Road to Valor by Aili and Andres McConnon
A True Story of World War II Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation
Combining the inspiring, against-the-odds appeal of Unbroken with the poignancy and heartbreak of Life Is Beautiful, ROAD TO VALOR is the untold story of Italian sports legend and World War II hero Gino Bartali
“‘Thou shall not stand idly by’ is a powerful biblical command. In Aili and Andres McConnon’s book it offers a moving example of moral courage. A simple citizen and great athlete chose to oppose a cruel and racist political dictatorship by saving Jewish victims in Italy. Was it so hard to become a hero then? It was enough—enough to remain human. And yet.”
—Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
“This thoroughly documented biography is both inspiring and immensely enjoyable.”
“[This is] the rigorously researched account of a true champion and role model, Gino Bartali, who became stronger when faced with extreme adversity. His bicycle became the tool with which he saved countless lives during World War II and inspired a broken nation. It is a profoundly uplifting story.”
—Michael Barry, professional Tour cyclist and New York Times contributor
Gino Bartali, “The Lion of Tuscany,” is best known as an Italian cycling superstar: the man who not only won the Tour de France in 1938 and 1948, but to this day holds the record for the longest time span between victories. However, there is another thread to Bartali’s epic story—his secret efforts to help save Jews in Italy during the Holocaust and German occupation—the full details of which have not been revealed until now.
Set in Italy and France against the turbulent backdrop of an unforgiving sport and threatening politics, Road to Valor: A True Story of World War II Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation (Crown Publishers, June 12, 2012) is the breathtaking account of one man’s unsung heroism and his resilience in the face of adversity. Based on nearly ten years of research in Italy, France, and Israel, including interviews with Bartali’s family, former teammates, a Holocaust survivor Bartali saved, and many others, it is the first book ever written about Bartali in English and the only book written in any language to fully explore the scope of his wartime work.
Authors Aili and Andres McConnon chronicle Bartali’s remarkable journey from childhood to champion, starting in impoverished rural Tuscany where a scrawny, mischievous boy painstakingly saves his money to buy a bicycle and before long is racking up wins throughout the country. At the age of 24, he stuns the world by winning his first Tour de France and quickly becomes an international sports icon.
After Mussolini’s Fascists try to hijack Bartali’s victory for propaganda purposes and as the Nazis occupy Italy, Bartali, a devout Catholic, becomes involved in the Italian resistance and undertakes dangerous missions to help those being targeted. In addition to sheltering a family of four Jews in an apartment he financed with his cycling winnings, Bartali smuggles counterfeit identity documents past Fascist and Nazi checkpoints. Recognizing him simply as a national hero in training, the soldiers never suspect he’s hiding precious papers in the hollow frame of his bicycle, documents that helped save countless Jews hiding in Tuscany and Umbria from deportation to work and death camps.
After the grueling wartime years, Bartali fights to rebuild his career as Italy emerges from the rubble. In 1948, the stakes are raised when midway through the Tour de France an assassination attempt in Rome sparks nationwide political protests and riots. Despite numerous setbacks and a legendary snowstorm in the Alps, the chain-smoking, Chianti-loving, 34-year-old underdog comes back and wins the most difficult endurance competition on earth. Bartali’s inspiring performance helps unite his fractured homeland and restore pride and spirit to a country still reeling from war and despair.
An epic tale of courage and redemption, ROAD TO VALOR is the untold story of one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.
About the Authors:
AILI McCONNON is a Canadian journalist living in New York who has been a staff writer for BusinessWeek and has also written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian. She has appeared as a commentator on ABC, MSNBC, and CNN.
ANDRES McCONNON has been a historical researcher for several books. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University. Aili and Andres are siblings, born in Toronto.