December 7, 2008--It's been more than 20 years since Campagnolo released its first official book of history, The Giant and the File, available to the English-speaking world in limited quantities (it is now a collector's item).  That book, while it contained some interesting tidbits of Campagnolo history--mostly about the life of company founder Tullio Campagnolo--was hindered by a poor Italian-to-English translation and a tortured writing style peculiar to the Italian sports press. 

Now, however, fans of Campagnolo have a new book to drool over: Campagnolo: 75 Years of Cycling Passion, published in the US by VeloPress.  Once again, the book is translated from the original Italian of authors Paolo Facchinetti and Guido P. Rubino, but this time the result is much more satisfying.

Unlike "The Giant and the File," which sought to tell the story of Tullio Campagnolo in page after page of densely written prose, 75 Years takes a much more visual approach, with 156 pages of photos and illustrations including many drawn from the company's own archives.  75 Years isn't an official history, but it's about as close as you'll get.

75 Years plays out mostly in chronological order, starting with some interesting anecdotes about Tullio's early life working in his father's hardware store in Vicenza.  It proceeds to follow him through the early years, the WWII years, and the glory days of the 1970s and 80s, when every major rider used Campagnolo and every major race was won on it.

Perhaps because it is not an official history, 75 Years also examines some of the company's more well-known failures, including their ill-fated attempt to take advantage of the growing interest in montain biking.  In some of the few printed words ever uttered by current company owner Valentino Campagnolo, he shoulders the blame for missing that boat, in part because that sea change in cycling came at the same time that he took over leadership from his recently deceased father.  75 also features Shimano, and doesn't pull any punches in its account of how that company conquered the world of cycling.

These and many other glimpses into the company's history make for fascinating reading, particularly for fans of the company. 

While 75 Years is mostly satisfying with page after page of lavishly printed photos, we did find a few things to quibble about.  The book is a much better read than Giant, but it still falls into the same Mechanic-as-Saint mode as Giant.

75 also suffers from some ... mechanical problems.  The prose in the book jumps from page to page, but never tells the reader where it's going.  A discussion of the company on page 105, for instance, jumps to 109, leaping over two intervening pages about Ergo levers.  It would have been nice for the editors to have inserted a "please turn to page 109" note for us.

And then there are the curious choices of topic.  Several pages are taken up with breathless descriptions of carbon cranksets or the new shape of the 11-speed Super Record lever bodies.  We were left thinking that they could have put more historic photos on those pages--we can all grab a catalog to look at the latest stuff.

About the photos ... While there are a lot of great shots in the book that haven't been published before, there are some images that left us scratching their heads.  With all of the wonderful images available to them, for instance, why did the authors put a photo of a C-Record derailleur on page 95 that looks like it had been crashed several times?  Ditto for the Super Record derailleur on page 87 and the Gran Sport on page 55.  Surely Campagnolo has better examples of these?

And then there are the things left out.  Campy fans desperate to find answers to burning questions like, "what was the 'prototype' Delta brakeset, and how many were produced" will have to keep searching.

Despite its minor flaws, 75 Years of Cycling Passion is a must-have for any fan of Vicenza's output.  Ordering info is available online at the VeloPress web site.

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