Book Review: Gironimo!



GIRONIMO! Riding the very terrible 1914 Tour of Italy. Its a clever title for a book which not only documents the most gruelling of bike races to ever be staged but also the "madcap folly" (his words) of author Tim Moore to try and replicate it, complete with authentic 100 year old bike and kit.

I was given this book for Christmas and having read the blurb I formed the impression that it was a vanity project of a man in a mid-life crisis. However, Moore quickly convinced me that the undertaking was a more worthy cause, rooted in a determination to stick 2 fingers up at Lance Armstrong "the cheatingest cheat in cheatsville" and claim cycling back from EPO with the noble Eroica spirit.

Having discovered the most brutal race ever to take place was the 1914 Giro, Moore sets out to obtain as authentic equipment as possible. Forays to antique fairs in France, tinkering with wrong bits and bobs, ebay purchases and chats with sceptical mechanical experts are covered in such detail that I was tempted to skip chunks but if someone goes to the trouble of writing I feel obliged to read it.

Eventually, 5 chapters in, Moore and his elliptical wheeled, fixed geared, wine cork braked machine arrive in Milan and the real journey begins. You'd think cycling a death trap like that on the wild streets of Italy a terrifying prospect but intrepid Tim eschewed even a helmet in favour of looking like a complete (but authentic) plonker.

What follows is a wonderful tale, or rather combination of tales as Moore tries to follow the route of the 1914 race and in particular it's heroic winner Alfonso Calzolari. Eye popping stats of that edition include: • longest average stage length - 396.25km • smallest no. finishers - 8 out of 81 starters • longest stage length - 430km • longest stage time - 19h34'47" The 1914 Giro start line

Neither the 1914 edition of the Giro nor the 2014 tribute version go smoothly but the intertwined stories are told beautifully with huge dollops of humour, self deprecation and a smattering of swear words (some appropriate, some of which come out of nowhere and slap you in the face). 3162km of suffering are documented in detail with a few photos here and there as evidence of the pain.

Kidney failure and loss of an eye both seem reasonable excuses for abandoning the 1914 race. In the modern version the author's encounters with elderly Italian women driving Fiat Pandas, endless mechanical mishaps and the lack of any effective brakes seemed likely to put paid to his ambition. Did he make it? No spoilers here. Alfonso's winning time of 135hrs17'56" was never in danger though!

My verdict: 🌟🌟🌟🌟⭐ Funny, engaging storytelling on a subject I love was always going to win me over. Gironimo! could fit into the travel category too with its descriptions of cities, mountain tops and coastal locations. Yes I would recommend it. You may need the persistence of Alfonso Calzolari to get past the building of the bike phase - tinkering in a shed might appeal more to men I suppose.