Gironimo: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy
by Tim Moore
published by: Yellow Jersey rrp £8.99, in the UK
reviewed by Dave Land
Tim Moore has forged a reputation as the hapless everyman of ridiculously long cycling journeys. Following French Revolutions, and before The Cyclist Who went out in the Cold, Gironimo pits Moore firmly against nature, man, rust and realistic distance, as he sets off to ride in the footsteps of what is widely recognised as one of the most gruelling of the Grand Tours. Of the 81 starters in 1914, the fifth edition of the race, only 8 crossed the finish line, 4000km later.
The major difference since he rode the route of the Tour de France, is that Tim is now wedded to a desire for authenticity. This means a bike from the right time, along with clothing and kit. Whilst this is, at almost all times, deeply unpleasant for the author, it is seriously funny for the reader. Albeit with some discomfort; the thought of putting on wet woollies filled me with dread, and a psychosomatic itching whenever Moore describes his morning routine.
The winner of the 1914 edition of the Giro D’Italia was Alfonso Calzolari, not a rider from one of the big teams, or someone who made much sporting headlines after this ride. The delight gained from reading any of Moore’s books is following the narrative history of real events, whilst he tries to deliver his end of the bargain, and actually do the thing. It is entirely to his credit that he successfully follows in Calzolari’s pedal-strokes across the entire country.
Publisher: Yellow Jersey (30 April 2015)
Moore’s blind ‘it’ll be alright’ optimism about his bike reflects, I like to think, JRtB’s approach to all things cycling. Having said that, unlike French Revolutions, I really don’t fancy a crack at this one, with that terrible, terrible bike of his; brake pads made of cork, access to only two gears, and a bottom bracket held together with split pins. Moore himself is dressed even more ludicrously than the bike. I would happily trade the hat and the blue welder’s goggles for lycra. Moore puts himself through all this and delivers a splendid account of his ride. Once again I am struck by the willingness of the British Male to go and do ridiculous things simply because.
The 1914 ride provides a suitable narrative, on which Moore can hang his own tale. And it is Moore’s ride that is the more enthralling, amusing and interesting of the two. Although Calzolari’s tale is no fairytale. Brendan Gallagher’s recently reviewed Corsa Rosa: A History of the Giro D’Italia, provides a rip-roaring detail of every edition of the race, and you can see why Moore chose this particular one as the worst possible thing he could ride.
It is part sporting history, part travelogue, part English comic farce. It feels entirely genuine, as Moore continues that fine British (do other nations do this?) tradition of making things much more difficult than they need to be.