TRACK! Alexandria, cycling capital of the Belle époque. 1867-1915. Preface by Stefano Pivato. Touring Club Italiano , 2020 | € 24,90

With a preface by the scholar Stefano Pivato and a greeting by Giovanni Malagò, president of CONI, starting from a wide archival and iconographic research, the author reconstructs the pioneering season of sports cycling in Italy, from the 1860s to the eve of the Great War, in Alessandria and beyond, investigating the formation of sports associations and the evolution of the cycling phenomenon from an eccentric curiosity to a competitive epic, following it in the velodromes and along the roads that have enshrined its popular legend.

Roberto Livraghi, director of Museo Alessandria Città della Bicicletta, scholar of the history of the city and the territory, cultural manager, with this book guides us through the folds of an unheard of and exciting story, in which the archival sources become the narrating voices of an intriguing tale, orchestrated to perfection by the author, who tells us about a past more near than remote, at the roots of a history still to be discovered but all to be experienced.

Sometimes history manages to bring about epochal changes through individual and completely random choices. If Carlo Michel, a young and enterprising brewer from Alexandria, had not gone to the Universal Exhibition in Paris in that summer of 1867, the history of cycling in Italy could have taken a completely different course.

And instead Michel went to Paris, bought a revolutionary means of transport, destined to radically change the concept of mobility, and brought to Alexandria... a velocipede. So it was that the Piedmontese city, at first amused, then intrigued, finally captured by Michel's velocipede, became at the end of the nineteenth century the cradle of Italian cycling, the pole around which the strongest athletes of the newborn sport (how not to mention Gerbi, Cuniolo and Girardengo?) and the headquarters of the first associations of enthusiasts, which soon opposed, according to the national style, other associations, other philosophies and soon other cities.

In fact, those who saw cycling as a competitive sport were joined, but more often contrasted, by those who saw it as a means to discover the world and meet the future, and in this the Touring Club Italiano was the founder and master.

Those ideas that at first lived in the discussions between fans quickly came to the pages of sports newspapers that just then began to see the light between Piedmont and Lombardy: from the union of two of these sheets was born in Milan "la Gazzetta dello sport", began the international competitions, stage races, the same Gazzetta itself became the promoter of the Giro d'Italia and in the space of a few decades cycling, and its world, came to take on that aspect which, adapted to the times, we still know today.