OK, file this under better-late-than-never, or never-leave-home-during-the-Giro, but I have finally cracked open Dino Buzzati's Giro d'Italia, a series of newspaper articles filed by the Tom Wolfe of postwar Italy on the 1949 Coppi-Bartali duel. It's so great I'm going to type in a couple brief excerpts on the flip.
And this is just Chapter 1...
[discussing the parcours from Sicily to the Alps] Should we now abstain from making such an instinctive comparison with the departure of the Mille di Quarto [ed: Garibaldi's historic expedition]? Too trite perhaps? Not at all. We will absolutely not abstain from doing so neither now nor on any eventual future occasions, if they should present themselves. It would amount to betraying the truth. Because it is impossible that whoever invented this unprecedented start did so without remembering the Lion of Caprera. And even admitting that none of the organizers had consciously thought about him, then it means that unwittingly they repeated for cycling, rather than for military purposes, Garibaldi's reasoning of 90 years ago. Is there perhaps a sort of peninsular strategy that recurs as an obligatory solution for whomever has decided to conquer Italy? And which does not allow a deviation from the traditional path even if the invasion is launched by bicycle?
[Talking about the sleeping domestiques on the eve of the start] He dreams, the little soldier of the roads, who has never heard the crowd roar his name, nor been lifted on to the shoulders of the delirious throng after his victory. He is dreaming of what all men at one time or another have an absolute need to imagine, otherwise life would be too hard to bear. He is dreaming of his Giro d'Italia... an awe-inspiring revenge. Right from the first stage, of course. At 106 kilometers from Palermo, where the road begins to climb rudely toward the Colle del Contrasto, more than 3,000 feet above sea level, out of the thundering ranks of racers, still as compact as a herd of buffalo, who leaps out, no other than he, the gregario, the unknown one, whose name children have never chalked on suburban walls, neither to encourage him, nor to denigrate him. Alone, he hurls himself like a madman up the steep ascent; and the others don't even pay any attention to him. "What an idiot," says someone who knows it all, "just the best way to do yourself in; in five minutes at most you will explode." But he continues to fly. As if carried by a supernatural impetus, he eats up switchback after switchback as if, instead of climbing, he was hurtling down the Stelvio or some other mountain pass. The others, in the rear, are now no longer visible. People along the road shout Bravo Bartali, but he shakes his head to make them understand that he is someone else. Who is he, then? No one recognizes him. In order to identify him, his number must be checked on the list printed in the newspaper. And panic runs through Sicily.
I'd like to go on... but that should give you enough reason to find your own copy.