Nine Fine Books: part two
More reading material picks from the editorial team: Ian's top trio (and a cheeky plug for our annual)
Ian Cleverly - Editor Rouleur Magazine
Étape – Richard Moore (Harper Sport)
Richard Moore takes 20 classic Tour de France stages and talks to the protagonists behind the stories: Chris Boardman’s record-breaking prologue in ’94; Luis Herrera, the brilliant young Colombian, taking on the might of Hinault and Fignon in ’84; the mercurial Claudio Chiappucci, on a seemingly suicidal all-day attack, winning on the summit of Sestriere in front of thousands of screaming tifosi in ’92.
Mark Cavendish’s ability to recall every inch of a frantic sprint is legendary, but he’s not the only one with an eye for detail. Moore takes memories from the likes of Merckx, Roche, Maertens, LeMond and – interestingly – Armstrong, and weaves them into gripping chapters on iconic stages of this great race.
Thankfully, the author has resisted the temptation to plump for 20 stage-winners: some of the finest recollections come from adversity rather than triumph. The tale of Bernard Eisel pacing Cavendish up the Tourmalet in 2010, desperately trying to avoid the time cut, is terrific – best friends, cast adrift of the gruppetto, first arguing, then “sulking like a married couple”.
And a week earlier, David Millar, complete with broken rib, grovelling over the Alps for over four hours alone, apart from the motorcycle gendarme appointed to clear the road ahead. They become allies, rider and police officer embracing the following day in mutual admiration and gratitude.
But the best, for me, is perhaps the least likely story of all: Urs Zimmermann, the talented Swiss struggling with depression, thrown off the ’91 Tour for taking a lift in the mechanics car on the transfer day, rather than flying with the rest of the peloton. The riders flex their muscles, Zimmermann is reinstated and zips back from the airport, changing en route, to rejoin the race.
Not exactly a happy ending, but a fine example of Moore’s approach: every Tour rider has stories to tell the grandchildren, winners and losers alike. There’s a rich seam to be mined here. Has he started work on the follow-up yet?
The Race to Truth – Emma O’Reilly (Bantam Press)
The former US Postal soigneur who blew the whistle on cycling’s endemic doping culture was subsequently branded an “alcoholic” and “a whore” by Lance Armstrong, yet it’s Armstrong who pens the foreword – remarkably forgiving on O’Reilly’s part for someone who was treated appallingly by practically everyone involved in the sordid story: David Walsh and the Sunday Times don’t exactly emerge smelling of roses, either.
As O’Reilly told me earlier this year when her book was released: “I don’t have an agenda, but wanted the human side of the story to be told, because all anybody goes on about is the drugs in the sport, and the cheating. This is a story about human beings. People were dying. That’s more important than any journalist’s career.”
It is, indeed, a human story from a courageous woman dumped on from a great height by many, yet able to forgive and move on. An enjoyable read from a brave soul who deserved better treatment all round.
Bike Mechanic: Tales from the Road and the Workshop (Bloomsbury)
Is that a cry of “nepotism” from the back? Aw, hell, guilty as charged. But this fine book wouldn’t be in here if it didn’t deserve it.
Former Rouleur editor Guy Andrews and top mechanic Rohan Dubash have been kicking around workshops and professional racing for decades. The combination of Dubash’s fascination with every nut and bolt of a bicycle (preferably Italian with a Super Record groupset) coupled with Andrews’ (ditto) knowledge of a mechanic’s lot on the ProTour circuit makes this book stand a mile apart from the usual ‘how to’ manuals.
Whilst there step-by-step guides to adjusting brakes and maintaining drivetrains, these are interspersed with stories from the team mechanics about their lives on the road, from the dramatic scenes at 2013’s Milan-Sanremo to the neutral support from the guys at Mavic and Vittoria.
And, to top it off, the whole book is beautifully shot by Taz Darling, whose wonderful work Rouleur regulars will be very familiar with.
Don’t take this book in the workshop, though. It’s too handsome.
And another thing...
The Rouleur annual, This Island Race, is fabulous, but we would say that, wouldn't we?
Peter Kennaugh by Olaf Unverzart