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!

Cycling Santa’s Christmas Shopping Guide 2015

Cycling Shorts unleashes Santa’s Little Helpers.
Yes the panic is setting in, so much to get organised and so little time, so we’ve all got together to give you a list of gift ideas that won’t disappoint the fussiest cyclist or cycling fan in your life.

We’ve split our choices into four perfect price packages, click on the images to be taken to the retailers website.

Wishing you a Merry Festivemas from all at CyclingShorts.cc!

 

Secret Santa – under £30

 

Santa’s Little Helper – under £100

  

 

Something Beneath The Tree – under £500

 

Santa Baby – money is no object!

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: Classic Cycling Race Routes: The Toughest 52 European Challenges

 

Classic Cycling Race Routes

The Toughest 52 European Challenges
by Chris Sidwells

Reviewed by Nick Dey

Classic Cycling Race Routes: The Toughest 52 European Challenges - By Chris Sidwells

Published: 15th October 2013

£25 hardback

AA Publishing in association with Garmin

An inspiring book to read and then to ride… if you dare!

This inspiring hardback book presents a selection of the most challenging and rewarding routes for road and racing cyclists. From the South Downs Epic and Tour of the Peak in the UK, to Paris-Roubaix in France and Tour of Flanders in Belgium, from Gruyere Cycling Tour in Switzerland and Tour of Lombardy in Italy to the San Sebastian Classic in Spain, this book is the ultimate motivation for cyclists who want to push themselves to the next level.

The fifty-two classic European cycling routes – one ride for each week of the year – selected to appear in this weighty A4 hard backed tome of well over two-hundred pages cater for the aspiring and experienced cyclist as well as those more romantically inclined, inspired as they are by the epic routes raced by the legends of the sport.

Experience an example… The Retro Ronde.The routes have derived their inspiration from the many professional races as well as the ever growing mass-participation events, the cyclosportives. Indeed the twenty-four routes that cover the UK and Ireland are exclusively ‘sportive in scope.  I’m ashamed to report that I have ridden only one … but can vouch for the books accuracy; I was indeed Flat Out in the Fens! Several of the European events feature in the World Cycling Tour: an age group series in which participants have the chance to qualify for and compete in an age-group final. You, yes you, could become a World Champion!

 

Route 34, pp148-150, covers the outstanding Retro Ronde*

I rode this in 2013 and am happy to state without hyperbole that it is my absolute favourite cycling experience, second to none – full review coming soon to Cycling Shorts (Ed. I promise!)

 

Here I am… climbing ‘The Wall’ Retro Ronde 2013

Here I am… climbing ‘The Wall’ Retro Ronde 2013

 

In the book the route distance is correctly stated as 100 km (I managed 112 km but did get myself lost taking in a few extra Heligen!) but the total climbing was very different to my experience. The book states 525 m however I managed 1200 m. To be fair to the author the organisers fine tune their route each year – and I did do the extra cobbled climbs! All the other information is accurate and succeeds in conveying the flavour of the experience. For experience the Retro Ronde certainly is! I shall be back every year – or as long as the old bike, and even older legs will allow. If you do plan on riding try to make a long weekend of it. The ‘Crit’, ahem, racing on the Saturday is wholly authentic yet rather tongue in cheek, and well worth the entry fee of €5!

Posing for the official photo at the start… the atmosphere was the best I have experienced.

Posing for the official photo at the start… the atmosphere was the best I have experienced.

 

So how does this fine book present the information?

The book in a nutshell …

  • 52 European cyclosportive and Grand Tour routes
  • Full-colour route maps with directions and elevation profiles
  • Advice on ride strategies and techniques
  • Tips on training, appropriate clothing, nutrition and fitness
  • All routes are available to download for your GPS cycling computer
  • Routes cover the UK & Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

The author suggests the reader takes two possible approaches, both of which allow them to make full use of the route information. The first, and Sidwells strongly suggests this as the most preferable avenue, is to take part in the official event for each route (if there is one) as, and I can only concur with him in this respect, …
“…the atmosphere and camaraderie of these events, where thousands of like-minded souls take part, all enjoying doing something they love, is incredible.”
Additionally, there is also more than enough information within the book to allow you to ride each route, or your own variation of it, independently of the official event and at any time of year. Words to the wise… check before you leave that roads are open!
Each route is clearly described and supported with often fascinating background information along with tantalising titbits of history; and who amongst us hasn’t unleashed the inner child and ridden a classic imagining the spectres of the greats; Coppi, Bobbet, Garin, et al, riding alongside?
There are maps and directions for each route, including profiles that clearly indicate where each hill is located along with rather useful yet often unsettling detail on how long and steep they are! The ever useful height gain is also presented.
In the words of the author, Chris Sidwells, “Enjoy the book, use it for planning and setting objectives, but above all get out and ride these routes. They represent some of the finest cycling experiences you could ever have.”
Classic Cycling Routes in a little more detail …
The introduction is extensive and covers three very important pre-ride requisites: Basic equipment – your bike, creating a training plan, and challenge-ride nutrition. There is a lot of very useful information here ranging from how to best use a GPS device (by Garmin) to the basics of creating a training plan.
The two-hundred pages devoted to the fifty two Race Routes traverse Europe through seven countries but with the majority set in the UK and Ireland.

The UK & Ireland section contains twenty-four routes, as listed below:
Etape Caledonia
The Cyclone
The Fred Whitton Challenge
Etape Pennines
The Ryedale Rumble
Etape du Dales
The Cheshire Cat
Tour of the Peak
The Shropshire Mynd
Flat Out in the Fens
Hell of the North Cotswolds
The Ups and Downs
The Lionheart
The New Forest Epic
The South Downs Epic
The Tour of Wessex
The Exmoor Beast
The Dartmore Classic
Cornwall Tor
Etape Cymru
The Dragon Ride
The Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive
Tour of Sligo
Malin to Mizen

France:
Paris-Roubaix Challenge
Paris-Tours
Megève Mont Blanc
L’Ardéchoise Marathon
La Marmotte
Cinglés du Ventoux
Etape du Tour 2010

Belgium:
Tour of Flanders
Gent-Wevelgem
Retro Ronde
Grand Fondo Eddy Merckx
Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Holland
The Amstell Gold Race

Germany:
Vattenfall Cyclassics
Switzerland
Gruyére Cycling Tour
Alpenbrevet Platinum Tour

Italy:
Tour of Lombardy
Milan-San Remo
A Stage of the Tour of Italy
La Leggendaria Charly Gaul
Maratona dles Dolomites
La Pinarello Cycling Marathon
L’Eroica

Spain:
San Sebastian Classic
Quebrantahuesos
Val d’Aran Cycling Tour
A Stage of the Vuelta
La Pico del Veleta

Don’t forget… all routes in this book can be downloaded to your Garmin (the Edge 800 in my case) from the AA website.

AA Website

In conclusion…

As the book itself says, ‘the classic race routes selected here are not for the faint-hearted. Based on the best cyclosportive events in Europe and on stages of Grand Tours, they are much more than just pretty rides in the country. The fifty-two routes are serious mental and physical challenges (in the case of the Retro Ronde… the liver is called upon to do its bit too!) that require training and preparation. Yet each is accessible and achieved by many thousands of amateur cyclists each year.

Classic Cycling Race Routes allows you to cycle these rides at any time, either as preparation for the race events, or for the sheer joy and exhilaration of the challenge. For those rides that don’t have a dedicated cyclosportive route, the author has designed a ride a ride to reflect the demands and history of the race.

Each route contains a map with directions and an elevations and an elevation profile, and Chris Sidwells provides an overview combining ride strategy and techniques with the history of the race.

Practical and aspirational, Classic Cycling Race Routes will inspire a new generation of cyclists to push themselves to the extreme. You never know, the next Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish or Sir Bradley Wiggins may well be among them!

One for the rider as well as the reader + GPS routes = 100% Awarded our Star Buy Rating!
Cycling Shorts Star Rating Classic Cycling Race Routes By Chris Sidwells
Reviewed by: Nichiless ‘Nicky’ Dey.
Neunkirchen-Seelscheid, Germany


About the author

Chris Sidwells is an internationally-respected British cycling journalist and author, with nine books on cycling, ranging from biography through fitness and training to bike repair. His Complete Bike Book has been translated into twenty-four languages, and his Bike Repair Manual is about to reach its fifth edition. Tour Climbs and Race for Madmen were best sellers in their genre. His The Official Tour de France Recordshas the backing of Le Tour Itself. Most recently he has published The Long Race for Glory: How the British Came to Rule the Cycling World… the next book to be reviewed on Cycling Shorts. Chris’s words and photographs have graced the pages of Britain’s best-selling cycling  magazine Cycling Weekly (indeed he seems to appear in every issue,) and in all issues of Cycle Sport and Cycling Active, along with Cycling Fitness. He has also been published in Men’s Fitness, Cycling Plus, GQ, Running Fitness and the Sunday Times. Phew!

 

 

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


 

 

 

 

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