience in the face of adversity.  Based on nearly ten years of research in Italy, France, and Israel, including interviews with Bartali’s family, former teammates, a Holocaust survivor Bartali saved, and many others, Road to Valor is the first book ever written about Bartali in English and the only book written in any language to fully explore the scope of Bartali’s wartime work.  An epic tale of courage, comeback, and redemption, it is the untold story of one of the greatest athletes of the twentieth century.

Frequently Bought Together

Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation + Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi (Yellow Jersey Cycling Classics) + Slaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de France
Price for all three: $45.79

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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award – Biography
Winner of the Christopher Award
Winner of the Mazzei Award

"You do not have to follow cycling to relish Bartali’s story....Like Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit before it, Road to Valor is about an unlikely, headstrong champion who transcended his sport to make a deep impact on the broader world.” – Sports Illustrated

“The McConnons have told the story of his [Bartali’s] great and greater victories powerfully and well.” – Boston Globe

“Gino Bartali was a hero....He was a cyclist who saved lives by riding throughout Italy during the second world war for a purpose higher than money or glory” – Bill Littlefield, NPR

“This thoroughly documented biography is both inspiring and immensely enjoyable.” – Publishers Weekly

“[Road to Valor] tells a dramatic and moving story that is virtually unknown to most readers....An important addition to World War II biography and also to the history of twentieth-century cycling.” – Booklist

“Impeccably researched and thrillingly told....This is truly an amazing tale of a poor Tuscan boy who pedaled his way not only to sports immortality, but into true heroism.” –The Globe and Mail

“‘Thou shall not stand idly by’ is a powerful Biblical command. In Aili and Andres McConnon’s book it offers a moving example of moral courage. A simple citizen and great athlete chose to oppose a cruel and racist political dictatorship by saving Jewish victims in Italy. Was it so hard to become a hero then? It was enough--enough to remain human. And yet.” – Elie Wiesel
“The two Tours de France won by Bartali are more than mere entries in the record book of winners. The fact that they were won many years apart proves what an exceptional champion he really was. Above all, the war years separating these victories now reveal Gino to have been a true hero.” – Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France
"Whether you are a Tour de France fan, a history buff, or looking for an entertaining way to learn about both, Road to Valor will have you turning the pages with more conviction and speed than Bartali could turn the pedals!  An engaging and mesmerizing read." – Craig Hummer, Tour de France broadcaster for NBC Sports
“A gritty, scary story of endurance, Road to Valor traces one man’s harrowing journey from the resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Italy to a comeback triumph in the Tour de France—told with verve and an affecting appreciation of the human spirit.” – Bruce Porter, New York Times bestselling author of Blow
"This book is a magnificent ride through the uphill-downhill-uphill story of Gino Bartali. It inspires anyone who tenaciously holds to doing what is just, no matter how difficult, in the face of ignorance and terror. Bartali is a hero for all times."
Fred Plotkin, author of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler
“Many cycling fans recognize the name Gino Bartali, and up until now most people only knew him for the races he won. But during some of the most tumultuous years of the twentieth century he leveraged his fame and risked his life for those being persecuted. With this complete look at Bartali’s life, his legacy as one of cycling’s greatest heroes grows even stronger.” – Chris Carmichael, legendary coach and former Giro d’Italia and Tour de France racer
“Bartali is one of cycling's great icons, and this book adds another important dimension to this man's world.” – Sir Paul Smith
“It is with genuine pleasure that I recommend to men and women of all ages and all religious and ethnic backgrounds Road to Valor by Aili and Andres McConnon.  It recounts a true story that is marvelously exciting and inspiring as well.  The heroism of so many Italians during World War II and afterwards is a tale that needs to be told, and the authors tell it masterfully.  Their readers will be deeply touched by the courage of the hero of the book, Gino Bartali, and others who put their lives at risk to protect the innocent and defend both their faith and their commitment to democracy.” – Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop Emeritus of New York
“At a time when so many sports figures have come to personify scandal and bad behavior, how refreshing it is to read the inspiring tale of Gino Bartali's life.  The McConnons have drawn a portrait of the Italian cycling legend that uplifts the spirit, and reminds us of the many ways tenacity and faith can reshape the world.  This lively book will ride off with your heart and cycle through your memory for years to come.” – Raymond Arroyo, New York Times bestselling author and host of EWTN's The World Over Live

About the Author

Aili McConnon is an award-winning journalist, based in New York. She has written for BusinessWeek Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Sports Illustrated and has appeared on ABC, CNN, and NPR.

Andres McConnon is a researcher, journalist and award-winning author who has written for various publications including Sports Illustrated, The Huffington Post and The National Post.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030759064X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307590640
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written - captivating! May 9, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Road To Valor by Aili and Andres McConnon
This sister and brother writing team have a "breakaway" book that is well written and amazingly documented. The story reminded me of what it must have been like to live in any of the European counties during World War II. The strength of the Italian people to recover from the war is so tied to the life of their famous cyclist, Gino Bartali. His efforts to win the Tour de France for the second time after the war is a remarkable ten year span. His strong Catholic faith and heroic help of Jewish families during such a terrible time in history was nothing short of courageous. I was also captivated by the details of the Tour de France and the physical and cycling skill involved in this fiercely competitive race. A good read for sport fans as well as historians.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This book is a wonderfully written story that tells both the story of Gino Bartali, the epic cyclist of the old guard, who famously won the Tour de France twice, TEN YEARS APART!, as well as the less known story of Gino's secret efforts to protect and save Jews persecuted during Italy during the era of WW II Nazi occupation. To read this book is pure delight as it lays the background magnificantly - explaining the importance of the bicyle in the 1930s and the gritty details of the early Tour de France and also setting the scene for Gino's heroism by providing the backdrop of Italian Fascism, Nazi persecution of Jews, and the post-war rebuilding effort.

This quick and easy read is the best book of the year.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating April 30, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've long been interested in the history of WWII, but I've always focused on the battles portion of it - the dog fights in the air, the soldiers, the maneuvering...and paid little attention to the role of civilians in war. But I decided it was time to do some reading that area, and started with Road to Valor.

I enjoyed it a great deal - since I'm also a road-racing fan.

The authors have done an excellent job putting Gino Bartali's story tigether, from his two Tour de France races - one before and one after WWII, plus his heroics as a civilian during the war when he joined a like-minded group of civilians who created fake identity cards for Jewish refugees. The horror and misery of war for soldiers is bad enough, but one must not forget the sufferings of the civilians who live near or in-between advancing armies, and who suffer either the excesses of victorious soldiers, or beaten soldiers looking to take their rage out on those who can't fight back.

The tales of Bartali's racing career, and of his two Tour de France victories - the one in 1948 of immense importance to the Italian people - are also redered vividly.

Recomended for students of WWII and/or those interested in the history of road racing and what it takes to be a champion....(if a flawed human...and Bartali's flaws are not glossed over in this excellent and fair-minded biography.)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent June 12, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book. It is a true page-turner but it is also so elegantly written and incredibly well-researched. I was not only carried along by the story, but I was totally engrossed by the period of history that the authors tackle, all through the lens of this single extraordinary man. Certainly, cyclists in particular would like this book, but I would also totally recommend it to non-cyclists (such as myself) as well; it is just so engrossing, a terrific read, and an eminently satisfying book. Perfect gift book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Look at Wartime Italy May 14, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
So much is written about Britain and France in WWII, this is book's insight into the civilians of Italy before the war, during and after is terrific. It also sheds a lot of light on cycling. Cycling to Italians during this period was like baseball to Americans at the same time. Heroes were huge and race followed closely.

Gino Bartali grew up poor and lived for a bicycle. He then lived for bicycle racing. Just as he peaked, winning the 1938 Tour de France, the war broke out and his career was put on hold while he grew old for the sport. During the war he worked clandestinely as a courier, carrying forbidden false ID's and paperwork to save Italy's Jews from the German occupiers and remaining Facsists. After the war, he entered the Tour de France again in 1948 when he was well over-the-hill. overcoming all odds, he won the race after a plea from his friend, Italy's prime minister. The communist leader had just been shot and Italy was ion the verge of civil war. Bartoli's inspiring win calmed Italians back at home and moved their focus from the violence to sport and a national hero.

As Sergeant Joe Friday would say, that's the facts. This books transcends the facts, putting all of them in perspective. This devoutly Catholic man was thrust into his times' events without looking to be a hero. The events and times made him more than just a champion bike racer. He was a symbol, a hero, a member of the resistance, and an optimistic the focal point for a country having faced decimation and facing possible civil war and unrest as it tried to raise from the near dead after the war.

This is an excellent book and highly recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True story about a fascinating man June 12, 2012
By AnneB
I had not heard of Gino Bartali before reading this book, I do not follow the Tour de France and know very little about the sport. I read this because I always enjoy books about WWII and I really enjoyed this one. I usually read historical fiction and was concerned that this book might be a boring but Bartali is a larger than life character that was so fascinating to read about that I was not bored once through the entire book.

The authors do a great job of beginning the story with Bartali's struggles in his early years and really showing his passion for bicycles. They also wrote about the importance of bicycles in Italy during this time in general and how many of the population used them for their main form of transportation. I love reading books about Italy and this book gave me a whole new look at the country. I usually read about the countryside and the food, in this one I read about the poor neighborhoods and what bicycle races meant to so many people in the country.

The actual races that are discussed were fun to read about. I had no idea that the races were as long and dangerous as they were described in the book, it made for an exciting read. I have so much more appreciation for the strength and endurance of the racers in this sport.

There is lots of information about the politics in Italy during this time. Since I do read a lot of WWII books I did know some of the things talked about but I got a much more in depth idea of the different political problems facing the country. Mussolini is discussed often, he would hinder Bartali a few times in his quest for winning races. The parts about Italy during the war are at times heartbreaking, the people suffered to much.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very good
The author really doesn't understand cycling. The book isn't very well written. I tried, but wasn't able to get more than a few chapters into the book before giving up.
Published 9 days ago by A. FELLENZ
5.0 out of 5 stars Gino Bartalli's story is a must read for cyclists and history lovers.
an excellent read, Gino Bartalli is a true hero and his story is written in a very engaging and compelling way.
Published 22 days ago by arthur gelles
4.0 out of 5 stars More than the biking...
This was a very good read. It told a for bigger story than a guy on his bike. it lets you get a good look inside how things were in that period. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Anthony Luhning
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
Riveting account of a man who was determined to be the best he could be, not only as a cyclist but as a compassionate human being. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dino T.
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This is an amazing story. If you have made it this far, buy it and read it. I recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest is history and cycling.
Published 6 months ago by Martin Tolton
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story
I'm enjoying reading this book, written in a plain prose, no frills, narrating a true story of a local hero who happened to be also one of the greatest cyclists of all times.
Published 9 months ago by Stefano Bertolucci
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting History
I love historical novels and or biographies. I found this story to be most interesting and compelling. Anyone interested in the history of WWII will appreciate this book.
Published 11 months ago by Suzanne Watson
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational
I really enjoyed this book. The story was interesting & well written. It held my interest & I looked forward to listening everyday. I would definitely recommend it.
Published 12 months ago by R. Solomon
5.0 out of 5 stars Vino Bartali
A fabulous read and well written. It was like you were there in time with Bartali. The descriptions of the poverty pre war and the deplorable destruction of Italy by the fascists... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Great overview of Italy before and during WWII
While the core of the book is about an Italian who becomes Italy's world champion cyclist, it gives you a great overview of what it was like in Italy before and during WWII. Read more
Published 14 months ago by SMXSteve
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