Books Reviews

Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy

Gironimo!Tim Moore is a writer not afraid to take on a challenge. Over a decade ago he rode the route of the Tour de France for his book French Revolutions and now, feeling his achievements somewhat undermined by the exploits of Lance Armstrong, he has taken on the less tarnished (discuss) Giro d’Italia in Gironimo! That may sound tough enough by most standards but Moore goes one further recreating, of sorts, the notorious 1914 edition to give the book its full title Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy. This was a race defined by almost unimaginable weather (‘a cocktail of fog, rain, mud and bone-chilling cold’), 400km stages and the fact that of the 81 riders who set off from Milan 90% failed to make it back. Want more from Moore? He does the whole thing on a hundred year old bike with wooden wheels, no gears and brake blocks carved by hand from corks…


Moore’s style is one of gentle humour and knowing self-mockery – think, perhaps, Bill Bryson on two wheels. But he also serves up an excellent history of cycling both as a social movement and sport (1869 claimed the first cycle-related death, did you know?) and doesn’t hold back the forthright views: ‘I don’t hate Lance Armstrong because he was a drugs cheat, but because he’s just so thoroughly unpleasant.’


His achievement in completing the route is commendable, even if he did take 32 days to complete what the 1914 riders did in eight, and the humour in the face of adversity (frequently closed restaurants) is always heart-warming. As history in the retelling Gironimo! works perfectly and is likely to lead reader off towards a dozen other books – French Revolution should be amongst them. Who knows, maybe even a handful of readers will be tempted to set out on their own recreation; so long as more than 10% make it back.


If Moore’s looking for his next book idea maybe he should recreate the Froome-claiming Stage 5 of this year’s Tour de France. ‘Very Terrible’ indeed…


Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy by Tim Moore is published by Yellow Jersey (ISBN-10: 0224092073). It is available in both paperback and Kindle format from

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