This week Cailin, our Programming Assistant, read Road to Valour written by Aili McConnon and Andres McConnon, published by Doubleday. Andres McConnon will be reading from this book on our new stage, the Nothing But The Truth Tent at 3 p.m.
About the Book:
Road to Valour is the inspiring, against-the-odds story of Gino Bartali, the cyclist who made the greatestcomeback in Tour de France history and, between his Tour victories, secretly aided the Italian resistance during World War II. Set in Italy and France against the turbulent backdrop of an unforgiving sport and threatening politics, Road to Valour 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 Valour isthe 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.
Q & A with Cailin:
1) What drew you to this book?
As a Canadian, I’ve never felt very exposed to professional cycling. I’m vaguely aware that it’s a big deal in other parts of the world, but it’s only ever been on the periphery of my sports consciousness. When I came across Road to Valour, cyclist Ryder Hesjedal had just become the first Canadian to win the Giro d’Italia. Excited by that achievement, I thought that Road to Valour might provide a good introduction to the historical context and importance of that race, and of the Tour de France.
I’m also always very interested in stories of individuals’ experiences during World War Two. Gino Bartali’s work smuggling counterfeit identity documents for persecuted Jews sounded like a fascinating story in itself, even if he hadn’t been a famous Tour de France winner.
2) Did you enjoy reading it?
Very much so. The book lived up to my hope that it would explain the historical origins and development of cycling in Europe. Gino Bartali was a stellar athlete forced to contend with infuriating political interference throughout his career. It was very inspiring to see how he faced the disappointment of having the peak of his athletic career interrupted by war, and how he put his skills and fame to use to help protect many of the war’s most vulnerable victims.
3) What was the most interesting fact you learned?
It’s hard to choose one fact! One story that stands out in my mind comes from when Bartali was secretly smuggling documents across Italy in the frame of his bicycle. When Jewish refugees or other anti-Fascists fled to southern Italy or the countryside, they particularly dreaded having to switch trains at stations because the risk of detection and capture increased dramatically as they moved across the platforms. According to the authors, Bartali would time his arrival at the station to coincide with these trains. Word would spread that the famous sports star was near, and crowds would gather excitedly for autographs. The confusion and distraction would help the refugees make their transfers undetected. What an incredible use of fame!
4) Would you recommend it?
I would definitely recommend Road to Valour to history buffs, and to sports fans, whether they are already knowledgeable about cycling or not.