Road to Valor by Aili McConnon


9 Critic Reviews

...this is undoubtedly one of the great sports stories of all time.
-National Post arts


Road to Valor is the inspiring, against-the-odds story of Gino Bartali, the cyclist who made the greatest comeback in Tour de France history and secretly aided the Italian resistance during World War II. 
   Gino Bartali is best known as an Italian cycling legend: the man who not only won the Tour de France twice, but also holds the record for the longest time span between victories.  During the ten years that separated his hard-won triumphs, his actions, both on and off the racecourse, ensured him a permanent place in Italian hearts and minds.

   In Road to Valor, Aili and Andres McConnon chronicle Bartali’s journey, 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 the Tour de France and becomes an international sports icon.

   But Mussolini’s Fascists try to hijack his victory for propaganda purposes, derailing Bartali’s career, and as the Nazis occupy Italy, Bartali undertakes secret and dangerous activities to help those being targeted.  He shelters a family of Jews in an apartment he financed with his cycling winnings and is able to smuggle counterfeit identity documents hidden in his bicycle past Fascist and Nazi checkpoints because the soldiers recognize him as a national hero in training. 

   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.

   Set in Italy and France against the turbulent backdrop of an unforgiving sport and threatening politics, Road to Valor 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, Road to Valor is the first book ever written about Bartali in English and the only book written in any language to fully explore the scope of Bartali’s wartime work.  An epic tale of courage, comeback, and redemption, it is the untold story of one of the greatest athletes of the twentieth century.

About Aili McConnon

See more books from this Author
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. ANDRES McCONNON has been a historical researcher for several books. Aili and Andres are siblings, born in Toronto.
Published June 12, 2012 by Crown. 338 pages
Genres: History, Biographies & Memoirs, Sports & Outdoors, Travel, War. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Road to Valor
All: 9 | Positive: 7 | Negative: 2


Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Apr 15 2012

Mostly uplifting account of the Tuscan champion cyclist whose prime was ruptured by the advent of World War II.

Read Full Review of Road to Valor | See more reviews from Kirkus

National Post arts

Reviewed by Richard Poplak on Aug 08 2012

...this is undoubtedly one of the great sports stories of all time.

Read Full Review of Road to Valor | See more reviews from National Post arts

The Telegraph

Below average
Reviewed by Rowland Manthorpe on Jul 11 2012

Aside from a few suggestive pages on the cultural and social history of the bicycle, The Road to Valour offers little even to specialists.

Read Full Review of Road to Valor

The Boston Globe

Reviewed by Bill Littlefield on Aug 02 2012

The McConnons have told the story of his great and greater victories powerfully and well.

Read Full Review of Road to Valor

The Daily Beast

Reviewed by Jimmy So on Jun 18 2012

This is the type of hero we ought to celebrate—a colorful and courageous human, full of life and the conviction of goodness.

Read Full Review of Road to Valor

National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Richard Poplak on Jun 07 2012

More Lifetime than HBO, more Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful than Rossellini’s Rome, Open City, Road to Valour is sepia-tinted cycling soft porn at its well-researched finest.

Read Full Review of Road to Valor | See more reviews from National Post arts


Reviewed by Bill Ingalls

The story is a good one. Aili McConnon is a Canadian journalist, and her brother Andres a historical researcher.

Read Full Review of Road to Valor

the book garden

Reviewed by Anne on May 14 2012

I loved reading about him and think that anyone who likes a good story about a great athlete and man would love to read Road to Valor.

Read Full Review of Road to Valor

Whitefish Community Library

Reviewed by Whitefish Community Library on Nov 07 2012

Road To Valor is the inspiring, against -the-odds story of Gino Bartali who made the greatest comeback in Tour de France history and aided the Italian Resistance during World War II.

Read Full Review of Road to Valor

Reader Rating for Road to Valor

An aggregated and normalized score based on 195 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review