A Giro d'Italia Bookshelf Round-up

Maglia Rosa - Rouleur/Bloomsbury

When it comes to books about the Tour de France, there's so many of them that we're left beating them off with a stick. For the Vuelta a España there is but one. The Giro d'Italia has - in very recent years - become the Goldilocks of the Grand Tours, with neither too many nor too few books available telling aspects of its story. Here we take a quick trip through the main books you should be aware of.

Let's begin this trawl through the Giro-related bookshelf with the main books detailing the whole history of the race.

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Herbie Sykes's Maglia Rosa (Bloomsbury, 2011, updated 2013) offers a history of the race with an emphasis on girini who tend too often to get over-looked elsewhere. Three chapters alone - about Tino Coletto, Orfeo Ponzin, and Italo Zilioli - make the book worth the investment, as does the array of photographs drawn from the archives.

John Foot's Pedalare! Pedalare! (Bloomsbury, 2011) is an ambitious history of Italian cycling with an emphasis on the heroes of the Giro, particularly Alfredo Binda, Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi and Fiorenzo Magni. Men made in Italy who, in turn, helped make Italy themselves. This socio-political aspect of the story differentiates Pedalare! Pedalare! from most other cycling books and puts it in a similar category to Benjo Maso's Sweat of the Gods and Christopher Thompson's Tour de France.

Bill McGann's The Story of the Giro d'Italia Volume One and The Story of the Giro d'Italia Volume Two (McGann Publishing, 2011 and 2012) follow the model McGann set out in his two-volume history of the Tour de France and tell the story of each Giro, from the inaugural race in 1909 through to 2012 (the two volumes split at 1970/71). Rich in anecdotes, as well as seeing how individual races developed you also gain an understanding of how the race itself has evolved down through the years.

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Beyond the overall histories of the Giro, a couple of books cover the story of individual races. Prime among them is a Café Bookshelf favourite, Dino Buzzati's The Giro d'Italia (VeloPress 1998) which tells the story of the 1949 race and the duel between Coppi and Bartali. Herbie Sykes's The Eagle of the Canevese (Mousehold Press, 2008) is a biography of Giro-winner Franco Balmamion with an emphasis on the 1962 Giro.

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A lot of the other biographies and autobiographies you'll find on the Café Bookshelf mention the Giro in passing. Covering them all here would probably take too long so let's look instead at a few of the notable books. The obvious starting points are books about Giro winners. Top of that list, I guess, is Fausto Coppi, and there's two books you'll want to look out if you want to learn about him: William Fotheringham's Fallen Angel (Yellow Jersey Press, 2009) and Herbie Sykes's Coppi (Bloomsbury, 2012). Both tell stories about the Giro, in passing. Aili McConnan and Andrea McConnan's Road to Valor (Orion, 2012) offers a biography of sorts of Gino Bartali, but with a focus on this Tour victories and pretty much overlooks his Giro wins. That notwithstanding, it's worth reading to find out more about the man himself.

Both of the recent Eddy Merckx biographies, along with the Merckx photo album, cover the Giro in the era of the Cannibal: Daniel Friebe's Eddy Merckx: The Cannibal (Ebury, 2012), William Fotheringham's Merckx: Half Man, Half Bicycle (Yellow Jersey Press, 2012) and Ron Reuman et al's Merckx: 525 (VeloPress 2012).

Looking at the race in the eighties Laurent Fignon's We Were Young and Carefree (translated by William Fotheringham, Yellow Jersey Press, 2010) has a lot to say about the Giro he lost (1984) and a few other editions of the race. Stephen Roche's Born to Ride (ghosted by Peter Cossins, Transworld, 2012) has detail aplenty on the 1987 corsa rosa which Roche won. Moving on a few years Matt Rendell's The Death of Marco Pantani (Orion, 2006) covers the highs and lows of Pantani's Giro appearances.

Some other books from the biog/autobiog section that also tell anecdotes from the Giro in passing include: Freddie Maertens's Fall From Grace (Ronde Publications, 1993); John Deering's Team on the Run (Mainstream Publishing, 2002); Allan Peiper's A Peiper's Tale (Mousehold Press, 2005); Vin Denson's The Full Cycle (Mousehold Press, 2008); Paul Howard's Sex Lies and Handlebar Tape (Mainstream Publishing, 2008); Mark Cavendish's Boy Racer (ghosted by Daniel Friebe, Ebury, 2009); Nicolas Roche's Inside the Peloton (Transworld, 2011); Bill Strickland's Tour de Lance (Mainstream Publishing, 2010); and Johan Bruyeneel's We Might As Well Win (ghosted by Bill Strickland, Mainstream Publishing, 2008).

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A few other books worth mentioning include Daniel Friebe's Mountain High (Quercus, 2011) which will tell you stories about some of the mountains that help make the Giro beautiful. From the techs-mechs shelf, Guido P Rubino's Italian Racing Bicycles (VeloPress, 2011) and Paolo Facchinetti and Guido P Rubino's Campagnolo VeloPress, 2008) will leave you panting for an espresso and - along the way - tell a few tales from the corsa rosa. As will Daniel Benson and Richard Moore's Bike! (Quercus, 2012) which offers potted histories of many bike brands and tells a few Giro-related tales along the way (disclosure: I contributed a few of chapters to this book).

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Finally, a couple of books that will be appearing on the Café Bookshelf soon. First up is Marco Pinotti's The Cycling Professor (translated by Fabrizio Viani, Ediciclo 2012) which takes the reader inside the pro peloton and offers a take on a few races - including the Giro - from the viewpoint of Pinotti's saddle. Rolf Rae-Hansen's The Breakaway (2013) tells of a cycling holiday to remember - or maybe forget - that takes in some of the climbs made famous by the Giro.

All told, even for those limited to just English-language bike books, there's a lot to choose from for fans of the Giro d'Italia.

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