The Eagle of the Canavese

‘No better way to combat cycling-blues — now that the season is over — than to read a good book on the history of cycling.’ I could say that, although it’s true in a general sense, it doesn’t make sense for me now as I have managed to do a fair amount of rides after the end of the season.

I also read Herbie Sykes The Eagle of the Canavese, a biography of Franco Balmamion (ai, with a ‘m’, not a ‘n’ as I thought) centering on the story of the 1962 Giro d’Italia. I would be exaggerating if I would say that this is an outstanding book, on pair with Benjo Maso’s Het zweet der goden, or the biography of David Millar, yet it is certainly far beyond your average cycling biography. Sykes does not only tell the story of the 1962 Giro — one of the heaviest ever –, he not only sketches the character of Franco Balmamion — a rider who’s largely forgotten — he also manages to give insight to the whole socio-cultural context of Italian cycling in the early 1960s. (The role of the sponsors, the regional differences, etc.) And to top off, it does also give you mini-bio’s of companion riders like Giudo Nero and Germano Barale. If I would be making lists, I’d say this book could make my top 10 of cycling books.

(After, or next to both Benjo Maso’s books, Richard Moore’s Millar-biography, Krabbe’s De Renner, William Fotheringham’s Put me Back on my Bike, Marchesini’s L’Italia del Giro d’Italia, probably Les Cahiers de la Mediologie 5, Merci Freddy, merci Lucien (nostalgic reasons), and maybe Rolf Gölz Het Volk en wat volgt).

There is of course also a great attraction in the fact that this book exactly covers a period in cycling that is simply not so well known. I know a bit of the early sixties, but that’s centered around Anquetil, Gaul, Bahamontes and Rik van Looy. For Italy it was a transitional period. The times of Coppi and Bartali gone, football becoming sports number one, and no new heroes yet. Only two, three years later a new generation of champions would capture the imagination: Adorni, Motta, Gimondi, Zilioli, Bitossi (admitted: I would love to read a book on those champions too). In the meantime Franco Balmanion won two consecutive Giri. The Silent Champion, a modest character, a good climber, his main contender his teammate Nino Defilippis. He did not attract the attention of the public, hardly won races, but apparently was a very intelligent and constant rider.

Get the book here: (It might seem a bit pricey compared to some other cycling books — it has photos and diagrams of all the 1962 Giro-stages, yet it is not your photo-biography-type-of-book — but I found it worth the muneys).

And here two videos, in total 20 minutes about the 1962 Giro: and

cycling,en,free publicity,reading matter | November 22, 2008 | 18:32 | Comments Off on The Eagle of the Canavese |


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