Book Review – Slaying The Badger

 

Slaying The Badger

LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France
by Richard Moore

I love sport – I love the grand tournament, the big match, the great race. What makes sport great for me is how it exposes personality – not just the obvious, like the braggadocio of a Muhammad Ali, the tortured genius of a Paul Gascoigne, the flamboyant elegance of a Valentino Rossi, but also those less touched by that kind of otherworldly ability and charisma, the Joe Fraziers, the Colin Hendrys, the Sete Gibernaus. And when the competition is at its peak, when everything is on the line, when the body, spirit and mind are stretched to the absolute limit, striving to overcome their peers, that’s when the personality is laid bare, that’s when sport is at its very best. There’s no hiding place on the pinnacle of the mountain.
Slaying The Badger tells such a story, of the 1986 Tour de France, a titanic battle between the two best riders in the race, team mates Bernard Hinault, the spiritual leader of the peloton in all his five-times victor pomp, and the young pretender, Greg Lemond, the blond-haired blue-eyed Californian golden boy. I’m sure a lot of readers are aware of how the race went down but if, like me, you go into the book knowing very little of the story of the ‘86 tour, I won’t spoil it for you by telling you what happens – what I WILL say is it was a great, classic race with a twist, and the triumph of Moore’s book is that it doesn’t get hung up on the step by step minutiae of the race, which frankly can be pretty dull (try rereading the text coverage of a stage – it’s not easy to make it a lively read). Instead, a sizeable percentage of the book is given over to Moore’s comprehensive modern-day interviews, not only with Hinault and Lemond, but also with some of their managers, coaching staff and team mates.
It’s Moore’s ability to portrait these characters in words – the pugnacious Hinault, the frankly scatty but puppyish Lemond – and weave them in around the other characters and events before, during and after the race that made this book stand out for me. The result is a gripping snapshot of this great race, a superbly detailed snapshot without getting bogged down in the nitty details – it’s not a pacy thriller that will leave you gasping at every turn, but it spins along at a thoughtful clip and informs as well as entertains. As a book for the cycling fanatic, whether you know the story of the race or not, it’s essential reading, but Moore’s elegant prose is so accessible that I’d have no problem thoroughly recommending this even to the non-cycling sports fan. This is a class piece of work.

Don’t forget to enter our competition to win a copy of the book! Click here to enter!
Closing date: 24/10/2012.

Title:
Slaying The Badger – LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France  

Author:
Richard Moore    

Published by:
Yellow Jersey Press (Random House)

Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle

Price:
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (iBook) RRP £8.99 (Kindle)

 

Book Review: Breaking the Chain by Willy Voet

 

Breaking the Chain

Drugs and Cycling – The True Story
by Willy Voet – Translated by William Fotheringham

 
Wow what a book. If you had ever wondered how and why the Festina incident exploded or rather imploded during the 1998 Tour de France then this is the book to read. A read that will be hard to put down and if you do will be itching to pick it up as soon as you can! Written by the Festina Team soigneur Willy Voet, the man who was caught red handed with a car full of team drugs. He shows you the murky world of team meds and doping from insiders perspective, it’s quite horrifying.

Actually this book goes much much further then you might have ever imagined, many riders who have used and abused drugs both legal and less then legal are named and in some instances shamed. You will also find out how riders are able to use banned substances and avoid testing positive by either timing of doses or the types of drugs and mixes used. In fact Mr Voet goes a step further and explains how within twenty minutes a rider can take an IV solution that will ensure the rider does not fail a random out of competition test, very convenient if the tester turns up while the rider is in the shower!

This book goes beyond any other book I have read about doping and certainly leaves nothing to the imagination, it also confirms many of the facts disclosed by other books I have read. There is so much more that I would love to tell you about but then it would not be worth you reading the book!

The bottom line is go out and buy a copy, it might not give you all the answers but I can guarantee that it will certainly get you thinking!

PS. If you think Lance is above and beyond suspicion then I would recommend that you read this book and some of the recent revelations from his soigneur are confirmed by Willy as standard practice at the time. It also ties in nicely with some of the issues covered in David Millar’s autobiography (Racing Through The Dark – The Fall and Rise of David Millar, read our review here) they make good companion books. This gets a Cycling Shorts Star Buy rating of 100%… the first!

This really is a must read if you want to make an informed decision about the state of cycling pre and post 1998.


 
 
Title:
Breaking the Chain: Drugs and Cycling – The True Story  

Author: Willy Voet – Translated by William Fotheringham    

Published by Yellow Jersey Press & Vintage Digital

Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle

Price:
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook)

 
 

 
 
 
 

Book Review: Racing Through the Dark – The Fall and Rise of David Millar

 

Racing Through the Dark

The Fall and Rise of David Millar
by David Millar

I have read many autobiographies about cyclists over the years, but none of them can be compared to this magnificent book by David Millar.
The story can be read on two levels. The first is the most obvious one: a review of one of the most important and decisive periods in contemporary cycling: the end of the nineties and the beginning of the 21st century (the controversial Lance Armstrong era), recorded by an insider. The second is more universal: it is the tale of the loss of innocence, the psychologically fully acceptable story of how a talented young person gets drawn into a world of corruption and foul play, driven by the hunger for success and recognition, and how this world makes this acceptable, because everybody is playing by the same “rules” and the “real world” is well hidden and seems reassuringly far away (a term recently used by Armstrong’s in his defence as he declined to fight his longterm battle with USADA, ‘I played by the rules of the time’). In David Millar’s case, the protagonist survives, and returns on a higher level, an advocate of stronger anti-doping regulations, which, sadly enough, can’t be said of many heroes in many similar stories.

For the real cycling fan, “Racing through the Dark” contains a tremendous amount of background information of how things worked in the pro teams at the time of the 1998 Festina Tour de France: we see how the Cofidis team was organised, we see how “stars” like Philippe Gaumont and Frank Vandenbroucke were behaving like real lunatics, taking drugs before major races, and getting away with it, as long as results were good…We learn how the practice of injections used for recuperation was omnipresent, and how one step leads to the other, as was the case for Millar when he was staying in the house of one of his Italian teammates, who is called “l’Equipier” in the book, but who, in my opinion, can’t be anyone else but Massimiliano Lelli.

We also get a nice insight into contemporary racing, because, luckily, Millar’s racing days weren’t over after he‘d got caught. There is the story of his meeting with the flamboyant JV (Jonathan Vaughters), his friendship with Stuart O’Grady, the Commonwealth Games in India together with Cav (Mark Cavendish), who is described in a very positive way, participating in the Tour de France with a young Bradley Wiggins, who comes across to me to be a rather selfish person, not a team player.

And then there is the second level, the extraordinarily intelligent and well written story of the fall and rise of a talented sportsman, originally from Scotland, who, after his parents get divorced, spends his youth partly in Hong Kong, and partly in England, where his mother and sister still live. We follow his story, how he comes to France to become a pro cyclist, how he reaches top level, winning the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, living the life of a superstar, dwelling in Monaco and Biarritz, how he gets caught for doping practices, and falls into depression, but, sustained by the help of his sister and a few good friends eventually crawls back, and reaches the highest level again, clean and more satisfied this time.

It is this story of “redemption”, as Millar calls it, that makes the book more interesting than the average autobiography of well- known sportsmen, it shows the reader how easily one can make the wrong decisions, how gradually a naïve ambitious youngster chooses the side of the cheating colleagues, and how living in a protected, small universe makes one unaware of what is morally acceptable in the “real world”.

Racing through the Dark is a must read for every cycling fan, who is not only interested in facts and figures, but also enjoys reading a fine story that makes us understand what was going on in the pro teams in the recent past, and makes us hope that there is still a future for cycling.


Title:
Racing Through the Dark – The Fall and Rise of David Millar  

Author: David Millar    

Published by Orion

Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle

Price:
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook), RRP £18.99 (Hardback)

 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Book Review: “How I Won The Yellow Jumper” by Ned Boulting

For any fans of the Tour de France, who watch the ITV4 programme avidly during July, you will no doubt know the dulcet tones of Ned Boulting. He has become synonymous with the ITV4 programme, where he interviews the likes of Mark Cavendish post race, or whoever is currently sitting on top of the GC on that particular day.

I was looking forward to reading Ned’s book, as I thought it would be interesting to hear what non-cyclists think of the cycling world, for Ned himself is the first person to say that he had no idea about the Tour de France when he was first drafted onto the production team back in 2003, calling the yellow jersey “the yellow jumper”.

Ned’s book is easy to read, interesting, funny and witty. It might put you off ever wanting to work on a Grand Tour as he tells of incidents where he had little time to sleep, late finishes and early starts, and a lot of driving around France in the customary Renault Espace. But it is insightful nonetheless.

The book in itself is a breath of fresh air due to the dead pan, matter of fact way in which Ned narrates his various experiences. He has the ability to look at what he has done from what appears to be somebody else’s perspective. At certain points, it’s “no holds barred” where he recounts his experiences with Mark Cavendish, Robbie McEwen and Team Sky.

There is also a section about how Cavendish became the green jersey winner in 2011, as well as an hommage to Thomas Voeckler and throughout the book there seems to be an undercurrent of utmost respect for Gary Imlach, and Chris Boardman.

If you haven’t got a copy yet, I would thoroughly recommend this book – add it to your Christmas list at the very least. It’s only £8.99 from Amazon and other bookshops and you can even buy the eBook version, if that floats your boat.

For my part, I am hoping that Ned does a follow up – his behind the scenes view of Team Sky in the 2012 Tour de France would be an interesting read! Bravo, Ned! Keep up the good work! This book gets our Star Buy rating.

Title:
How I Won The Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France  

Author:
Ned Boulting    

Published by:
Yellow Jersey Press (Random House) & Vintage Digital

Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle

Price:
RRP £12.99 (Paperback), RRP £12.99 (eBook)

 

Book Review: In search of Robert Millar by Richard Moore

 

In search of Robert Millar

Unravelling the Mystery Surrounding Britain’s Most Successful Tour de France Cyclist
by Richard Moore

What a book! Thought provoking or what?! To date this must be the most enjoyable book about a past cyclist that I have ever had the privilege to read. It was such a great relief to read In search of Robert Millar after having to plough my way through Sex, Lies and Handlebar tape (the story of Jacque Anquetil) which had taken the thick end of two weeks to read, where as In search of Robert Millar was devoured in a matter of days!

To put my desire to read this book into perspective I must stress that Robert was in a key group of Tour de France riders whom I viewed as my sporting heroes in the 1980’s and as a young rider I looked up to, not so much as people whom I wanted to emulate but rather riders with a wide range of skill sets I wanted to learn from. The list included Paul Sherwin, Sean Kelly, Martin Early, Robert Millar, Greg Lemond, Sean Yates and Malcolm Elliot. As a young rider and even now I would certainly never have been able to place myself in this group and most certainly never in the same build as Robert. If he was a thoroughbred race horse I was the working shire-horse! But what stood out to me was his ability to suffer and suffer again knowing that those he was racing against where suffering even more then him. His ability to change speed up hill and put his opponents into major difficulty was legendary no it was the stuff that young boys dreams are made of.

I guess like many I had heard the rumours that Robert was now Roberto Millar and had dropped off the radar, occasionally passing comment on various bike forums, but I never wanted to believe what I had heard without proof. In essence this is what drew me to read In search of Robert Millar, would I be disappointed?

The quick answer to this question is a resounding NO. Far from being disappointed it was great, through the eyes of Richard Moore, to get a sneak insight into the life and times of one very special rider.

Richard’s book really does give the reader good understanding of what drives Robert and the things that make him tick. So many people interviewed for the book highlight that Robert was a very special, talented rider, with a good insight into the development of a race and wining strategy. Richard also shows how far ahead of his time Robert was with training methods and nutrition. Information Robert read was applied and tested in the real world of racing, things that did not work for him were then discarded. Robert was very focused on what worked and refused to pay lip service or waste any time on fads or pointless lab research that would not be applicable to his world.

The most telling tale of lab work verse real life was Robert’s first contact with a young Sports Science researcher called Peter Keen (later Performance Director for British Cycling). At a cycling conference Peter was pushing the use of Maxim as a major enhancement to performance for riders (hmm cross reference my review of Nuun and the recent BBC documentary). Robert needless to say dismissed the lab research as the product had never been tested in the field and just like Graeme Obree his opinion is that water works best.

Robert’s and Peter’s paths crossed again later in the book when Robert had been employed by the British Cycling to aid the development of the Road Racing squad. Needless to say as Peter appears to be a numbers man and Robert appears to be an experience man with no formal qualifications in sports science, surprise surprise Peter chose to not renew Roberts contract. I shall refrain from expressing my opinion about this but really encourage you to read the book and make up your own mind about the benefits of a sports science degree or the knowledge and understanding gained from the University of Real Life.

For me the most exciting part of the book must be the Epilogue, where Richard shares his e-mail communications with Robert Millar about the writing of the book. What a fascinating exchange.

Robert Millar for my money a cycling legend with so much that we can learn from. I can not recommend highly enough that you sit down and get hold of a copy of In search of Robert Millar I am sure you will not be disappointed.


Title:
In search of Robert Millar  

Author: Richard Moore    

Published by HarperSport (HarperCollins)

Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle

Price:
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook), RRP £18.99 (Hardback)

 
 

 
 
Previous reads include:

Sex Lies and Handlebar Tape Jacques Anquetil (reviewed August 2012)
In Pursuit of Glory Bradley Wiggins
Flying Scotsman Graeme Obree
Rough Ride Paul Kimmage
Riding through the Darkness David Millar
We were young and carefree Laurent Fignon
Boy Racer Mark Cavendish (read Darren’s review here)

 
 

Book Review – Mark Cavendish “Boy Racer”

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.

 
 

You could win a signed copy of “Boy Racer” by entering our competition by clicking here.

 

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)
 
 

 
 

 

 

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