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

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,504 ratings  ·  211 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
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A very pleasant surprise, this book popped up on my radar screen out of nowhere - why didn't I see it when it came out? (since it's right up my alley)... Anyway, I was shopping for a copy of an old favorite (as a gift), and this showed up in the folks who bought that book also bought this one column, so I figured, why not?, and I'm glad I did.

I rated this 5 stars on the research and the story, which were both remarkable (and impressive and gratifying). In parts, the work is peppered with dollop
Jun 29, 2012 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
David Miller
Jul 21, 2015 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 ...
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 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 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
David Patneaude
Oct 11, 2013 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
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 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.
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great true story of an athlete who stood up to the Nazis by helping the Jews. He also won the Tour de France (more than once) and the Giro (Italy's bike race). Great story especially if you're a fan of the Tour de France.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
After recently reading a couple of novels based in WWII and the death camps, a cycling friend happened to lend me this biography of one of Italy’s cycling heroes. Gino Bartali was a poor boy with great cycling talent, who lost his prime competitive years to the war (he holds the record for the longest time between Tour de France victories, one before the war, one after). During the war, he risked his life by using his cycling ability to transport false identity papers for Jews hiding from the Na ...more
Danny Schiff
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Road to Valor had so many fascinating separate themes I was interested in, making for an easy five star rating. From a history of the Tour de France to World War 2, Italian history in the 40's, and Nazi occupation of Florence. The story of Gino Bartali's involvement in smuggling fake documents through Tuscany on his bicycle and his TDF victories in 1938 and 1948 made for a powerful read.
Sue King
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
This as an amazing story which is TRUE! Gino Bartali was an Italian who won the Tour de France in 1938 and 1948 - a record that’s not been broken (10 years between wins). During the war years he helped the Resistance in a few different ways which was amazing. It reads like Seabiscuit- you know the end but you are compelled to read and it reads like fiction.
Doug Anderson
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
inspiring and a little boring, then inspiring again. but a great story.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book tells the compelling story of Gino Bartoli, an Italian who lived a humble childhood, and then went on to win the Tour de France twice. The description of his assistance of those persecuted during World War II, particularly his work as a courier of identity papers which he hid in his bicycle frame, was very uplifting.
Rachel Cantor
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't like non fiction books - this one read like fiction. True page turner, incredible, true story.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
This story is one that could be told in a much more effective way, in my non-writing opinion. While many of us know the Bartali biker I think few know about this WWII activities. Why skip over that so quickly? A lot of more research could have been done on that & I think that’s where the majority of the book should have centered. Otherwise entertaining ...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
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
"If you're good at a sport, they attach medals to your shirts and then they shine in some museum. That which is earned by doing good deeds is attached to the soul and shines elsewhere." This was 2-time Tour de France winner Gino Bartali's explanation to his son about why over many decades he had spoken so little and revealed even less of his WWII efforts on a bike to help hide and protect Italy's Jews in Tuscany. A humble war hero who never wanted to be known as such, because he was not injured, ...more
May 29, 2012 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 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 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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spiritual, sports
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
Jedi Kitty
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wow! An amazing story, and interesting history. Loved learning more about the Tour de France, cycling, WWII in Italy and the role Gino played in history. The climbs of the Tour are truly epic and exciting(even to the layman). In comparison, Gino is exceedingly modest about his role as a courier of counterfeit identity documents to protect Jews in Italy under German occupation. I didn't give it a full five stars because the writing didn't always shine. This stood out to me after reading "Where Me ...more
Apr 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Road to Valor, the story of Gino Bartali, who won two Tour de France, and holds the record for the longest time span between wins. Worth the read for a look at a dedicated athlete and family man before the doping took over the sport. Indeed, some of the training methods are bizarre! But his record as a cyclist is real, as was his work in the Italian Resistance, saving hundreds, if not thousands of Jews from the Nazi and Fascist aggression. His 1948 Tour win is credited with "giving Italy back it ...more
Jul 09, 2012 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."
Jan 03, 2014 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.
Samer Lawand
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An amazing history of how a cyclist used his god given talent to do good during the world war. I absolutely enjoyed this book and the heroism of many who sacrificed so much for others.
Dec 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting biography of Gino Bartali, Italian cycling legend.
Aug 26, 2016 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.
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