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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Review: The Story of the Giro D'Italia Volume 2

There's no doubt in anyone's mind that in recent years, the Giro has been the race to watch, rather than the Tour de France, which has tended to be boring, defensive racing. I'm not a big fan of watching bike racing, and from the start, where races were sponsored by newspapers trying to boost circulation, bike racing has always belonged to the written medium. Bill McGann's series, The Story of the Tour De France (Vol 1, Vol 2), and Volume 1 of the Story of the Giro D'Italia proudly belong in this category.

In addition to being an account of the races, it's also an account of the history of doping and drug controls in the sport of cycling:
I spoke to a mechanic who traveled with a top-flight Spanish pro team in the mid-1990s. What he saw frightened him. The racers slept with heart-rate monitors hooked up to alarms. If a sleeping rider’s pulse fell below a certain rate, the alarm went off, the rider was awakened, given aspirin and a saline injection to thin the blood and put on a trainer to get his heart rate up and blood flowing. This was clearly dangerous stuff at the doses racers were using and everyone knew it, but it had a gigantic payoff to the talented and lucky user. As La Gazzetta put it, there was a change in the hierarchy of some teams: the doctor was now more important than the director. (Loc. 1846-50 )

The author does not refrain from speculation about who might have doped and when, and it adds to the entertainment.

Recommended for cycling fans, but read Volume 1 first.

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