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Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  952 Ratings  ·  150 Reviews
Road to Valor is the inspiring, against-the-odds story of Gino Bartali, the cyclist who made the greatest comeback in Tour de France history and secretly aided the Italian resistance during World War II. 
   Gino Bartali is best known as an Italian cycling legend: the man who not only won the Tour de France twice, but also holds the record for the longest time span between
Hardcover, 316 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Crown (first published 2012)
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Jun 29, 2012 Cynthia rated it really liked it
Well Researched, Inspiring

“Road to Valor” is a heartwarming story. I’m not someone who’s interested in bicycle racing but I love history. This book has both. Gino Bartali was born at a time, 1911, when the bicycle craze was at its peak. Even as a small boy all he seemed to think about was riding a bicycle as fast and for as long as possible and he was good at it. Of course so were many other Italian boys but not all of them had Gino’s discipline and drive. Prior to World War II he began making h
Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy,the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation, by Aili and Andres McConnon was a page-turner for me. Once I began it, I couldn’t put it down. I was mesmerized and captivated by the compelling, intense, and true story of Gino Bartali, an Italian cyclist. But, he was much more than that, as it turned out, as I read with hardly a break between pages.

Born of poverty, in the small town of Ponte a Ema, in 1914, he would eventually become larger than life, a
Apr 30, 2012 Aimee rated it really liked it
I had not heard of Gino Bartali before reading this book, I do not follow the Tour de France and know very little about the sport. I read this because I always enjoy books about WWII and I really enjoyed this one. I usually read historical fiction and was concerned that this book might be a boring but Bartali is a larger than life character that was so fascinating to read about that I was not bored once through the entire book.

The authors do a great job of beginning the story with Bartali's stru
Jun 15, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it
This was a book which I was eager to read following its 2012 publication. As a long time fan of road cycling's Grand Tours and the many fascinating characters who've risen to the top of that sport over the years, as well as always having an interest in history, especially that of the 20th century which is within living memory (or at least perhaps only at one generation's distance), I thought that this intriguingly titled book would be a certain winner. Please forgive my lengthy comments here - I ...more
Patrizia Galli
Jun 09, 2017 Patrizia Galli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Non sono mai stata una grande appassionata di ciclismo, eppure questo libro va al di là dello sport per soffermarsi sull’Uomo e sulla Storia, per illuminarci su anni assolutamente bui della storia italiana attraverso un racconto meraviglioso.
Questa biografia di Gino Bartali, concentrata in particolare negli anni della Seconda guerra mondiale, va ben oltre i successi agonistici di “Ginettaccio”, tanti e prestigiosi, conquistati con lo sport un tempo ritenuto nazionale, seguito dalle folle alla st
David Patneaude
Oct 11, 2013 David Patneaude rated it liked it
I picked up this book thinking UNBROKEN, a WWII/world class athlete/hero story I loved. And then you throw in the Italy setting, and I was hooked. But the war in ROAD takes place largely off-scene, and Gino Bartali's heroics, unlike Louis Zamperini's, are confined for the most part to athletics (in his case, cycling), and the McConnons are no Laura Hillenbrand. So all in all, the tale doesn't match up. Still, the parts of the book devoted to Gino's cycling achievements are engrossing and the ach ...more
Tommaso Auerbach
Sep 07, 2013 Tommaso Auerbach rated it it was amazing
This book is truly one of the most touching novels I have ever read. McConnon brings us back to the WW II era to a small town in Italy were we meet our main character, a boy in poverty who grows up to be one of the greatest Italian cyclist of all time. McConnon shows us what it was like being around people who were oppressed by Hitler and how one man could make a significant difference to help the non-aryan people by simply riding his bike. We follow Gino Bartali (the main character) throughout ...more
Firstreads giveaway: The title definitely intrigued me as I am bound to read anything to do with WWII. It's interesting to learn about other aspects of that particular time period, especially since my knowledge of Italy's involvement is limited. All in all, I found this account of Bartali's life to be very thorough and quite engaging at times. Will I read more about Bartali specifically? Probably not. However, it was eye-opening and I recommend it to anyone wanting a new perspective on Italy dur ...more
Jan 30, 2016 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book about cycling in Italia and France in pre-war, during and after World War II. It gave me a lot of insight into origins of cycling itself which I did not fully expect. It is about the history of Bartali but the writers did a wonderfull job of providing a lot of background stories which only added to this book.
May 29, 2012 Cheryl rated it liked it
I have never heard of Gino Bartali until I read this book. What I found more fascinating then Gino was about the Tour de France and the job he had as a bike messenger during the war to help the Jews. Gino was alright but at times his competitive nature overshadowed him and made him have a bit of a bad attitude. Not that I am saying that competition is a bad thing as I can get really competitive when it comes to certain things but there is a line to draw and you have to know when to turn it off a ...more
Dec 30, 2012 Stephen rated it liked it
An interesting look at an elite cyclist in the 1930s and 1940s who resisted the Nazis in Italy and helped protect Italian Jews. The book was well-researched and held my interest, but the writing wasn't great. In an attempt to make it seem more real, the authors were heavy handed with the descriptions, and sometimes I wished they would just shut up and tell me what happened.

I learned a couple of interesting things from this book. First, was the role the Catholic priests and nuns played in protec
Mar 31, 2013 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gino Bartali was a hero in many ways. He won the Tour de France in 1938, during the war he used his fame to carry messages and identification materials for the archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa to a secret network that saved Jews. He also saved a family of Jews who were friends in a cellar in Florence.

Truth is stranger than fiction. In the 1948 Tour de France, all think Gino is too old and will lose. Then, there is an assassination attempt on the head of the Communist party (Tog
Aug 22, 2014 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports, spiritual
This is an inspiring book; the story of how a sports 'hero' can go beyond himself and make a difference in the lives of others that he doesn't even know. As someone who likes to cycle, this story had appeal to me from that aspect, but it quickly takes on a deeper meaning and reality. Not being aware of the history of Fascist Italy of the '30s and the oppression and treatment of the Jews in WWII Italy, it was an eye-opener for me. The Epilogue has two quotes that summarize the "meaning" of Bartal ...more
Jul 09, 2012 Cathy rated it really liked it
This book would make a great movie. I think I will amuse myself by dreaming up movie titles and replaying the race scenes in my head: over the Alps through snow and sleet, with descents down hairpin turns through mud and gravel. Imagine the impact of seeing Bartali's closest rival in the 1948 tour, Louis Bobet, crossing the finish line "utterly defeated, his face... covered in mud, except for the tiny furrows where tears had fallen down his cheeks."
Jul 16, 2016 Alberto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Che qua non trovi il gel di Cristiano Ronaldo ma la strada sterrata da valicare e la dignità di un campione che ha lasciato traccia di sè non solo sui pedali. Che lo sport è tanto altro oltre alle prime 40 pagine della Gazzetta dello Sport purtroppo dedicate solo al calcio.
David Miller
Jul 21, 2015 David Miller rated it it was amazing
This book is a truly remarkable story that is likely to be of most interest if you are a cyclist or a Jew - and particularly if you are a Jewish cyclist ...
Jan 03, 2014 Colin rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written, and well researched book describing the incredible life story of Gino Bartali. This book has found a permanent place on my shelf.
Aug 26, 2016 Claudia rated it it was amazing
I started and finished this book while traveling yesterday. It was amazing. This is such an inspiring story of will and bravery. I highly recommend this.
May 18, 2017 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating portrait of not just the great bike rider but of Italy before, during and after WW2, and the place of cycling and bike racing in that changing country.

Very interesting for me reading this soon after The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown - which covers the same period and the Berlin Olympics from the perspective of US athletes - Road to Valour shows what life was like for the athletes and citizens in fascist-controlled Italy.

Given Bartali's length of domination, plus his extrao
Nicolle Novak
Jun 27, 2017 Nicolle Novak rated it really liked it
This was a very enjoyable book. Filled with the details of Gino Bartali's life- including his years in cycling, his personal life in Italy, and his heroism during WWII. It was a very engaging story and I was surprised that Gino isn't more well known given all that he had accomplished and done with his life. It's very well written and kept me entertained and wanting to learn more about Gino. I recommend this book to read if you're interested in learning more about cycling in Italy during WWII.
Jun 05, 2012 Dachokie rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii
Much More Than an Athlete's Tale ...

This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book.

The stories just keep coming. As time keeps distancing World War II to the point in which younger generations barely understand its staggering significance to the history of mankind, more and more fresh stories of extraordinary human endeavor during those dark years assures me that that period of time will never fade completely. ROAD TO VALOR deviates from th
Oct 16, 2016 Cara rated it it was amazing
Very inspiring!
Jennifer Miller
Mar 01, 2017 Jennifer Miller rated it liked it
After watching a brief video about Gino Bartali somewhere in the internet, I wanted to learn more so I found Road To Valor.

The story is remarkable. Ten years between Tour de France victories, and during the hiatus Gino Bartali saved Jews by shuttling documents through secret networks. I'd never heard of his efforts before. This is a story of a celebrity who used his fame and athleticism for higher purposes. I was touched by what Gino said to his son: "If you're good at a sport, they attach the
Apr 19, 2014 Pac rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In recent years I have loved several books on sporting topics: " The Boys Of Summer", "The Blind Side", "Friday Night Lights" and more recently "Into The Silence". What they all share with each other and with "Road To Valour" is their attempt to deal with sport as an integral part of life. The narrative of the various sporting events is part of a much wider context and the personalities involved are presented with the skill of the most consumate writer. We all know the story, but we want to hear ...more
Giles Knight
Wow!! What a story.

I am a fan of cycling autobiographies and have a keen interest in WW2 history but have never been a huge biography lover. That said, how can a book fail to impress when telling this story!

I knew little abaout Gino Bartali before reading this, for me he was another name in the record books of a sport I love but from an era I knew little about.

Born to a poor but loving family in a small town outside Florence, Gino worked hard to earn the promise of his own bicycle as a boy. Once
Jul 09, 2012 J.S. rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii, vine
"Everyone in their life has his own particular way of expressing life's purpose - the lawyer his eloquence, the painter his palette, and the man of letters his pen from which the quick words of his story flow. I have my bicycle." -- Gino Bartali

It might be difficult to imagine a time before cars and airplanes made travel quick and easy, but in the earlier part of the century the bicycle was about the best many could hope for. It not only enabled them to go from place to place quickly but sometim
Feb 12, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it
I don't believe that athleticism creates heroes. It creates celebrities, warts and all. If you were among the folks who enjoyed a dose of ripe, self-righteousness at Lance Armstrong's troubles writ large, this book is a great read. Gino Bartoli, in the Road to Valor, wins the Tour de France twice- separated by 10 years that include WWII. I believe Bartoli is a genuine hero and this book tells his story. During the war, Bartoli helped to thwart the Nazis in Italy. He rode his bicycle between citi ...more
Feb 16, 2013 John rated it really liked it
An amazing story of a tough as nails professional bicycle racer, circa WWII Italy. Gino Bartali was a devout Catholic who triumphed athletically before and after WWII, but the most amazing part of this story is how valiantly he behaved during the war, but out of competition. His sports accomplishments were great — a two time TdF winner (separated by WWII and 10 years!) and a three time Giro d’ Italia winner — but his heroism first surfaced off the bike, during the war. Bartali risked his own lif ...more
Nadine Truong
Fascinating life, great research, easy read. The writing itself didn't tug at my heart or anything.
Fred Kirchner
Sep 15, 2016 Fred Kirchner rated it it was amazing
If you've ever wondered what's it's like to ride the Tour de France... If you've ever wondered about the history of Italy... If you've ever wondered about whether you would have worked in the Resistance in WW2 to keep Jews out of gas chambers... this could be your book! Tells the story of Gino Bartali--won the TDF in 1938 and 1948. In between he got married, had a family, lived through WW2, and used his bicycle to smuggle false papers around Italy that saved hundreds--if not thousands--of innoce ...more
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