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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

4.6 out of 5 stars 163 customer reviews

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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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030759064X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307590640
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By pebbles VINE VOICE on 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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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