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: 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)

 
 

X