The Library > Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy
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cj2002

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This is not a new book - it's been out for 2 years already.

This isn't even a new book in my library - I got it not last Christmas, but the one before.

But various circumstances had conspired to stop me reading it. But I figured that during the likely-to-be-less-terrible-for-the-riders 2016 Giro would be a good time to finally open it up.

Tim Moore's name may sound familiar - perhaps because this is not the first cycling-related epic he has undertaken. In 2000 - at a time of peak Armstrong - he set out to ride the whole route of the Tour de France[1]. That year, he was on a contemporary bike in contemporary clothing. The only difference between him and Lance was their age - oh, and the amount of EPO in their respective bodies.

And was for this reason that Moore's challenge came about. Post his second retirement, it became clearer that Lance and his contemporaries were not riding unaided[2]. And so, fuelled by a hatred of all things Armstrong, Moore set out to find a cycling challenge that would capture the heroism of days gone by. A simple search for "hardest grand tour ever" or a similar sentiment led him to the story of the 1914 Giro. Eight days of riding practically the entire perimeter of Italy, and to this day the longest single and average stage lengths.

To further capture the Eroica feeling, Moore decided he needed to ride this route on equipment that could have been there (if it hadn't been French...), complete with 2 gears (if you detach the rear wheel and reverse it), wooden wheels and woolen jersey. And so the story begins - the middle-aged man in West London with limited physical capacity for endurance cycling and almost no capacity for bike maintenance... let alone building a 1914 Hirondelle from scratch.

Moore's narration of the journey is witty throughout, and he doesn't sugar coat his travails. He brings along an old Italian account of the race, and the details of his own ride are complemented by stories of the riders at the time. From the stories he tells, 1914's Giro deserves it's title as the worst Grand Tour. Only 8 of the 98 starters finished. And in this, the first edition of the Giro to be decided on overall time, with 19-year-old amateur Umberto Ripamonti (who only raced because the start in Milan was near his house...) finishing 17 hours and 21 minutes behind overall winner Alfonso Calzolari[3]. But it shows the origins of the modern-day race aiming to be the hardest of the three three-week races on the calendar.

Incidentally, if you thought that this might put Moore - closer now to 50 than 40 - off any more long-distance cycling, you'd be wrong. He has just (according to his Twitter bio) ridden 8,558km down the Iron Curtain on an old East German shopping bike. I will look forward to reading that story as much as I enjoyed reading this one.
 1. French Revolutions, published in 2001, recounted that tale
 2. The journey, during the summer of 2012, came prior to the USADA reasoned decision and all of that funfair of lies.
 3. By comparison, after 21 stages this year, Jack Bobridge finished last only 5 hours and 8 minutes behind Nibali. That would have been good enough for 6th in 1914!
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  • He shook his head sadly and told me that endemic drug use had compelled him to give up a promising career. "Even one small local race, prize was a salami, and I see doping!" - Tim Moore: Gironimo (Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy)

    stereojet

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    He did a load of tweets from the journey down the Iron Curtain. They were pretty funny.

    I liked the bit in Gironimo about him trying to build his bike in the back garden.
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