Book Review – Wild Cycling by Chris Sidwells

Wild Cycling

A pocket guide to 50 great rides off the beaten track in Britain

by Chris Sidwell

A. Reviewer: Nichiless Dey. European Cycling correspondent, physics teacher and cyclist of little renown!

i. For Anna ‘The Boss’ Magrath: CyclingShorts.cc (as, ahem, promised, he types sheepishly!)

A wildly inspiring adventure – from armchair to saddle

This book provides the perfect inspiration for you, the armchair-adventurer, to dream, to plan and to venture forth along the oft-hidden tracks, lanes & trails that crisscross much of Britain’s hidden and endlessly varied countryside.

What is Wild Cycling? I’ll let the author describe his vision. ‘… [wild cycling] can be a lot of things, from short ambles through country lanes, to … adventures in a far-off wilderness. For this renowned cycling author though, it specifically means ‘using bridleways, trails, and tiny lanes to explore [the British] countryside.’

Wild Cycling covers the whole of mainland Britain and is packed with looped routes suitable for all cyclists; be you a beginner with a yearning for childhood escapades or a hardened explorer, ruddy of cheek and windswept of beard.  You will be, I can guarantee, inspired to don the day pack and head out into the wild and stunningly picturesque scenery that fills the British mainland. Who knew that there was so much to explore on two wheels in this seemingly concrete, car fixated jungle.

 

Wild cycling encompasses all types of cycling adventure. As the book states, you will be guided along ‘short ambles through country lanes to off-the-grid bike adventures in a [not-so-far-off] wilderness’.

The fifty off-the-beaten-track rides are presented in full colour with the OS Landranger grid referenced start/finish point tabulated above the most accessible location name along with ride distance (km & miles), highest point (m) and approximate ride time (hours). There is a wonderfully descriptive yet pragmatic route commentary supported by the ever-popular snap-shot route map and elevation profile. The map is annotated and contains pointers to several easily spotted landmarks that will help guide you confidently on your way. It also indicates where the trail heads skywards – ever a worry for me!

These tracks are in no way prescriptive, indeed many offer additional loop suggestions, again embedded in the commentary, that may add further life to your day of exploration.

 

Wild Cycling covers the British mainland in ten chapters and fifty routes. It begins with a very useful piece on what you need. A cyclocross bike is Chris’s recommendation, however anything other than a high-end carbon racing beast will most probably do. Tyre choice will be your biggest decision and the book contains tried and tested suggestions. Having ridden three of these routes (34, 37 & 39*) I can personally vouch for the accuracy and usefulness of the advice given.  The final eight chapters neatly cover the country with between five and ten detailed routes for each region: The South & East, The South & West, Wales, The Midlands, The North (lots in Yorkshire!), The North-West, The North-East, and Scotland. The routes vary in length from less than ten to more than fifty miles, with most hovering in the twenty-to-thirty-mile zone. The trail surface and elevation… well, I wouldn’t wish to detract from your sense of discovery so I’ll let you find out yourself. It will be a magical journey.

*Huge thanks to the lady and her dog who found my Garmin on route 37 and waited patiently for me to ride back, in a state of panic.

 

In summary… From Chalk Cliffs and Curious Sound Mirrors in the south-east to Cape Wrath in the [glorious] north-west, the purity, beauty and essential wildness of these rides will ensure that over the years many of them will become classic – even legendary – cycling challenges. In the meantime, you will have a great deal of healthy and happy adventures. May you be blessed by tailwinds and blue skies as the beauty of Britain rolls out around you!

CyclingShorts.cc rating 10/10… one for the Christmas list too.

Out now in Paperback

 

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CyclingShorts.cc Rating

About the Author of Wild Cycling

Chris Sidwells is a renowned cycling journalist, photographer and editor who appears regularly in Cycling Weekly, and as a cycling pundit for several BBC local radio stations, including BBC Radio Sheffield during the Tour de Yorkshire. He has written seventeen books on cycling, covering every aspect of the sport and has contributed to, amongst others, Men’s Fitness, GQ, The Sunday Times, and The Guardian.

 

My thanks to Beth Wright of The Little Brown Book Group for providing my copy of the book.

Nichiless Dey

Nick Dey AKA Nichiless Dey AKA "The Prof" AKA....

Nick Dey AKA Nichiless Dey AKA "The Prof" AKA....

European Cycling Correspondent

European Cycling correspondent, physics & chemistry teacher and cyclist of little renown! (his words, in truth he is a cycling god!).

Enthusiast & Optimist-ish!

Get On Your Bike – Book Review

GetOnYourBikeAs the popularity of cycling has risen, so to have the number of cycling books to hit our selves. From the art and beauty of the bike, essential maintenance, the must-ride climbs and biographies from the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Get On Your Bike is a handy, almost pocket sized guide to cycling as an exercise. Written by three well known people in the industry, Rebecca Charlton (as seen on our TV screens), Robert Hicks (Cycling Weekly, Cycling Fitness and Cycling Active writer) and Hannah Reynolds (Editor at Cycling Weekly), GOYB sets out to help define why cycling is great exercise and how to find the happy medium with your bike, regardless of what type it may be.

Who’s the book for? 

Unlike most ‘cycling as fitness’ books, Get On Your Bike clearly states from the outset it isn’t a traditional fitness manual – there are no standard dietary plans or fitness regimes. Instead, it sets out to identify ways of losing weight and keeping fit through our love of riding the bike in every day situations, perfect for those just starting out, or as the intersecting case studies demonstrate, those that have found their way back to the bike after illness, injury or life getting in the way.

What will you learn?

The first third of the book sets out to identify how to buy the right bike and gear for you, from how to set up your position on the bike, the type of shoes and cleats to suit you, as well as exploring the best ways to find local cycle routes.

The middle section covers the safety essentials of cycling, key maintenance and tips on riding to work.

Whilst the latter part of the book moves onto fitness focus, starting with weight loss and nutrition, mental stability, health and finally how to manage injury.

Conclusion?

I think it’s easy to forget that we were all new to cycling at one point. I remember clearly how lost I was when I first got my road bike, searching YouTube videos on how to set up the cleats on my shoes, or even how to simply work the gears on my new toy! I was a little clueless, as I’m sure many who are picking up a new hobby are.

Built on short sections, it’s an easy to read guide. And new to cycling or not, it’s a great reminder that we’re not alone and why we all love to cycle. Would make a great Christmas Stocking filler for any budding cyclist in the family.

Rating: 75% out of 100

 

JerseyGetOnYourBikeRating

 

 

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Review – The Pain and the Glory

 

The Pain and the Glory

The official team sky diary of the Giro campaign and Tour victory
Introduction by… Sir Dave Brailsford & Chris Froome
Words by Sarah Edworthy, Photography by Scott Mitchell

The Pain and the Glory
Cast your mind back to Team Sky’s annus mirabilis. Its 2012 and the halcyon day’s of Wiggo’s dominance in the stage races cumulating in victory in the Tour de France and yet another Olympic gold, this time in the time trial. Every pedal stroke of which, you’ll recall, was chronicled in the rather good ’21 Day’s to Glory’.

Now comes this 2013 Grand Tour journal charting the ups, downs, plan A’s, plan B’s, the tragedies, the triumphs and inner working’s of Team Sky.

The Pain and the Glory delves deep into Team Sky’s attempt to win the double: the 2013 Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. This is a book in two-parts and is generally chronological.
It opens with a well written introduction from Sir Dave and quickly leaps straight into the Giro and Sky’s charge for victory through Bradley Wiggins – remember all the talk, Nibali or Wiggins – and their eventual re-structuring and plan-B second place in GC with Rigoberto Uran. The ‘second half’ of the book covers the Tour and Chris Froome’s gradual deconstruction of the other main GC contenders. Geraint Thomas’ epic ride through of pain will long live in the memory – a legend tales root.

Bradley WigginsThe Pain and the glory has a real fly-on-the-wall feel to it. Although it does leave one or two crucial question unasked – as you’d expect from an internally employed team of professional journalists. The book rally excels in the unusual layers of detail about each and every stage. All supplemented beautifully by the Scott Mitchell’s sublime photography and enriched by input from the all the main protagonists – Wiggin’s, Froome, Uran, Thomas (he of the fractured pelvis in stage 1… This man is one tough dude!), Stannard, et al. It also allows an insight into to the oft hidden, but absolutely vital, work of the mechanics, medical staff, cooks and families.

Team SkyThis is the very official account of a tumultuous yet ultimately successful year in the life of one of the leading professional road cycling teams. Kudos to Sarah Edwards for generating such a flowing narrative.

Marginal gains on the road… Massive gains in reader experience: the book is accompanied by a fascinating commentary from the team players, photographers and writers. Just download the free Livebooks App from The App store or Google Play, scan the photo’s with the livebook symbol and sit back and listen. This really works and is highly effective in enriching and enlightening. I found the chats about photography, framing and choice, artistic and highly educational. 
CyclingShorts Star Rating: 80/100 (9 if Team Sky ran a women’s team!)

 

YOU CAN WIN A COPY IN OUR LATEST COMPETITION – JUST CLICK HERE!

 

jerseyPainGloryReviewRating
Title:
The Pain and the Glory: the official team sky diary of the Giro campaign and Tour victory  

Exclusive – with accompanying Team Sky podcast Apps

Author:
Sarah Edworthy    

Published by:
Harper Collins – Non Fiction on 17th October 2013

Available in Hardback & eBook

Price:
RRP £20.00 (Hardback) RRP £13.39 (Digital)

 

 

 

Review – One Man And His Bike by Mike Carter

 

One Man And His Bike

A life-changing journey all the way around the coast of Britain
by Mike Carter

 

One Man & His Bike

I must confess, I didn’t pick up this book with a great degree of enthusiasm – I’ve read motorcycle-based travel books before and found some can go on long after they run out of interesting things to say. So imagine my surprise when I picked up One Man And His Bike and was almost instantly drawn in – the tagline is simple enough (“what would happen if you were cycling to the office and just kept on pedalling”?), but it’s the execution that makes it fantastic. You can almost see it – a man desperate for escape, for change; he’s cycling to work and reaches a junction. One way – towards work is; traffic jams, road works, blowing horns and exhaust fumes – the other runs alongside the Thames, and onwards out to the sea. Who wouldn’t be intrigued at the possibility, the promise? It’s almost poetic.

Well, Mike Carter was, for one. Instead of heading to Argentina, he decided to load up the bike and follow that road to the sea, and the result is an amazing, epic travelogue, 5000 miles around the coast. It’s not written as a travel guide, or a “how to do your own epic ride”, it’s purely Mike’s story – as a consequence, he doesn’t get bogged down in detail and the narrative fair dances across the page. If you’re looking for his in-depth thoughts on your coastal town, or want a useful guide to an interesting seaside destination, you won’t find it here. But what you WILL find are 350 pages of the most wonderful snapshots, of places, landscapes, history, cycling, beer, cakes, camping, and most of all, people –  Mike will clearly speak to anyone, and it’s his encounters with the broadest variety of the populace that really bring the book to life. On almost every page, it seems, there’s an artful vignette of a meeting between any kind of random person you can think of, and some bloke on a bike.

What makes this a stand out book is that Mike is first and foremost a writer, rather than a cycling enthusiast. His prose is wonderfully measured and efficient, a deftly-wielded artist’s brush picking out beautiful detail rather than a housepainter’s roller covering everything in stodge, so it races along, but it still leaves you with strong impressions of the many things he saw and did, so you get a wonderful sense of the country and its people in a nutshell. And it’s funny, too – proper laugh-out-loud-in-public funny, as well as wistful, insightful and informative.

If you’re a hardcore racer who’s only interested on the inside story from the peloton, this may not be the book for you.  But if you’ve a love of cycling in general and you’re looking for a good read, whether it’s to pass the time whilst winter rages outside, in a hammock on your summer holidays, or even (dare I suggest) on a cycle tour round the country, I highly recommend it. This is a book that has the power to inspire.

CyclingShortsOneManAndHisBikeReviewRating
Title:
One Man And His Bike 

Author: Mike Carter    

Published by Ebury Press

Available in Paperback & eBook

Price:
RRP £7.99 (Paperback), RRP £7.99 (eBook)

Review – Racing Hard: 20 Tumultuous Years in Cycling

 

Racing Hard

20 Tumultuous Years in Cycling
by William Fotheringham with a forward by David Millar

Reviewed by Nick Dey & Sim Parrott

Racing Hard CoverNick Says:
Riding hard comes from the pen, via newspaper and magazine, of one of professional cycling’s most respected and talented journalists and writers.

“A great writer and journalist who has contributed a huge amount to cycling over the years.”

Sir Bradley Wiggins, Tour de France winner 2012

The book is collection of William Fotheringham’s best* work as selected by the author himself.  For those who are unfamiliar with his work, Fotheringham, a racing cyclist himself for over thirty years, has been the Guardian newspaper’s cycling correspondent since 1994, and has covered nineteen, and counting, editions of Le Tour de France. He has reported from four Olympic Games and, not content with the print coverage of pro-cycling, launched Procycling magazine. As a writer Fotheringham has penned very well received, and bestselling biographies, of three colossi of the sport: Tom Simpson**, Fausto Coppi** and Eddy Merckx**.

The eclectic collection of writing included represents, as Fotheringham himself states,

“… a snapshot of a given story or a race taken at a particular time.”

Riding Hard is a collection of standalone pieces covering the Grand Tours, the Olympic Games, the greats of the sport and the villains. It concludes with a section of powerful obituaries.  Outside the two great sporting behemoths that are the Tour de France and Olympics, Fotheringham has attempted, for the benefit of a non-specialist UK audience, to generate a constructive narrative. That he achieves this is a testament to his skill as a writer.

Each piece is full of the now unavoidably suggestive, yet unspoken, nuance provided by hindsight and many often bristle with an unspoken truth and sense of anger. There is much to learn in returning the past and this journey is, without a doubt, a worthwhile and rewarding one. The underbelly of the sport does cast a haunting shadow throughout the myriad of articles, and rightly so, as it every much part of the story of many a racing cyclist. The folklore is there, along with the key players, the clowns, the visionaries, the supporting cast, and the villains. However, such is the quality of Fotheringham’s prose that one feels as if the mythologizing layers are being peeled away, revealing a genuinely fascinating ‘truth’. Well, a tale as close to the truth as a looming deadline and a Texans lawyers would allow! The Zeitgeist is keen and the selection, when revisited with added commentary, rewarding & thought provoking. William Fotheringham and Riding Hard serve the sport of professional cycling is very well indeed.

The book is subdivided into twelve sections each stitched together with a common, and sometimes rather unexpected, thread creating a tapestry covering the last twenty or so years of the sport of cycling. All, it must be said, from an unapologetically and uniquely British perspective. Every chapter is briefly introduced and the context of writing and selection set out clearly. This addition enriches and revives each piece.

Chapter 1, ‘The Tour and More’, begins with a rather wonderful piece that sees the author, somewhat askew to the organized chaos he has been plunged into, bewitched by the race for the very first time. It certainly chimed well with my own personal recollections of a balmy Breton afternoon, an unremarkable stage, a tiny French village, the cacophony of the caravan, the musical rainbow blur of the peloton… and the resulting sore head – ah, halcyon days indeed. How this piece is followed will give you some insight into the book and the author’s perceptions and recollections: Sean Kelly’s retirement, the Linda McCartney foods team & the 2000 Giro d’Italia (the first year a British team took part), the 99th Paris-Roubaix (2001), Etape du Tour (2002), the corporate transformation of the ubiquitous and friendly Didi Senft ‘the tour devil in red’: He who sounded the vanguard of the roadside fan in fancy dress… love ‘em or hate ‘em!

Chapter 2, ‘Tour de France 1994-2003’ is similarly constructed and begins in 1994 with Chris Boardman crashing when in yellow. It takes us to ‘Le Tour en Angleterre’ and Sean Yate’s yellow jersey, Greg LeMond’s abandon – and retirement later in the year. Onwards we move into 1995 and the luckless Boardman makes his second of many appearances, the heartbreaking death of Fabio Casartelli is reported with grace, and emergence into the media glare of one Lance Armstrong highlighted. Miguel Indurain and his Tour focus is critiqued (1995), his dethrowining (1996) reported and the unease behind the rise of Riis, Ullrich & Telekom, and the now infamous Festina Team presented. Lance Armstrong features in several pieces and is a prominent in Fotheringham’s explanatory end notes. We then move on to 1998 and the Tour in Eire. Enter stage left: Pat McQuaid, Kelly, Roche, and supporting cast.

Chapter three: ‘Festina Leave, Armstrong Returns’. You guessed it. We begin in Eire 1998, in a car with a then unkown soigneur, Willy Voet. Exit Festina, a tearful Virenque, a bullied Christophe Bassons and enter Tyler Hamilton, Laurent Jalabert and one Marco Pantani. You see what I meant by ‘haunting shadow’!  Lance? Yes, he is here too. With recent events in mind the pieces here have an added poignancy.

In chapter four: ‘The Armstrong Saga’, we now see another facet of Fotheringham’s reporting. In a charming homage to the Observers late cycling correspondent Geoffrey Nicholson, Fotheringham bulletins from the front line take the form a diary. This charmingly off-center approach is highly effective and also serves to give us, the readers, a tantalizing glimpse into the life of journalist at Le Grande Boucle. It covers the now infamous years from 2001 to 2007. I unashamedly counting myself amongst the number of then thirty-something M.A.M.I.L’s who were inspired to begin cycling by Mr Armstrong, et al. Much of this came not from watching the racing – I didn’t watch much at the time – but from following the story in the press. These articles brought it all home… beware the hero but take even greater care with the ‘story’! Still, those who know me well wouldn’t hesitate to combine the phrase cycling with obsessive (possibly unfairly as I only own five bikes, six if you count a frame. OK, seven with one arriving in a fortnight!) So, no real damage done and the sport of cycling moves on. The chapter continues more traditionally and we meet Michele Ferrari, Chris Carmichael, Mario Cipollini and, oddly, Raimondas Rumsas’s mother-in-law! Inserted neatly amidships, so to speak, are a collection of much needed rider reminiscences, all focused on what made their tour so special. From Roger Lapebie (1930’s) to Steve Bauer (1980’s), with a cast of greats sandwiched neatly between. It serves a gentle reminder about why we watch, and are fascinated, horrified and charmed by bicycle racing. Tyler Hamilton’s epic ride (2003) with a fractured collar bone now adds duality and shades of grey, blurring the edge of the moral, the ethical and the nature of sport as fair contest. Armstrong’s sixth victory (2204) and the abuse of Simeoni do tend to polarize things somewhat though. Dave Millar, Richard Vironque are amongst those we meet as we journey to and through the year. Underpinning all is the authors barely concealed longing for the retirement of Big Tex’. The diary returns with final words all Armstrong.

Chapter 5: Au Revoir Floyd, Bienvenue Mark. The post LA era, or so we thought.  We journey on through 2006 and ‘Operation Puerto’ meeting Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Dick Pound & Floyd Lanids. Confusions & contradictions abound. But then we reach a real high point in the greatest Grand Depart of them all in 2007 and the arrival of a new, cleaner, generation. Enter Mark Cavendish & Geriant Thomas. A 2007 tour diary teases us with subtle insight but is followed by Vinokourov’s positive test and, it has to be said, astonishing tales of denial. The Chicken is plucked, and after forgetting where he had been all summer, excluded. Cofidis, with one Bradley Wiggins throwing his kit in a bin, exit stage left. 2008, however  offers more optimism with the rise of  a new, clean and very rapid, star. Cav’s first stage win is covered in style and Wiggo’s ambitions noted and analysed.

Chapter 6: Rise of the Brits, Fall of Lance. We enter 2009 and see Le Tour surge to center stage in the zeitgeist of British cycling fans and sporting media. Alberto Contador wins (then loses) in 2010, duels with Andy Schleck while the newly formed Team Sky ride, innovate, learn and plot. It is here where Fotheringham chooses to lay the Armstrong mystique to rest with a withering piece about ‘hitting the wall on the rock of hell’ (2010).In stark contrast the article that he selects to follow this is an uplifting report on Jean-Rene Bernaudeau and his  “… upbeat approach and ethical philosophy” that produced great Vendee region riders such as Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland. I was fortunate enough to spend several days riding in the area as a guest of Essex cycling legend Alan Perkins (1960’s Holdsworth-Campangnolo Pro, Tour of Britain stage winner, London-Holyhead winner…) and treasured every pedal stroke of the club runs. They absolutely love their cycling in the Vendee and welcomed a chubby, slow Lancastrian with open arms, and the occasional pat on the tummy! The astonishing scene involving a complete lunatic driving a French TV car, Juan-Antonio Flecha and one Johnny Hoogerland (surely possessing one of the highest pain threshold levels around) is covered as is Wiggo’s master plan and Armstrong’s excruciating death-throe denials. We hear from David Millar, of whom Fotheringham speaks highly, Sean Yates and many more characters all vividly and honestly brought to (real) life.

Chapter 7: Great Britain – Atlanta to Athens, begins with the opening of the outstanding Manchester velodrome in 1994. A place I love. I took my Mum to a meet in 2010 and she is now an avid fan of track cycling. Such was the positive experience and welcoming atmosphere of staff, riders and fellow spectators… OK, the signed poster, which she has had framed and now hangs where my – her only sons – portrait used to hang and a cheeky peck on the cheek by Jamie Staff helped… the Tiger! It was good to see her so happy. So thank you Manchester. I really enjoyed this chapter as it brought back, and added vivid Technicolor to, so many great stories about hugely talented and dedicated cyclists, coaches and supporting staff. Chris Boardman, Yvonne McGregor, Peter Keen, Jason Queally, Craig MacLean and someone called Hoy. Herne Hill makes a deserved appearance and then we focus on Wiggo again and the dominant Nicole Cooke. There is a shocking telling of Graeme Obree’s depression and suicide attempts along with the recognition that seeing people solely in the context of their sport may no longer be good enough for the subtlety of the information age. All leads smoothly into chapter 8…Inside GB Cycling, which is an extended piece written post 2007 World Track Championships, and pre-Beijing… and we all know what happened in China! The Beijing Olympic Games of 2008 are covered in detail in their own chapter – 9. The emergent personalities, the performances and the background stories are all there. Heady, and inspiring stuff. But where did all these riders come from and how are we to keep producing more, and will a British Tour de France winner emerge? Chapter 10: The Academy devotes another extended piece, again from the Observer Sports Monthly (2009) to this and many more questions.

Chapter 11: Beijing to London brings us right up to date and gets us rolling with a piece on the then 40 year old sprinter, Jason Queally, and his brave attempt to make the 4000 m pursuit team. Victoria Pendleton & Jess Varnish are well met, Sir Chris Hoy’s progress, challenge – and challengers – are unambiguously presented. Onwards with Ben Swift, Dan Hunt, Mark Cavendish, David Millar, Rod Ellingworth, Jason Kenny, Anna Mears and Sir Bradley Wiggins. All are writ large. A memorable cycling writing, inspired by a truly memorable summer of sport.

The book closes movingly with an In Memoriam selection. The names and careers selected here whisper so much about nature cycling and the cyclist, both the inspiring and the tragic; Beryl Burton, Percey Stallard, Marco Pantani, Charly Gaul, Felix Levitan, Harry Hall, and Laurent Fignon,

Perhaps it is only fitting that the final word should go Robert Millar…

“Educated, well judged and honest writing … when was the last time you thought that about a journalist?”

I hope you enjoy this trip back through the recent past of this fine sport as much as I did. It is a book that I will pick up again and again, dipping into my memories and experiences with a truly talented and insightful scribe as my guide.

Nick Dey

Neunkirchen-Selscheid, Germany (via Wigan and East London/Essex!)

*Best, the adjective, limitations and all, is clarified beautifully in the introduction.

 
 
Sim Says:
If like me you love reading the latest news about cycling, be it online, in the newspaper or in one of the many cycling magazines such as Cycling Weekly then this book will be right up your street. Actually if you love cycling and following the race scene this is a must read.

Racing Hard is packed full of the articles and news pieces that William has written over the last 20 years, as he worked as a journalist following the Team GB and European races. After each article William has added a current comment reflecting what happened in the cycling world following the original publication. His handling of the Armstrong years is very good and it is a great review of the articles published at the time with excellent reflective comments.

I totally echo the quote from Robert Millar “Educated, well judged and honest writing…. when was the last time you thought that about a journalist?” William’s writing is truly well judged, honest and is a real joy to read. The book is so engaging that I have barely managed to tear myself away from reading it. It is certainly a book that you will want to pick up and really get stuck into and I would highly recommend you buy a copy for the summer and get in the mood for this year’s Tour de France.

 

Footnote

I have read two other books that William Fotheringham has been involved in and can highly recommend them both.

Laurent Fignon: We Were Young and Carefree
(Translation by William Fotheringham)

Willy Voet; Breaking the Chain:
Drugs and Cycling – The True Story (Translation by William Fotheringham) – Read my review by clicking here.

Cycling Shorts Rating - Racing Hard by William Fotheringham

CyclingShorts Rating: Star Buy! – 99%: An anthology of finely crafted and well linked cycling journalism. Go on treat yourself you know you want to. This really is a must read book.

Title:

Racing Hard: 20 Tumultuous Years in Cycling

Author:
William Fotheringham

Hardback Price: RRP £12.99

Paperback Price: £7.99

Kindle Price: £7.99

ISBN 978-0571303625


 

 

 

 

Book Review: Domestique – The Real Life Ups and Downs of a Tour Pro

 

Domestique

The Real Life Ups and Downs of a Tour Pro
by Charly Wegelius

Reviewed by Lawrence Bywater

domestique-the-real-life-ups-and-downs-of-a-tour-pro

Pro road cycling is feted for its heroes, its superhuman efforts, its panache filled endeavours and mainly its winners. Yet perhaps what is most captivating about this sport in terms of its individual personalities are the efforts of a band of self-sacrificing, selfless riders who perform the tasks unseen by the uneducated cycling fan. Domestiques. They serve their glorified leaders day in day out; they perform the often thankless tasks of sheltering lead riders from the wind, becoming their waiters with food and bidons and generally being at the beck and call of others. Ultimately they make cycling the team sport that it is so often not credited for. Charles Wegelius was one such domestique who carved out a (successful) career in this role.

His book Domestique: The Real Life Ups and Downs of a Tour Pro, co-written with his partner in ‘crime’ from the 2005 World Championship in Madrid, Tom Southam, is an eye watering expose into the professional peloton in which he inhabited through the 2000’s. The starkest tones of his story show just how much he was willing to sacrifice in order to make it as first an amateur and then a pro. Arguably it was this mentality that made him such a cherished domestique by teams in Europe.

From the first enquiry to his mother to ask whether she could write a letter to his headmaster to allow him to train during sports afternoons at school, to leaving York to join Vendee U in France as an amateur, Wegelius’ passion and drive for the sport jumps from the text on the page and virtually smacks you in the face. His mentality and feelings are laid bare for all to see and arguably what makes this different from the standard Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish story. Ultimately, no other recent cycling autobiography is more revealing. Perhaps only David Millar’s Racing Through The Dark (read our review here) and Tyler Hamilton’s The Secret Race come close to revealing what it is really like inside professional road cycling and both of those almost entirely focus on the doping aspect of the support. His constant unhappiness and lack of contentment despite success is a telling thread which runs throughout the book. Indeed, insecurities are never far from the forefront of Wegelius’ mind.

Before British Cycling’s track success was replicated on the road with the BC Academy/Team Sky etc, Wegelius had to do what all other British road riders had had to do over the previous few decades to be successful – make a go of it in Europe. The classic stories emerge of ramshackle houses provided by teams, the culture shock of European life, but also the young Wegelius showing how passionate he was about success. A classic example: He asked his then manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau to allow him to race (his French racing license was currently in limbo at the time) at an event – he drove to the event in a team camper, set the bike up himself and travelled without a masseur. To his teammates incredulity he duly won the race. Yet again insecurities arise. Wegelius writes that on winning the Under-23 national Road Race and coming second in the European Time Trial Championships as an amateur he felt “victory wasn’t something special that I felt I should sit back and enjoy.” He actually felt that, “a win was simply another box ticked in what was turning out to be an infinite list of boxes I had to tick to be content.”

His meticulous approach to life as an amateur transcended from keeping his bike clean after every ride, washing it with diesel, to competing with another amateur on who could spend the less on everyday essentials. Yet, Wegelius comes to recognise that, “society’s admiration for athletes is based entirely on the achievement of an ideal.” He realises that the sacrifices he has made to become the athlete he so desperately wanted to be, has made him a difficult person to be around.

Throwing all the personal anecdotes aside the book still fantastically illustrates the idiosyncrasies of the pro peloton. Obviously given his career with Italian teams, Mapei, De Nardi and Liquigas the majority of incites have a distinct flavour to them. Old riders tales such as wearing as much clothing whilst training are very enjoyable and occasions such as the 2005 Vuelta, where temperatures were heading into the 40°C Spanish riders were seen warming up on rollers with woollen hats, leggings and arm warmers are a delight to read. The book finishes with a wonderfully poignant tale which is topped by a realisation that Wegelius had found the truth about being inside the professional peloton: “it’s no f***king fairytale.” Overall, a delight from start to finish; perhaps the only thing missing is a further insight into life on the Giro d’Italia in which Wegelius was so well versed.

CyclingShortsRatingDomestique

CyclingShorts Rating: Star Buy! – 90%

Title:

Domestique – The Real Life Ups and Downs of a Tour Pro

Author:
Charly Wegelius

Hardback Price: RRP £16.99

Paperback Price: £8.99

Kindle Price: £8.99

ISBN 978-0091950934

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