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A Champion Cyclist Against the Nazis (Hardback)

The Incredible Life of Gino Bartali

WWII Hitler & the Third Reich Italian Front in WWII Military

By Alberto Toscano
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 184
Illustrations: 8 black and white
ISBN: 9781526753397
Published: 18th May 2020

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Italy, 1943. Although allied with Hitler, there were those who refused to accept the fascist policies of racial discrimination and deportation. Among them was Gino Bartali.

A champion cyclist, he won the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) three times and the Tour de France twice. But these weren’t his only achievements. Deeply religious, Bartali never spoke about what he did during those dark years, when he agreed to work with the Resistance and pass messages from one end of the country to the other. Despite the dangers, Bartali used his training as a pretext to criss-cross Italy, hiding documents in the handlebars and saddle of his bicycle, all the while hoping that each time he was searched they wouldn't think to disassemble his machine.

As a result of his bravery, 800 Jews — including numerous children — were saved from deportation. He died in Florence in 2000 and was recognised as one of the 'Righteous Among the Nations' in 2013. In this book, Alberto Toscano shares the incredible story of this great sportsman and recalls the dramatic moments in Italy and Europe in the twentieth century.

An informative testament to the kinds of risks and sacrifices the anti-Nazis in Mussolini's Italy during World War II, "A Champion Cyclist Against the Nazis: The Incredible Life of Gino Bartali" is an extraordinary story of an extraordinary man in extraordinary times.

Midwest Book Review

Toscano writes with love for Bartali, often referring to him simply as Gino. However, while this is a biography about Bartali, he features less than you might think, especially in his work saving Jews. That is for the simple reason that Bartali refused to talk about it. What we have then is a light, enthusiastically written biography infused with political and cultural references, particularly movies, and some fascinating insights into Bartali’s cycling career and the politics of the professional cycling.

Read the full review here

Beating Tsundoku

I recommend this book to people interested in WWII stories, particularly those about the home front and about individuals whose war efforts have not been recognised until recently. People interested in cycling, Italian history and politics, and anybody who wants to read about a fascinating character that more than rose to the challenges of his time will enjoy this book. And I’m sure my father would have loved it as well.

Read the full review here

Author Translator

The book by Toscano is a beautiful leap in the memories, for me who as an Italian, Bartali (and Coppi) is almost a myth of an era that perhaps no longer exists, of very rare men. example of a life lived well and according to their principles, simply rebelling against evil and injustice. A man, Bartali, who has lived through different eras but has never betrayed his essence as a good person and above all who has acted in defense of the weak because it was right to do so without thinking of any rewards, earthly rewards.

Read the full Italian review here

On The Old Barbed Wire

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book manages to discuss politics, racism, and sports without ever being strident or preachy. I found the details fascinating. My family are cycling enthusiasts and we never miss the summer cycling events (except this summer of course, and we are missing them keenly). I'd heard of Bartali but only in terms of his records and stunning career, never in terms of his wartime work for the resistance.

A lot of historical biographies have a tendency to concentrate overmuch on the dates and times and facts at the cost of the narrative flow and human-ness of the story. This author is quite gifted at emphasizing the personal story of Bartali and his family and colleagues whilst remaining true to the known facts and weaving them into historical context. I was also impressed at the quality of the translation work. It doesn't read like a work in translation and I didn't get yanked out of the story by awkwardly constructed writing.

There are black and white photographs sprinkled throughout the book which I also enjoyed seeing. Overall impression: quite interesting biography of a legendary athlete who stayed true to his conscience. He was a brilliant cyclist and a good human.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

"A Champion Cyclist Against the Nazis" is such an interesting book. As an Italian history lover and cycling fan, this was a very pleasant read. I had already done my research into Gino Bartali a few years ago and even wrote a University essay about him and his role in the fight against the Nazis, so I was very curious to see how the author would translate it into book format. I have to say, I was not disappointed.

I was a little surprised at how much Italian history is in this book and I think that anyone not Italian will find it extremely useful to understand the context in which Gino lived, how he grew up and why he made those choices.

This book was a good mixture of history, sport, the man and the legend Gino Bartali.

If you love history, unexpected heroes, or love to read about your favourite sports champions, this is the book for you!

NetGalley, Marilisa Ceccato

About Alberto Toscano

Alberto Toscano is an Italian journalist, writer and political scientist. He moved to France in 1986 and has worked with both Italian and French media. 


He was a researcher at the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), Milan, has served as the president of the Foreign Press Association in France, and is president of the European Press Club, Paris. He was awarded the French National Order of Merit.

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