Road to Valor: A True Story of World War II Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation
Siblings Aili, a journalist, and Andres, a historical scholar, meticulously researched this story of a cyclist still revered in Italy as a national hero. Gino Bartali was a poor Florentine son whose faith and discipline helped him win the 1938 Tour de France. His wartime experience as a bicycle-mounted messenger, first as part of his army service from 1940 to 1943 and then for Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, the Archbishop of Florence, in a secret network of resistance members who produced and distributed false identity papers for Jews, kept him competitive. This, and the inspiration of the Italian people struggling to recover from the war, contributed to his ability to win a second Tour in 1948, the only Tour winner with such a span between wins
Although this book illuminates a little known chapter in World War II history, it also tends to idealize Bartali. While his wartime activities are inspiring and this recognition of those activities well-deserved, the most exciting passages come from Bartali’s triumph over climate, physical terrain, and age to win his second Tour. This biography is accessible and reads like a novel. I would recommend it to anyone interested in cycling, World War II, or sports heroes.