i was bought this book as a christmas present (published in march 2011) and for one reason or another only got around to reading it a couple of weeks back. i have not finished it yet either and would not usually review a book until i have read it cover to cover but decided this would be an exception to the rule since the 2012 giro is being raced right now. it is therefore an appropriate time to give my review of sykes's book on italy's grand tour, a bike race regarded as the second biggest in the world after france's tour but is for many fans their favourite race of the year.
sykes helps explain why the giro has grown to become a firm favourite through the many stories he regales us with. he has written the book in chronological order working his way through the earliest days of the giro, through the world wars all the way into the modern era. his attention for detail is second to none, a demonstration of immense knowledge and in depth research on the subject has resulted in what can rightly be termed a tour de force. i wonder how many copies of gazetta dello sport sykes had to pour over in addition to the interviews he no doubt conducted in order to gather the many obscure gems that feature in this book?
in addition the book being excellently written the overall quality and presentation of the book is second to none, something those who are used to reading the rouleur magazines have come to expect. indeed this aspect has become something of an unofficial trademark for the publisher. i am also struck by the number fabulous quality photographs to feature in the book, some of which will no doubt be very rare. i will go as far as saying i have never seen so many photos in any cycling book i have read other than possibly those such as paris-roubaix - a journey through hell which has a specific focus on photography where the text is secondary.
back to maglia rosa, this encyclopedia of the giro covers all the main players to have graced the race. legends such as alfredo binda through to gino bartali and fausto coppi (interestingly sykes shows himself to be a bartali fan, with quotes from gino the pious at the beginning of every chapter while il campionissimo is shown in a less than favourable light in parts of the book), in what is regarded as the golden era, and then on through eddy merckx, the tragic story of marco pantani and to the present day, sykes writes about them all.
for me though what separates his book from others on the same subject are what i touched on as the obscure gems, to be more specific the lesser known unsung hero's of the giro such as the stories of orfeo ponzin and the swiss italian carlo clerici to mention just a couple. it is the insights into the life's of these riders that have captivated me most and arguably show sykes as being one of the preeminent english speaking writers on the subject of all things to do with italian cycling.
i am just under half way through maglia rosa and i am looking forward to every chance i get to read a few more pages of this great book.
maglia rosa - triumph and tragedy at the giro d'italia is published by rouleur ltd.