The Giro d'Italia is not your ordinary race. For many cycling fans the world over, it's a place where disbelief becomes suspended, where rationality is kicked to the curb, and where romantic Italian dreams rule the cycling landscape. It's easy to poke fun at the notion that we should all be romantic about cycling in Italy -- their riders are still grappling with the stain of corruption even when, in a few quarters, the sport seems ready and able to move on; the race itself is dominated by Italians, sometimes absurdly so (given the distribution of talent); and the ambitions of the race organizers often blow up in their snow-bound faces.
And yet, we love the Giro, because ... the Italian people love the Giro. Not the people of the World; that would elevate the race to the Tour de France, where everything is tremendously important and serious, sometimes to the detriment of having fun. The Giro is important, but just unimportant enough for the focus to shift somewhat toward the joy of simply being there. When the landscape steals the show, it's often not the gradient statistics so much as the beauty of the roads and the surroundings. The key stage goes over the Colle delle Finestre, a road sculpted from the dreams of gravel riders everywhere. That's partly about competition, but just as much about the joy of riding a bike. In Italy, the role of joy in cycling never goes overlooked for very long, and trite or no, it's an indelible part of the Giro.
Speaking of indelible and Giro...
Dino Buzzati's Giro d'Italia
I have expounded on this book's virtues before:
- Here's a recap of links
- Here's a quote from the dream of the gregario (chapter 1)
- Here's a bit of Buzzati taking stock behind the scene
- Here's Buzzati teeing up the race's biggest moment, with a recommendation from Girbecco
The book is an idiosyncratic approach to covering the Giro by a poet-journalist who doesn't really know the sport but who knows post-war Italy as well as anyone alive. Buzzati's books are heavy on dreams that bring the human psyche alive in ways that can blow you away. Well, me anyway. There's an "Italianness" to it all, if you're not completely averse to stereotypes, which is what this post is partially built on. Usually it's worth challenging popular perceptions like that through which much of the English speaking world sees Italians, but I dunno, maybe not? Anyway, the translation is as beautiful as the writing, and if you think this book is great, grab a copy of the Tartar Steppe next.
Oh, and the book is available used on Amazon for $23 and up, which is about $100 less than the last time I looked. It's out of print, for now, so this is how you buy it if you want a copy. Each time I mention this, a few days later the price is up 400%, so I'd advise action!
And speaking of having fun with the Giro d'Italia... I and a special guest-crayon-artist will proceed to unveil the book chapter-by-chapter over the next... um, I don't want to make predictions about timing. But yeah, it's a crayon re-telling of Buzzati's Giro d'Italia. One FSA DS point* to whomever can guess who my co-conspirator is here.
[*Estimated, with a 1-point margin of error.]
Let's get this started...
Chapter 1: The Dreams of the Gregario... A Triptych.
In the opening of his book, Buzzati reveals to us the Expedition of the Thousand-like transfer of the 1949 Giro d'Italia, and all its apparatus, to Palermo. The official transport is by boat, and everyone except the most privileged (who prefer traveling by train) is packed on board for the voyage to Sicily. Among them are the anonymous gregari, the workers, who will awaken to a reality of servitude, but to them, until the Giro starts, perhaps their private cycling dreams can still take flight, in the bowels of the massive ferry boat. Buzzati examines one such dreamer.
By yours truly. Remember, crappy execution is a feature, not a bug. Oh, and all bikes must be magenta. Just stay with me here, OK?
Most of the remaining chapters are more awake. I say most. Anyway, you can learn more about the book, and how to draw with crayons, in the coming days. Stay tuned!