Earlier this week we ran an excerpt from Bill and Carol McGann’s latest release, The Story of the Giro d’Italia, Volume II. I don’t think I can do anything here to recommend this book more highly than the incredible narrative the McGanns wove, but this is my chance to comment on it directly.
Yeah, so this is going to be a favorable review. It’s like that.
The Giro is an odd event. It’s not the Tour de France transported and translated to Italy. While that statement is hopelessly broad and not properly rooted in objective, evidential detail, it’s got to be said. It’s just a different beast. The Giro has often been political in a way the Tour can’t approach. Its formula has been tinkered with in a way that would cause the board at Coca-Cola to gasp.
This is the second half of his survey of the race. It begins in 1971 with Gösta Pettersson’s victory and takes us through wins by Merckx, Hinault, Moser, Indurain, Pantani and ends with Alberto Contador’s 2011 performance. It’s quite a ride.
What the McGanns have done is to give you a look at the race in its proper perspective. It’s not just the couch, it’s the couch in your living room. And I should add here that while Bill is the rabid racing fan, Carol is the meticulous editor, and Bill demonstrates his class by crediting Carol as his full partner. To say this account is dispassionate misses the point. There’s plenty of passion in these pages. Bill doesn’t have any trouble telling the reader when someone delivered a ride worthy of a champion. It’s easy to sense the excitement he felt as he scoured old Italian newspapers and books in his quest to illustrate those days that are woven into the history of the Giro. His real talent is to strip the partisan favoritism that comes with nationalities. You end up cheering a bit for everyone—the guy who kicks ass, the guy whose ass got the kicking, the gregario who humbled himself for the team.
And while it may seem like a semantic point, the McGanns haver termed this the “story” of the Giro instead of the “history” of the Giro because it is meant to give the larger human drama that plays out. It helps to paint why non-cyclists could care so much.
McGann Publishing has put out quite a collection of books at this point. There’s plenty of good reading for a rider waiting for the Tour to start. Check them out here.