Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape
The remarkable life of Jacques Anquetil, the first five-times winner of the Tour de France
by Paul Howard
The Times ‘An extraordinary biography’
The Times certainly hit the nail on the head with that one! This is certainly a very extraordinary biography. I would perhaps have re-titled the book, Sex and Drugs and ride a bike, rephrasing one of my favourite songs written by the amazing wordsmith Ian Dury. Paul Howard’s biography is certainly full of all three!
Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape unlike many of the other cycling biographies and autobiographies I have read is not an easy read. This is not due to the content of the book but rather in the style in which it is written. It is clear that Paul Howard has spent time carefully researching the facts in the book. He has done this by reading other author’s books and by talking to people around Anquetil at the time. However to ensure the reader is aware of the depth of research the book can at times be as enjoyable to read as a history text book, not totally riveting!
I found the early chapters really hard going and was not sure if I could persevere, but the desire to get under the skin of such a great cyclist drove me forward. Paul Howard deals well with all areas of Anquetil’s life, from his calculating riding style, which did not win over all the French public, to his unusual personal life and loves.
Through the book you certainly get an impression that, actually what happens today is not really that different to Anquetil’s era but somehow it has become more accepted that deals are struck for teams to work together, rider support is bought, and that it is OK to ride to a carefully calculated marginal time gain plan. Lance Armstrong and other greats certainly did this. The darkside however is perhaps the accepted use of drugs to aid performance and Anquetil’s stand against testing and his refusal to be tested after his final hour record, leading to the lack of ratification for the record. Funny to think that Paul Kimmage has become a cycling world outcast for writing about the same thing, when in reality it was all ready in the open.
The hardest part of the book to ‘get your head round’ is that fact that his wife allowed, maybe even suggested, they use Anquetils’ stepdaughter to act as a surrogate mother. This lead to a twelve year relationship, with mother and daughter. Finally imploding and leading to Anquetil developing a long term relationship with his stepson’s wife! I wonder what Jeremy Kyle would have made of that?!
Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape is most certainly an extraordinary biography and if you are willing to work at reading it, overall it is well worth the effort. You get a chance to get the inside story of one of cycling’s greatest ever Tour de France riders. Persevere, overall it was forth the effort.
Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape – The remarkable life of Jacques Anquetil, the first five-times winner of the Tour de France
Author: Paul Howard
Published by Mainstream Publishing
Available in Hardback, Paperback & eBook
RRP £18.99 (Hardback), RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook)
Mark Cavendish – Boy Racer
This book charts the rise of the fastest sprinter in the world, from his earliest foray into bike racing (BMX) up to his record breaking 2009 Tour de France stage victories.
You get to see the cycling world through his eyes, and his frank and brutal portrayal matches his persona. His honest account pulls no punches, just like his explosive sprinting power. His feisty temperament shines through throughout his writing, giving an entertaining read and insight into the world of professional cycling.
In his younger days, his ‘cocky’ attitude is occasionally interrupted by feelings of self doubt and depression, which surface into binge eating (large packets of crisps and cream cakes being the most sought after) which cause more problems for his Coaches and making him receive jibes of being fat and of not being good enough to ever ride the Tour de France, which is his dream.
But in a strange sort of way this is exactly what he needs to motivate himself forward, he loves proving his critics wrong and takes great delight in doing so, even shunning proven training techniques that have been honed over many years, he works in his own way.
His boisterous nature is set free during his time with the British Academy, especially when, like the other young lads there, he is living away from his parents for the first time. The Coaches and Staff have their hands full containing the parties, late nights and practical jokes and try to get them to take their training seriously enough to not mess around and throw their chances of success away.
He is a self confessed ‘scallywag’ and appears to always be looking for an opportunity for mischief. His talent is recognised early on but the characteristics that make him so good on the bike also cause troubles off the bike, as the years have passed he has matured and calmed down slightly, although he still wears his heart on his sleeve and says what he thinks, and makes no excuses for not being otherwise.
You either love him or hate him, and of course his temperament earns him a few enemies along the way, including Staff, Coaches and other teammates who have aspirations of beating his achievements. The long running friction and rivalry between him and Andre Greipel is described from his viewpoint, but with maturity we are led to believe that it is now confined to racing rivalry only.
The story of these formative years are weaved in between race accounts from the 2008 and 2009 Tours de France, we get a feel of what it must be like to be Mark Cavendish, from the buckling pressure to perform after your teammates have worked so hard for you all day, the thrill and danger of sprinting for the finish line, and to the nightmarish stages in the mountains where it takes all your energy and skill to just stay at the back of the field hoping not be eliminated.
The reader also gains an unglamorous insight into the organisation and ‘behind the scenes’ of daily life during the Tour, and Marks reaction and thoughts to some of the doping scandals that unfortunately seem to appear each year.
Just be aware that his language can be just as strong as his passion for the sport, expletives are used many times on some pages, but this reflects the moments of immense pressure he is under.
I found it to be an enjoyable read and more descriptive than many other books, you get the sense that Mark is talking to you personally, as if this is just a transcript of a relaxed chat, he is trying to get you to understand both his character and his professional life as a cyclist.
Title: Boy Racer
Author: Mark Cavendish
Published by Ebury Press
Available in Hardback, Paperback & eBook
Price: RRP £18.99 (Hardback), RRP £7.99 (Paperback), RRP £7.99 (eBook)
On Your Bike! The Complete Guide to Cycling
by Matt Seaton.
For somebody who has ridden a bike for quite some time, I was interested to see what would be included in something dubbed “the complete guide to cycling”. And, I must say that I was quite surprised at the book’s ability to make me see the bike from a different angle.
When you take up cycling, whatever age you are, you don’t think about the bike itself – it is merely the tool by which you can get out on to the road/track/rough terrain (whatever floats your boat) and get “on your bike.” And to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to find a book that was so easy to read, so interesting to read, especially on a subject that can seem quite mundane.
However, Matt Seaton appears to have successfully completed a somewhat impossible task – it has made me think differently about how I look at my bike. No longer do I see it as an inanimate object that helps me keep fit. No, I am now able to see the bike for what it really is – a concept built out of the Industrial Revolution, a tool that has helped normal folk (as in those who weren’t aristocrats) develop a sense of freedom and something which has transformed personal mobility into social mobility. Yes, very deep. But I bet you never even stopped to think that the bicycle was such an important tool. In fact, as Matt Seaton rightly asserts, “cycling [has] become synonymous with progress.”
So, maybe the idea of a history lesson doesn’t set your world on fire. Well, don’t worry, Matt Seaton merely uses the evolution of the bicycle as a tool to set the scene, to make you realise that the bike in itself has its own place in history. Did you know, for example, that Peugeot, Singer and Triumph all started life as bike manufacturers? Me neither.
Matt goes on to cover the rise and fall of the bike’s popularity, including the BMX’s development in the 1970s, to the mountain bike phenomenon of the 1990s to the carbon fibre road bikes that we have today.
Most of my cycling friends would agree with me that my knowledge of mechanics is somewhat sketchy, to say the least, despite my years of cycling. However, this book is quite good in that it explains about the different types of bike and the basic measurements. There is also a nice double page spread on what the different components of a bike are. If you are pretty handy with mechanics, you will probably find this part basic, however if you are new to the sport, then the book acts as a useful aide-memoire. It covers all types of bikes, from road, to track, to cyclo-cross, to BMX and mountain bikes, and it also provides information as to what to look for in a good bike lock and bike light. It even covers tools, clothing and helmets!
Included in the “Your bike – and how to love it” section is also a useful sub-section about how to clean your bike. This may seem quite a useless thing to include however, I do know people who have purchased bikes worth over £3,000 and then not known how to keep it clean. Remember that this book is aimed at all cyclists – both those new to the sport and seasoned riders.
I must admit that I don’t currently commute by bike, however after reading the chapter entitled “Cycling and the city”, it did make me think twice about doing so. It reminds you that cycling is a great antidote to stress, that the threat to your health from pollution is far outweighed by the other health benefits of cycling and that you can also benefit from the Government’s “Bike to Work” scheme. But perhaps most important of all is the chapter entitled “How to stay safe on your bike.” This is a valuable read for anybody who shares the road with other road users, which is most cyclists. You tend to take things for granted, but this helps you to become ‘actively visible.’ Surely that in itself is worth a read?
The penultimate chapter deals with “Cycle sport”, including the pro peloton, how teams work and a piece on the issue of doping. There is also some useful information on other types of riding, including track racing, cyclo-cross and sportives.
If you are looking for a well-written, informative, interesting book on cycling as a whole, then this could be the book for you. It is full of colour pictures, is easy to pick up where you left off (one of those books where you can pick which bits you want to read) and is definitely worth reading if you have just taken up cycling for the first time after having been inspired by Brad Wiggins and Team Sky in this year’s Tour de France. However, it is a bit out-dated, having been written back in 2006, but having said that, the basics and the history of the bike will always remain the same.
If you are looking for a book that will make you a faster rider, this isn’t the book for you, but if you want a book that does what it says on the tin, then you should definitely add it to your Christmas list.
Title: On Your Bike! The Complete Guide to Cycling
Author: Matt Seaton
Published by Black Dog Publishing
Available from 7th June 2012 in Hardback & eBook
RRP Price: £16.95
Have you ever dreamt about sitting down with a relaxing glass of wine and spending an evening just chatting cycling with a former World Champion? What if you could spend time with a Triple Crown winner? Well, that’s how reading the new book by Stephen Roche ‘Born to Ride’ felt to me. It gave me the distinct impression that I was having an intimate conversation with one of the all-time greats in the world of cycling.
The stories and the thoughts behind the action in the book are fascinating. Stephen’s personal views of the nature and culture of cycling in the 1980s–the teams, the Directors Sportif, the teammates and the rivals are the needed details. They fill in gaps in the urban legends and the well-documented stories that have become the lore of cycling. To be allowed into the depths of that world, just a bit, is a compelling read and well worth the price of admission.
Setting the stage with the details and drama of the World Championships of 1987, Stephen Roche narrates the tale of that fateful day, bone-numbingly wet, riding the circuit course at Villach, Austria. “During these early laps I am just staying in the wheels, sheltering from the wind behind other riders, freewheeling almost. That’s obviously an exaggeration, but that’s how easy I want it to feel, so that I can save everything I can for the end.” The winning strategy, the gear choices, the details of the day are the simple things, like putting on three rain jackets layered upon each other, that make for a build up that seems so very personal and intriguing. It also makes a fascinating read for fans of cycling and of sports psychology.
Mixed in with the racing are touching details of Stephen’s early days trying to gather up money to make the trip over to race in France as an amateur, as well as, engaging stories of the many people who helped make it possible. Stephen openly lets us in to his personal life in a genuine and straight forward manner. It is this glimpse into the triumphs and failures of the man that make you feel closer, that make you want to read more. It also makes you realize that a Triple Crown in cycling doesn’t insulate you from being human, from being a parent, or the devastation of having a child who develops leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. Within these pages are the joys of winning and the sorrows of life.
One of the most intriguing takes I have from the book ‘Born to Ride’ is the strong undercurrent of confidence that comes through when Stephen Roche talks about being on the bike. He didn’t just think he could win, he knew the race was his to win, and he belonged on the top step of the podium. Interestingly, he is quite honest about the price he paid for it, within his own team and with others, cyclists and fans, who thought his tactics were not “pure” team spirit.
For me, these insights into the mindset of a champion come through between lines, chocked full of the images of iconic cyclists who are brought to life through Stephen’s reminiscences. The legends of cycling from Miguel Indurain, Laurent Fignon, Roberto Visentini, Sean Kelly to Robert Millar play prominently throughout Stephen’s career. The book runs the gamut from glimpses of the boy, who collected clippings of Sean Kelly and was told at school he “wasn’t likely to get anywhere”, to the triumphant 1987 World Champion and winner of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.
Like most conversations, which zig and zag and take you to unexpected, but not unwelcome places, Stephen also addresses the climate of doping in cycling that existed at the time, his opinions of the present-day UCI and its concerns about “cheating” and improving the image of the sport, and his role in each. It left me ever more hopeful for the future of cycling, that there is still a sense of direction for the sport which comes from people like Stephen Roche who have been there and lived it.
As I came to the end, finally putting the book down, there was a sense of joy and a sense of loss. The interlude with the past, like a fine wine or a lovely evening, was over all too soon, but I was left with a profound sense of place and a newfound appreciation for the real challenges and sacrifices it takes to be a cyclist. Overall, ‘Born to Ride’ is an absorbing and interesting new book, Stephen Roche’s first full autobiography, and I highly recommend spending a few enjoyable evenings savoring the conversation.
Title: Born To Ride
Author: Stephen Roche
Published by Yellow Jersey Press, The Random House Group
Available from 7th June 2012 in Hardback & eBook
We got our hands on some digital pre release copies of “Ride” a new collection of short stories (not to be confused with British publication “Ride Journal”). Below are our collective thoughts on the Kindle and iPad versions.
I have to say that I was pretty stoked when I was asked to review the book Ride: Short Fiction about Bicycles. As a crazed bike fanatic, and a guy who enjoys short stories as opposed to a full out novel… this book sounded like something that would suit me just fine, and I was very interested in reading it.
As you can likely make out from the title, this book is composed of a bunch of short fiction stories about riding a bike. There are nine stories to be exact. Each of the stories are as different from one another as the people who wrote them, but there is a nice flow that transcends through the entire book making it a seamless journey from start to finish. I think that flow comes from the fact that each of the contributors to the book are crazed bike fanatics themselves, and their love for the bike comes shining through in each captivating story.
It’s hard to cut out one story and praise it as being the best because each of them have their special ingredients making them enjoyable and unique in their own little way. With that said, I would like to mention that one story in particular stayed with me after finishing the book. I’ve seen a few other reviews of this book, and I know I’m not alone in saying that “Red Dot” by Barbara Jay Wilson lays out a story that is sure to put a smile on your face. I’m only guessing, but I’m pretty sure that Barbara Jay Wilson is a person who spends a lot of time out there on her bike connecting with the beauty and nature that surrounds her.
Adding to these wonderful nine stories are some incredible illustrations by Taliah Lempert… so if you’re more into visuals than you are reading, this book has got you covered there as well. On top of it all, the asking price is pretty decent as well. What are you waiting for? Grab a copy and increase your bicycle fanaticism.
App Usability: 4/5
As Described: 4.5/5
I have never reviewed a book before. But I certainly have read a great number of them. I know what I like and don’t like in a good read. I love everything about cycling, though admit I will never be “good” at it. So when the editor at Cycling Short. asked me to read a pre-publication e-book entitled “RIDE” I jumped at the chance.
The book came to me via a tidy e.pub formate, but I suddenly found myself swamped with prior commitments, so I asked my husband to give it a read. Now he is an avid cyclist! And having ridden lots: Barcelona to San Sebastian, Geneva to the Stelvio, and many Classic sportives in-between I figured it would be great to get his take too.
Not half an hour into his read, he calls out to me. Have you read this first short story, “it is demented. It’s great. it’s real. But it’s totally weird. You should read it, and see what you think” Well, no I hadn’t read it yet, and I can’t say this was a common occurrence, as we generally don’t read the same books, but being a short story I dropped my work and picked up the e-reader.
And I read. It was an interesting story, a guy who wants to ride in great places around town, but needs to get behind the gated community fence to do it. He sails down the hills, he climbs with the beautiful metaphor only a well practiced cycinst and writer could combine. But from there it was exactly as Randy said it was. It was weird it was dark, it could so easily happen. Just like Steven King’s Misery, you know it can’t end well, but you keep reading. And remembering………
There are 9 short stories in the book. Some are about cycling and others in which the bike is the main character. Most are gritty, a couple are a bit cliché, but Bob’s Bike Shop a story mid-stream in the book is a very touching story that brought to mind the feel and devotion to cycling and bikes that was so well represented in the movie “Breaking Away”.
Overall, it was a good read. More about bikes than cycling in a few stories, more about people with bikes than the epic cycle or grand tour. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’d have to say I enjoyed reading most of the stories, but the flow of stories was a bit uneven. A couple I loved, a couple I just didn’t get. And one I think will definitely stick with me for a while.
App Usability: 5/5
As Described: 3/5
I love the introduction to the book by author and editor Keith Snyder…
“Love or money.
Those are the two good reasons to bring a book into existence.
Either you think it’s going to pay the rent, or you want to read it but nobody’s written it yet.
This book will not pay the rent.
Not while reading.”
It pretty much sums up the experience, it’s fresh and different from other cycling books. I have to say I’m new to “cycling fiction” but it approaches the subject from many different angles and writing styles, cycling being the common thread in the stories, or to be more precise bicycles. It’s a pick and mix which makes it great to dip into for a quick escapist bike fix, lovely illustrations throughout by Taliah Lempert. I would agree with Cristi that the flow is a bit bumpy but probably unavoidable. I found a couple of the stories a little odd and not my cup of tea, but I don’t think you can expect to like everything you read in a book that has a collection of authors and styles. The book gives you a short introduction about each of the authors and links to their own websites before their story, each entry is illustrated with one of Taliah’s paintings. The iPad app (which is the pre release version I read) is very easy to navigate allowing you to add notes, skip through chapters (as you’d expect). The layout suits an iBook app it looks fresh and it’s cleanly designed, often publishers overcomplicate the layout because they know they can make a book do anything in digital form. The publisher of this book has been more restrained and it makes it pleasant to flick through. For those who aren’t big readers of fiction, give this a go, you only need a few minutes to read some of the shorter stories and it’s peppered with illustrations to keep your eyes entertained too. The writing style is very American as are some of the storylines but it doesn’t exclude international readers. I enjoyed the variety of storytelling styles.
….I do hope it in some part helps to pay the rent for the authors, a labour of love that keeps a roof over your head is a rare but wonderful thing!
This book brings the passion of writing and cycling together in a beautifully illustrated publication. Worth a read and a great price.
App Usability: 5/5
As Described: 3/5
Ride – Short Fiction About Bicycles
Authors: Keith Snyder, Paul Guyot, Simon Woods, Stephen D. Rogers, Teresa Peipins, Christopher Ryan, Kent Peterson, Barbara Jaye Wilson, David A.V. Elver
Illustration by: Taliah Lempert
Purchase now from:
Barnes & Noble Nook edition: $3.99
From iTunes for iBook: £1.99 / $3.99
What the Author/Editor says about the book:
In this collection of short stories about bicycles, a grocery store worker finds more than he bargained for when he wangles his way into a gated community with a perfect hill for climbing…an ancient Constantinoplean invents a two-wheeled contraption to impress a girl…a bicycle reflects on its life while chained outside in New York City…an eerie rider exacts gruesome revenge on automobile drivers…
These and more in eight stories of gears, pedals, and the need to RIDE.
Submissions are now open for the next volume of Ride. If you fancy testing your writing skills and submitting a short story yourself please visit the Ride Bike Fiction website for contact details…. Who knows, we could be reviewing your work very soon!
For more information please visit the Ride Bike Fiction Website here.