Giro d’Italia – The Story of the World’s Most Beautiful Bike Race, to give it it’s full title, is exactly what it says on the cover. It takes in all the major editions and events from the Giro’s 1909 birth right up to Nibali’s win in 2016.
O’Brien does a great job of telling how important the race has been and is to Italy, how it and its riders have ridden their course through the history of national events, from the first war to the rise and fall of Mussolini and beyond.
There are chapters on all the significant wearers of the maglia rosa, from Brunero, to Merckx, Roche and Pantani. There are chapters on the great Italian duels between Bartali and Coppi, and Moser and Saronni. The first and only woman ever to ride the men’s Giro, Alfonsina Strada, makes it in here too – how could she not? It’s not just the men and women, some of the major climbs get their own limelight too, such as Tre Cime di Lavaredo (still on my bucket list) and Blockhaus (sorry Geraint).
I particularly enjoyed the parts that focused on the arrival of the Americans of the 7-Eleven team, culminating in Andy Hampsten’s win in 1988. Some great anecdotes come out of O’Brien’s interview with Hampsten, including that as part of preparations for the infamous Gavia stage the entire 7-Eleven team covered themselves head to foot in lanolin in a bid to cope with the cold and wet conditions.
My only slight criticism would be that some of the chapters lost a little bit of focus (or I lost focus when reading them), hopping back and forth between editions of the race. That perhaps is what happens when you manage to fill one book with most of the significant events of 99 Giri.
The only thing that’s missing is a chapter on the 100th Giro (which took place after publication). No doubt O’Brien is already planning an update, and he’ll have plenty from that one edition to write about. As his book proves, the Giro is an amazing race with an endless supply of amazing stories