"Is it about a bicycle?": Cycling books

View previous topic View next topic Go down

"Is it about a bicycle?": Cycling books

Post  eddie on Mon Apr 18, 2011 12:38 am

Racing Through the Dark by David Millar – review

David Millar provides one of the great first-person accounts of sporting experience

Richard Williams guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 June 2011 10.05 BST


Good pals ... Lance Armstrong (left) and David Millar. Photograph: Tom Jenkins

Within the space of 24 hours last month, professional bike racers forced the cancellation of a stage of the Tour of California because of cold weather and persuaded the organisers of the Giro d'Italia to bypass a particularly dangerous descent. A reader of Richard Moore's Slaying the Badger (Yellow Jersey, £12.99), an account of the ferocious battle between Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond for supremacy in the 1986 Tour de France, might come across the tale of Hinault – the Badger of the title – suffering severe frostbite while riding to victory through snow and ice early in his career and conclude that today's riders have gone soft.


Racing Through the Dark by David Millar

If that reader were then to encounter David Millar's harrowing description of his mental and physical ordeal on an Alpine stage of the 2010 Tour de France, which forms the climax of Racing Through the Dark, a different impression might be entertained. Millar's suffering that day is the sort of thing that forms an unbreakable link between cycling's rich history and its present.

By the time we reach his Calvary on the Col de la Madeleine, we have travelled with Millar from his origins as a party-loving expat brat in Hong Kong to his current status as one of the world's leading riders, via the life-changing consequences of the single most dramatic incident of his career: the night in 2001 when two French policemen led him out of a restaurant in Biarritz, his adopted home, and, with the aid of two empty syringes found in his apartment, induced him to confess to having used illegal performance-enhancing drugs in order to achieve some of his greatest triumphs.

Some, but not all. When he was 23 years old and still drug-free, Millar won an important stage of the Tour de France. Drugs alone did not make him a top rider. Gradually, however, this intelligent, articulate, emotionally volatile, intellectually inquisitive young man, who would have gone to art college had he not become a professional racer, allowed himself to be sucked into the culture of doping.

Like many others, he had grown frustrated by being part of a peloton à deux vitesses, in which the doped riders almost invariably beat their clean rivals with demoralising ease. There was a natural progression from regular "recovery" injections of vitamins through the use of cortisone to the quasi-scientific administering of EPO, a hormone boosting the production of red blood cells. This changed the doping game in the 1990s, when riders moved beyond crude stimulants such as the notorious "pot Belge", a concoction of amphetamine and heroin, to substances that increased their capacity for physical endurance to inhuman levels.

Millar's description of his fall is laceratingly honest, detailing every twist in the argument by which he convinced himself to take a step he had previously considered unthinkable. Most of the men who helped him to destroy himself, either by supplying substances, sharing their expertise or turning a blind eye, are named, but that is not really the point: anyone seeking to understand the motivation of a drug cheat, or wondering why such a man should be allowed back into his sport after serving his two-year suspension, will find their curiosity satisfied here.

Since returning to competition in 2006, Millar has taken every opportunity to campaign against doping, speaking eloquently from a position of considerable authority. He lost the thread of his career and is now determined to help save his sport by preventing others from falling into the same trap. Cyclists still dope, but a smaller proportion than 10 years ago and with a greater chance of getting caught.

This is an urgent tale, told in an authentic voice. His portraits of contemporaries such as Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish are vividly intimate and shrewdly observed. The recollection of his meeting with Lance Armstrong at the end of the 2007 tour, when he accused the man who had been among his early supporters of abusing the sport, is chilling. And the description of that agonising mountain stage last summer, during which he scoured the depths of his soul while falling helplessly behind the rest of the field, deserves to stand among the great first-person accounts of sporting experience.

Like cricket, boxing, golf and football before it, cycling is currently experiencing something of a literary golden age, and Racing Through the Dark and Slaying the Badger take their place alongside recent volumes by Matt Rendell, William Fotheringham, Jean Bobet, Graeme Fife, Paul Fournel, Bella Bathurst and others. If Millar's tale is largely about one man's battle against himself, Moore's book recounts the saga of the classic duel between Hinault, a pugnacious Breton who had already won the tour five times, and the gifted but somewhat less worldly LeMond, a younger man bidding to become the first American to take home the yellow jersey.

This was a rivalry to match those of Ali and Frazier, Borg and McEnroe or Senna and Prost, made all the more intriguing by the fact that the two men were members of the same team. A year earlier, LeMond had sacrificed his own chances in order to help le Blaireau to achieve his record-equalling fifth win, and had been promised that the favour would be reciprocated at the next opportunity. That was not the way things turned out in the course of a struggle so bitter that the American came to feel that he was fighting the entire French nation.

Drawing on interviews with the protagonists and many of their supporting cast, the author recreates the mounting tension between the cunning Hinault and the more cautious LeMond, who scandalises the old-school European riders by reading a book at dinner and playing golf on the tour's rest days. A former rider who has written for this newspaper, Moore entertainingly unravels the complexities of the relationships within the peloton during a three-week stage race, the sort of battle in which alliances can shift from one mountain peak to another and your enemy's enemy can suddenly become your most valued friend.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011


Last edited by eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 4:25 am; edited 3 times in total

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: "Is it about a bicycle?": Cycling books

Post  eddie on Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:52 pm

The Bicycle Book by Bella Bathurst – review

At last – a book about cycling for the rest of us

Claire Armitstead The Guardian, Saturday 16 April 2011


How the Dutch do it ... 'People cycle because they're interested in reaching their destinations ... everyone rides as upright as if they were sitting at the kitchen table back at home.' Photograph: Denis Doyle/AP

The introduction to Bella Bathurst's book is very clear on what it is not: it's not going to "tell the reader how to differentiate between brands of derailleur or explain why riding a bicycle is good for your heart". It will explain neither the technicalities of zero emissions nor the finer points of track cycling, and it has nothing on folding bikes, Moultons, or recumbents, "because they look ridiculous and can't corner".


The Bicycle Book by Bella Bathurst

Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book It is, writes Bathurst, a book for the sort of cyclist who likes cycling and reading and stories, and who has long ago given up any desire to experiment with "exogenous EPO". This gives it a huge potential readership, because, as she also says, "the bicycle – old, and cheap, and slightly comic – has become the 21st century's great transport success story."

There is an element of protesting too much about Bathurst's disavowals: she is enough of a geek to have made her own bicycle frame. In the first chapter she enrols as a student of the Lincolnshire bike-builder Dave Yates, leaving five days later with her own blood-red, hand-welded racer which is pictured leaned decorously against a tree in Richmond Park.

But for the organisation of her book, she takes a studiously amateur approach, in keeping with what she sees as the cycling world's own organisational principle: there isn't one. Chapters on social history are interspersed with Q&A-style interviews with subjects ranging from a family of downhill racing champions to a flat-full of Edinburgh cycle messengers.

If there is a message from this book it is that the world of cycling is as diverse and unpredictable as the world itself. In Delhi, she meets a rickshaw entrepreneur and offers herself for hire, risking life and limb in the city's terrifying traffic only to forget to ask her passenger for the fare.

In Holland, the subject of one of her most satisfying chapters, she marvels at a cycling landscape that could have been reclaimed from the sea with the bicycle in mind, and discovers that, far from taking to two wheels like ducks to water, doughty Dutch velocipedists of the mid-19th century were bombarded with stones and coal by locals who accused them of traumatising the livestock. Modern Dutch cyclists have taken the land into their own hands. She examines a road system where, thanks partly to a parallel cycle network and partly to the "bizarre" notion that cyclists have a legal and moral right to exist, the accident rate per 100km cycled is 0.8 – a tenth of that in the UK. "Here," she writes, "people cycle because they're interested in reaching their destinations. Everyone spins along at roughly the same pace . . . everyone rides as upright as if they were sitting at the kitchen table back at home . . . no one shows off or rides anything flashy or bangs the bonnets of transgressing vans. It is all very strange."

This ironic deployment of "bizarre" and "strange" is not so much a reflection on the Dutch as on the neurotics, speed-freaks and oddballs she encounters back in the UK. In London she hangs out in a Clerkenwell café with cabbies who complain about the red-light-busting, bonnet-banging impatience of cyclists. Several chapters later she returns to Clerkenwell, this time to a pub, to report a conversation which seems to prove the cabbies' point. One of the capital's oldest couriers, a 68-year-old called Pete, had been spotted, bruised from head to foot after being knocked off his bike. "'I said Pete what's happened to you'. He gone 'you know Holborn Viaduct?' I said, yeah. He said, 'Me and a taxi were having a race to see who could be first.' He said. 'The taxi won, basically.'" For all their environmentalism, cyclists are no angels.

The frustration of the book's pick-and-mix structure is that Bathurst tends to allude to subjects beyond her research – to the idea, for instance, that the bike has led to increases in the height of populations (she mentions this in passing, but you have to go to Graham Robb's magisterial The Discovery of France to find how and why). But the virtue of its structure is that it reflects the variousness of an activity which is at least three things – a hobby, a sport and a form of transport. It enables Bathurst to dwell on the singularity of cyclists – of Charly Wegelius, for example, one of cycle-racing's mystifying super-domestiques, whose only role is to pace-make a team's star riders. He's barely visible at a party to mark the end of the 2009 Tour de France, and yet there is something fascinating about the mindset of a sportsman who puts himself again and again through punishing challenges without any ambition to win, and Bathurst coaxes him rewardingly out of his anonymity. "If I were allowed to ride for myself, I would ride a really anonymous race and finish 20th or 25th or something," he says. "Either you win things or you make yourself useful."

The previous day's racing has taken him up Provence's legendary Mont Ventoux. It was on this "great bald moonscape of a mountain" that Tommy Simpson died in 1967. Yet it's not pursuit of glory that spurs Wegelius on but something much more remorseless. "The tour," he says, "is like a huge gigantic monster that can beat you up if you don't pay attention. If I don't do my job properly in a normal race, hardly anyone notices . . . but if I don't do my job properly here, there's thirty or forty journalists asking where I was at the end of the day and I'm not used to that." Does he like it? "I hate it." So why does he continue? "You have your own truth." The following year, Bathurst quietly notes, Wegelius withdraws from the tour after the tenth stage. He cites ill-health.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: "Is it about a bicycle?": Cycling books

Post  eddie on Wed May 25, 2011 12:08 am

Pedalare! Pedalare! A History of Italian Cycling by John Foot – review

Extraordinary events and people feature in this century of Italian cycling

Thomas Jones guardian.co.uk, Friday 20 May 2011 13.35 BST


Fausto Coppi cycling in the Giro d’Italia in the 1950s. Photograph: AFP

The Giro d'Italia will soon be passing through the town where I live. Enthusiasm for the world's second most prestigious bicycle race is far from universal here. Most of the comments on the website of one of the local papers are grumbling that it will make it even harder than usual to find a parking space. The only public notices I've seen about the Giro have been from the binmen, announcing that they'll be collecting the rubbish unusually early that day. It all seems a far cry from the glory days of the late 1940s and 1950s, which John Foot in his diverting new book calls the "golden age" of Italian cycling, when the rivalry between Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali transfixed legions of fans, not only throughout Italy but across the world.


Pedalare! Pedalare! A History of Italian Cycling by John Foot

Pedalare! Pedalare! covers a century of Italian cycling, from the first Giro in 1909 – the winner, Luigi Ganna, a Milanese bricklayer, when asked how he felt about his victory, replied in dialect: "My arse is killing me" – to the centenary race two years ago, which was won by Denis Menchov, from Russia. As I write, the "Manx Missile", Mark Cavendish, who took his first Giro stage win in 2009, is wearing the leader's pink jersey in this year's race.

Foot tells much of his history through potted biographies of the Giro's stars. Not all of his characters are sportsmen, however. Enrico Toti, for example, could never have won the Giro d'Italia because he only had one leg, having lost the other one working on the railways in 1908. He found that cycling was the easiest way to get about, and it also enabled him to earn a living as a circus act. When Italy entered the first world war in 1915, Toti tried to join up – there were regiments of bicycle troops in the Italian army – but they wouldn't have him. He went to the front line anyway, and died in uncertain circumstances in August 1916. Stories soon circulated about how he had been killed heroically throwing his crutch at the Austrians. A mass cult sprang up in his honour after the war; as Foot writes, "Toti was perfect for fascist propaganda."

Unusual in some ways, in others Toti is typical of the men Foot writes about (and they are almost all men; only one woman has ever taken part in the Giro d'Italia, Alfonsina Strada in 1924): his fanatical commitment to cycling, his high pain threshold – Foot tells of cyclists racing on with broken bones, or in weather conditions so severe that their clothes froze to their bodies – but above all the way that his exploits and achievements were both exploited for political ends and eclipsed by the myths that grew up around them.

Uncertainty still surrounds the war record of Fiorenzo Magni, the third wheel in the Coppi-Bartali rivalry. He may have been a member of the fascist militia that massacred a group of partisans in Valbona in January 1944; on the other hand, he may (or may also), like Bartali, have helped the resistance earlier on, delivering anti-fascist newspapers on his bike. (Coppi spent most of the war in a British POW camp in North Africa.)

And then there are the extraordinary events of the summer of 1948. On 14 July, the riders in the Tour de France were resting in Cannes, preparing for the next stage of the race. Bartali was in seventh place; some Italian journalists are said to have taken the opportunity to nip over the border and go home. In Rome, Palmiro Togliatti, the leader of the Communist party, was shot three times on the steps of the parliament building by a rightwing Sicilian student. Protests and strikes broke out across the country. Revolution or civil war seemed possible. As part of his handling of the crisis, the Christian Democrat prime minister is said to have phoned Bartali in Cannes and asked him to win the race "for Italy". He won the next three stages in a row, and went on to win the Tour. "After 16 July," Foot writes, "the workers drifted back to their factories and order was restored."

Is there any connection between these events? Did Togliatti's shooting in Rome contribute to Bartali's unlikely triumph in France? And did that in turn have a dampening effect on the uprising in Italy? Well, possibly. More importantly, Foot writes, in his dissection of the myth, "We are dealing here with a powerful 'social fiction', which took root through the endless retelling of a story: a myth which became part of the nation's history of itself."

However, Foot says: "There is no doubt that the Bartali myth was first propagated by the Catholic press." Bartali was ostentatiously devout: after winning the 1948 Tour de France he made an offering of the yellow jersey to Saint Teresa. As his rivalry with Coppi came to symbolise the contradictions of an entire nation – in 1949 Curzio Malaparte wrote an essay about them entitled "The Two Faces of Italy" – it's hardly surprising that Bartali (a Tuscan) should have been thought to show the traditional Catholic face while Coppi (from the industrial north) represented postwar modernity. These roles don't entirely fit the facts but, as Foot demonstrates, the facts, even when they're recoverable, are often the least of it.

The golden age came to an end in the late 1950s (Coppi died, probably of malaria, in 1960, at the age of 40). The Giro has since then become "principally a story about cycling and cyclists, not about a nation or its culture", though it may never have been quite as important as Foot makes out: like most commentators on sport, he has a weakness for hyperbole. The great controversies have been about doping, not about war records or political allegiances.

The decline in the importance of the Giro has partly to do with the way that, as Foot says, "the very idea of Italy began to crumble" at the end of the 20th century. But it also has to do with the disconnection between cycling and everyday life. "Those who created cycling as a sport," the journalist Luciano Bianciardi wrote in 1971, "went to work on their bikes from dawn until dusk . . . The kids who work for the baker today travel by scooter." Cycling's mass appeal lay partly in its mass use as a means of transport. Now it's a middle-class hobby.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: "Is it about a bicycle?": Cycling books

Post  eddie on Wed May 25, 2011 11:15 pm


Jerome K Jerome's less well-known companion volume to "Three Men in a Boat".

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: "Is it about a bicycle?": Cycling books

Post  eddie on Fri May 27, 2011 11:54 am

Review: How I Won The Yellow Jumper by Ned Boulting

ITV's roving reporter has written a hugely enjoyable behind-the-scenes look at the Tour de France


How I Won The Yellow Jumper: Dispatches From The Tour De France written by Ned Boulting Photograph: Yellow Jersey

A few years ago, when I first started taking an interest in professional cycling, I remember being very surprised to learn that the Tour de France was a team competition. I had no idea that Lance Armstrong could never have won the race without the help of his loyal domestiques, and that sprinters like Mark Cavendish usually need a lead-out man if they are to cross the line first. In my innocent mind, bike riding was a solo pursuit. That's what Ned Boulting thought too. It's an easy mistake to make, and perfectly forgiveable - unless, of course, you're about to become the new roving reporter for ITV4's Tour de France coverage.


How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France by Ned Boulting

But that's not the only faux pas Boulting made when he found himself catapulted from the familiar world of football to the alien cycling scene back in 2003. It got far worse. On his debut appearance, he recorded a piece to camera about the Scottish cyclist David Millar "kissing goodbye to the yellow jumper" after technical problems on the first stage time trial. It's this howler which gives the title to Boulting's enormously enjoyable memoir.

How I Won The Yellow Jumper is a romp through Boulting's eight years following le grande bouclé, which describes his transformation from a blundering know-nothing - described by one TV critic as "the Monty Don of cycling ... determined to dumb everything down" - into a Tour fixture alongside legends like Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, Chris Boardman and Gary Imlach.

The book starts like a two-wheeled take on Toby Young's great How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, albeit told by an infinitely more charming narrator, as Boulting details a catalogue of blunders he made when starting the job.

As a relatively new Tour devotee, I always thought of him as a no-nonsense, effortless pro, so it's rather sweet to read about the inferiority complex he developed working alongside some of cycling's true giants. I loved the passage when he describes his pride the first time a viewer writes into the show to ask his, rather than just Liggett's, opinion on whether Armstrong could win the Tour on his comeback in 2009 (no chance, said Boulting, and he was right: the Texan placed third.)

Anyone else who cancels all 7pm appointments for three weeks in July in order to watch ITV4's Tour highlights will enjoy the behind-the-scenes gossip - how Liggett even commentates his breakfast and can never remember Boulting's name, how the ITV team come to refer to Lance Armstrong "Larry" (and his then girlfriend Sheryl Crow as "Shirley") and the story of the day Boardman phones up Boulting's dad when his whole family forgets his birthday. There is plenty of insight too into the tour's bigwigs, with chapters on Armstrong, Cavendish, Millar, Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky, as well as an introduction to off-camera heroes, such as the man in charge of the Tour's chemical toilets.

My favourite passages, however, are those when Boulting describes those little things that illustrate his transformation from a cycling ignoramus into a full-on Tour fanatic.

At one point Boulting describes how he becomes helplessly drawn to Caisse d'Epargne cash machines when looking for an ATM in France, simply because the bank sponsors a Tour team. Just the other week I got a daft thrill when I arrived at a hotel in Munich to see that Saxo Bank were holding a conference in the ballroom - Saxo Bank being the old team of the Schleck brothers from Luxembourg, whose fraternal love has warmed the hearts of many who have watched them care for each other in the peloton.

The only real problem with the book is that it's making me wish away the start of summer and fast-forward to 2 July and le grand départ.

How I Won The Yellow Jumper by Ned Boulting is published by Yellow Jersey on June 6 (£12.99)

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: "Is it about a bicycle?": Cycling books

Post  eddie on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:44 am



'Cycling is the King of A to B. Whatever our differences, we love one another: Lycra mankini or tweed trousers tucked into your sock? Traffic lights - a suggestion or an order? Racer or hybrid, helmet or commando, freewheel or fixie? Nothing sours the bond.' Zoe Williams

The Guardian Bike Blog is one of the most vibrant sections of the newspaper's website. Here, a cycling community from around the world gives their views, rants, complaints, and every clever tip available - from keeping warm in winter to beating the bike thieves.

- Beer and bikes: can they ever mix?
- What's the best way to cycle in a summer dress?
- How much bike do you get for £70? Or £700?

Along with brilliant advice, there are also plenty of biking tales, from the sublime (a ride by moonlight on the summer solstice) to the ridiculous )the mysterious world of naked rides). Cyclebabble is the truest, funniest and most useful collection of cycling voices there is.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: "Is it about a bicycle?": Cycling books

Post  Guest on Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:56 pm

MULGA BILL'S BICYCLE
by A.B. "Banjo" Paterson (1896)


'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;
He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;
He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, "Excuse me, can you ride?"

"See here, young man," said Mulga Bill, "from Walgett to the sea,
From Conroy's Gap to Castlereagh, there's none can ride like me.
I'm good all round at everything as everybody knows,
Although I'm not the one to talk - I hate a man that blows.
But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;
Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wildcat can it fight.
There's nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,
There's nothing walks or jumps, or runs, on axle, hoof, or wheel,
But what I'll sit, while hide will hold and girths and straps are tight:
I'll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight."

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,
That perched above Dead Man's Creek, beside the mountain road.
He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,
But 'ere he'd gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.
It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver steak,
It whistled down the awful slope towards the Dead Man's Creek.

It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:
The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,
The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,
As Mulga Bill, as white as chalk, sat tight to every bound.
It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,
It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;
And then as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek
It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dean Man's Creek.

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that slowly swam ashore:
He said, "I've had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;
I've rode a wild bull round a yard to win a five-pound bet,
But this was the most awful ride that I've encountered yet.
I'll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; it's shaken all my nerve
To feel it whistle through the air and plunge and buck and swerve.
It's safe at rest in Dead Man's Creek, we'll leave it lying still;
A horse's back is good enough henceforth for Mulga Bill."

Guest
Guest


Back to top Go down

Re: "Is it about a bicycle?": Cycling books

Post  eddie on Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:12 pm

^

Ha ha. Very Happy

Very good.

Poor Bill.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: "Is it about a bicycle?": Cycling books

Post  Guest on Thu Aug 11, 2011 6:11 pm

...^...we had to learn it by heart in primary school...

Guest
Guest


Back to top Go down

Re: "Is it about a bicycle?": Cycling books

Post  Sponsored content Today at 11:18 am


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum