Posts Tagged ‘foot’

Today we suggest you “Pedalare! Pedalare!”, a book by John Foot.
We’re just finishing to read it, it’s an amazing story of italian cycling, from the era of Binda and Girardengo, to Coppi&Bartali, to Marco Pantani. Highly reccomended – together with the film The Last Kilometer, obviously 🙂

below, a review from THE GUARDIAN

Un suggerimento a tutti i nostir lettori: il libro di John Foot “Pedalare!” (lo trovate anche in italiano). Una vera e propria storia del ciclismo (d’altronde l’autore è docente di storia italiana contemporanea) piena di aneddoti, curiosità, vicende parallele ed extrasportive…. altamente consigliato – da sorsegiare insieme al film L’Ultimo Chilometro, ovviamente 🙂

Pedalare! Pedalare! A History of Italian Cycling by John Foot – review
Extraordinary events and people feature in this century of Italian cycling

Fausto Coppi cycling in the Giro d’Italia in the 1950s

Fausto Coppi cycling in the Giro d’Italia in the 1950s. Photograph: AFP

The Giro d’Italia will soon be passing through the town where I live. Enthusiasm for the world’s second most prestigious bicycle race is far from universal here. Most of the comments on the website of one of the local papers are grumbling that it will make it even harder than usual to find a parking space. The only public notices I’ve seen about the Giro have been from the binmen, announcing that they’ll be collecting the rubbish unusually early that day. It all seems a far cry from the glory days of the late 1940s and 1950s, which John Foot in his diverting new book calls the “golden age” of Italian cycling, when the rivalry between Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali transfixed legions of fans, not only throughout Italy but across the world. 


Pedalare! Pedalare! covers a century of Italian cycling, from the first Giro in 1909 – the winner, Luigi Ganna, a Milanese bricklayer, when asked how he felt about his victory, replied in dialect: “My arse is killing me” – to the centenary race two years ago, which was won by Denis Menchov, from Russia. As I write, the “Manx Missile”, Mark Cavendish, who took his first Giro stage win in 2009, is wearing the leader’s pink jersey in this year’s race.
Foot tells much of his history through potted biographies of the Giro’s stars. Not all of his characters are sportsmen, however. Enrico Toti, for example, could never have won the Giro d’Italia because he only had one leg, having lost the other one working on the railways in 1908. He found that cycling was the easiest way to get about, and it also enabled him to earn a living as a circus act. When Italy entered the first world war in 1915, Toti tried to join up – there were regiments of bicycle troops in the Italian army – but they wouldn’t have him. He went to the front line anyway, and died in uncertain circumstances in August 1916. Stories soon circulated about how he had been killed heroically throwing his crutch at the Austrians. A mass cult sprang up in his honour after the war; as Foot writes, “Toti was perfect for fascist propaganda.”
Unusual in some ways, in others Toti is typical of the men Foot writes about (and they are almost all men; only one woman has ever taken part in the Giro d’Italia, Alfonsina Strada in 1924): his fanatical commitment to cycling, his high pain threshold – Foot tells of cyclists racing on with broken bones, or in weather conditions so severe that their clothes froze to their bodies – but above all the way that his exploits and achievements were both exploited for political ends and eclipsed by the myths that grew up around them.
Uncertainty still surrounds the war record of Fiorenzo Magni, the third wheel in the Coppi-Bartali rivalry. He may have been a member of the fascist militia that massacred a group of partisans in Valbona in January 1944; on the other hand, he may (or may also), like Bartali, have helped the resistance earlier on, delivering anti-fascist newspapers on his bike. (Coppi spent most of the war in a British POW camp in North Africa.)
And then there are the extraordinary events of the summer of 1948. On 14 July, the riders in the Tour de France were resting in Cannes, preparing for the next stage of the race. Bartali was in seventh place; some Italian journalists are said to have taken the opportunity to nip over the border and go home. In Rome, Palmiro Togliatti, the leader of the Communist party, was shot three times on the steps of the parliament building by a rightwing Sicilian student. Protests and strikes broke out across the country. Revolution or civil war seemed possible. As part of his handling of the crisis, the Christian Democrat prime minister is said to have phoned Bartali in Cannes and asked him to win the race “for Italy”. He won the next three stages in a row, and went on to win the Tour. “After 16 July,” Foot writes, “the workers drifted back to their factories and order was restored.”

Is there any connection between these events? Did Togliatti’s shooting in Rome contribute to Bartali’s unlikely triumph in France? And did that in turn have a dampening effect on the uprising in Italy? Well, possibly. More importantly, Foot writes, in his dissection of the myth, “We are dealing here with a powerful ‘social fiction’, which took root through the endless retelling of a story: a myth which became part of the nation’s history of itself.”
However, Foot says: “There is no doubt that the Bartali myth was first propagated by the Catholic press.” Bartali was ostentatiously devout: after winning the 1948 Tour de France he made an offering of the yellow jersey to Saint Teresa. As his rivalry with Coppi came to symbolise the contradictions of an entire nation – in 1949 Curzio Malaparte wrote an essay about them entitled “The Two Faces of Italy” – it’s hardly surprising that Bartali (a Tuscan) should have been thought to show the traditional Catholic face while Coppi (from the industrial north) represented postwar modernity. These roles don’t entirely fit the facts but, as Foot demonstrates, the facts, even when they’re recoverable, are often the least of it.
The golden age came to an end in the late 1950s (Coppi died, probably of malaria, in 1960, at the age of 40). The Giro has since then become “principally a story about cycling and cyclists, not about a nation or its culture”, though it may never have been quite as important as Foot makes out: like most commentators on sport, he has a weakness for hyperbole. The great controversies have been about doping, not about war records or political allegiances.
The decline in the importance of the Giro has partly to do with the way that, as Foot says, “the very idea of Italy began to crumble” at the end of the 20th century. But it also has to do with the disconnection between cycling and everyday life. “Those who created cycling as a sport,” the journalist Luciano Bianciardi wrote in 1971, “went to work on their bikes from dawn until dusk . . . The kids who work for the baker today travel by scooter.” Cycling’s mass appeal lay partly in its mass use as a means of transport. Now it’s a middle-class hobby.

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Chi ha creduto alle favole di Lance Armstrong
di John Foot
da Internazionale, 30 Gennaio 3013

Il giornalismo non ha fatto una bella figura con la storia di Lance Armstrong. Per anni, la grande maggioranza dei giornalisti ha creduto, o ha fatto finta di credere, alla favola di Lance. Il ciclista bravo, che sopravvive al cancro e poi vince il Tour de France per sette volte. Sembrava un miracolo. Ma non lo era.
Pochi osavano dubitare di questa bella favola. Ci sono state due ragioni, in fondo, per questo fallimento totale dell’informazione. Una era la comodità. Lance vendeva giornali, libri, e faceva molta audience. È stato il ciclista più famoso di tutti i tempi. Aveva potentissimi sponsor. Aveva molto potere. Era molto più facile chiudere un occhio, o due. Era molto più facile dire che i francesi erano solo gelosi. Era molto più facile raccontare le imprese del cowboy.
L’altra ragione è stata puramente legale. Lance querelava tutti quelli che scrivevano qualcosa sul suo rapporto con il doping. Minacciava. Emarginava. In Inghilterra ha querelato con successo un giornale potente come il Sunday Times. E quindi, per quelli che volevano una vita facile, era meglio non pensare all’epo, al dottor Ferrari, al testosterone, alle sacche di sangue nel frigo del dottor Fuentes. Era meglio credere alla favola.
Ma per alcuni giornalisti questa strada non era quella giusta. Erano pochi, ma non hanno mollato. Sono stati messi in un angolo. Non potevano fare domande alle conferenze stampa. Ma continuavano a indagare. Come veri giornalisti. E piano piano, la verità è venuta fuori. Qualcuno parlava, ad esempio qualche ciclista coraggioso come Filippo Simeone. E qualche giudice indagava. Alla fine il cerchio intorno al Armstrong si è chiuso. Anche grazie a questi giornalisti francesi, inglesi, irlandesi.
Hanno anche un nome e cognome. David Walsh, Paul Kimmage, Pierre Ballester. Adesso questi reporter rilasciano interviste, e i loro libri vendono tantissimo. Ma poco tempo fa erano visti come dei pazzi che volevano solo distruggere il ciclismo. Invece non era così.
Erano gli unici che potevano salvare uno sport che ha vissuto per troppo tempo nell’ omertà. Il loro lavoro dovrebbe essere letto nelle scuole di giornalismo. Sono gli unici eroi di una squallida storia di inganni, bugie, corruzione, leccaculismo, sponsor, soldi, sangue. Una favola che e diventata un incubo.