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Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 12, 2012
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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.
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I bicycle about 290 days a year, 15,000 miles in the last 2 years, all road bikes, some vintage. A huge photo of the Eiffel Tower is mounted in the room where I watch the Tour de France and other bicycle races on television. Just so you know where I come from.
This is a very well researched work and consists really of two stories. One is the story of Gino Bartali's life, including his youth, his family life, and, of course, his bicycle racing activities. The other is about Italy both during Mussolini's reign and during the post war period.
Gino Bartali's 1948 Tour victory is portrayed as having helped lift Italy out of its turmoil at the time, as there were riots between Communist and non-Communist factions at those years. Anyhow, a good read for cycling and Gino Bartali fans.
As WWII raged on in Europe, Bartali's best years of cycling competition were wiped away. However, instead of capturing the imagination of the public with his exploits in bike races, Bartali rode to save lives. With a plan concocted by a Roman Catholic priest, he began transporting forged documents in his bike frame between Florence and Assisi. These papers became new identities for Italian Jews, their papers for survival rather than transport to to concentration camps outside of Italy. Bartali protected those around him through these years, not disclosing his frequent absences from home to even his wife as anything more than training.
By the time WWII was over and cycling competitions began anew, Bartali's best days were behind him. However, his performance in 1948 is truly astounding. As Italy teeters on the brink of civil war, Bartali shocks his fellow racers with an epic ride through the Alps in what unimaginable weather conditions. By the time he is done conquering the mountains, he wins his second Tour de France in staggering fashion. To this day he holds the distinction for longest gap between Tour victories. In today's age of diet, conditioning and nutrition, Bartali's chain-smoking, red wine drinking will undoubtedly leave modern athletes shaking their heads a bit in disbelief --- I certainly wondered how he survived to even win the 1948 Tour.
Bartali remained reticent to discuss anything he did in WWII and it is a remarkable bunch of research the McConnon's do to uncover the emotional heart and soul of this story. I'm grateful for their devotion to this man and his story. The world is quite lucky to know Gino Bartali beyond just a cycling record.