I received a copy of Giro d’Italia by Herbie Skykes at the Buxton Mountain Time Trial. I’m not sure if it was a prize or given to every rider. It is published by Rouleur. Herbie Sykes is an Englishman who moved to Italy and became fascinated with the Giro and Italian cycling culture. The book tells the Giro through the experiences of top riders – (though not necessarily famous outside of Italy). One attraction of the book is that there are many new cycling stories. The famous Tour de France stories are all well known, but in the Giro there are many different epic cycling stories from lesser known Giro riders.
For example, Franco Balmamion the last Italian rider to win back to back Giro victories (I’d never heard of him). There are also some interesting accounts of riders who made it from the poorest social and economic circles.
With all the ups and downs of the long history of the Giro d’Italia, it also gives you an insight into Italian culture and political life as much as it does into cycling.
The one difficulty with the book was that sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the unfamiliar Italian names. Alas, my knowledge of the Giro is quite limited apart from the famous Bartoli and Coppi. But, it is always good to read something new. It was a timely read, with the Giro starting in May this weekend too.
Photos from Giro
Photo flickr goflo
Photo flickr per0ni
The other problem is that, especially in the past few decades, it’s hard to read it without feeling considerable regret the Giro has been sabotaged by doping. Such a great history, but the history is tainted; the amount of pride you can get from the past seems to depend on your tolerance of doping infractions.
[Warning: begin rant] It’s a bit off topic, but I wanted to mention the Pantani phenomenon. Marco Pantani was a tragic life – someone who deserves considerable sympahty, but it is hard to think of a more unsuitable role model for professional cycling. I just can’t get my head around these Pantani limited edition bandanas and shirts, which are proliferating at the moment. In a way I find them more painful than a Livestrong yellow wrist band. It sums up the curious Italian approach to cycling and doping. They are cynical after years of doping, but they love to celebrate one of most prolific dopers and someone who led protests against the implementation of doping controls.
The magic always remains
Photo Flickr rowena
The good thing is that whatever happens, the Giro always bounces back. Whatever it goes through, there is always interest in the epic three week tour; there is an instinctive capacity for renewal. In the past few years, the Giro seems to be undergoing another period of renewal. With the attraction of some of the big Tour de France podium riders and cycling names like Cadel Evans, Wiggins, Nibali and Quintana it seems the Giro is in a strong position.
Watching the Giro fly up to the Stormont Parliament in Northern Ireland was a magnificent sight. Who would have thought that it would be the Giro d’Italia to see the troubled province of Northern Ireland bedecked in a sea of pink and multicultural flags?
It was particularly sad to see Dan Martin crash out. Because he is a rider who really seems to be worthy of supporting and signs of a new era.
- Maglia Rosa 2nd edition by Herbie Sykes at Amazon.co.uk
- Maglia Rosa at Waterstones