I’ve been reading Road to Valor, by Aili and Andres McConnon. It’s the story of Italian cycling champion Gino Bartali, who was not only an amazing and successful cyclist but who, during WWII, also helped to save the lives of many Jewish people living in Italy by carrying forged documents in the frame of his bike. It’s a good read. I recommend it.
Early in the book, the authors provide a quote from a 1936 newspaper article to show how the media made popular heroes out of cyclists:
These racers were once similar to you, and many, in fact are still the same as you: farmers, day laborers, builders, gardeners. They took a bicycle and they conquered the world on the back of that fragile seahorse. Now cities wait for them and acclaim them, because they are strong, because they have challenged the dust and the rain, because they have fallen and, though injured, they have gotten up again, because they have conquered the mountains, because they have raced, always, nonstop and breathless. They are the heroes of a humble and exciting tournament who have made themselves knights of hard work. (25)