Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Man Who Cycled The World - Mark Beaumont

Cycling books tend to fall in to two categories, bike racing and all that's associated with that and then there's travel writing. The travel writing books are often a different breed altogether, the whole cycling element can become secondary to the scenery and cultures the rider is passing through. This book however promised to be a mix of the two. Mark Beaument attempted to cycle around the world and get himself a Guinness World Record at the same time by being the fasted person to do it. It's not giving away the ending to say he did it, in fact just reading the back of the book or the introduction would tell you this. Why give that way? Well he smashed it and the story is not whether he did it or not but how he did it.

At times this book is a great read and at other times it can be a bit of a drag but I don't think that's down to the writing, it's the subject. Sometimes he was riding through interesting places and interesting things were happening to him. Other times he was riding day after day through wide open spaces with nothing happening.

The book gave a real insight in to his ride and his notes were clearly comprehensive keeping a track of all he did. While it was a bit of 'eat,ride,eat, ride, eat, sleep' it was done in an entertaining way, keeping it brief when it was mundane, expanding when more went on. He certainly helped you understand what it felt to ride all those miles, I certainly felt for him with the saddle sores, I've suffered for a couple of days, imagine it day after day, week after week. He did discover pawpaw cream which is allegedly very good for these just in case you have suffered too. I guess insights like that kept me more entertained in the book. As most of my riding is along the travel rather than competitive riding I found tips like that useful. He also mentioned the need to build your knee muscles up and mentioned other nutritional and physical advice as the book went on that he got from a team of advisers.

By the end of the book I was willing him to finish, I think it came across in the book he'd had enough and I'd had enough. All the interesting places were in the first half of the book and there was little more to tell by the end. It's a good book but I think there are better travel writing books that take in the whole world (Alastair Humphrey's is one), however if you've read a few in this genre already it is probably still worth the read. Well done Mark, what an achievement.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Book Review: Etape - Richard Moore

I have read a lot of Richard Moore's books, sadly the only one I've reviewed on here is Sky's The Limit, his inside view of Sky's first season in road racing. While a good book it wasn't his best. Sadly Sky didn't hit the heights in their first year that they'd hoped and have since achieved, leaving less fodder for Moore. Heroes, Villains and Veledromes was all about "Britain's Track Cycling Revolution" but, not in a bad way, read very much like a biography of Chris Hoy. His book Slaying The Badger was excellent, a book on the 1986 tour, his favourite tour. It told of the battle between Greg LeMond (eventual winner of the tour three times) and Bernard 'The Badger' Hinault (five times winner of the tour). While a slow starter it really built up and the finish had me on the edge of my seat, if it's possible with a book.

Etape is about the defining stages of the Tour and it really is. It covers Cavendish, Armstrong and other major names but also smaller characters who have shaped the tour in one way or another. He covers the stage that produced the largest winning margin, he covers the pavé, the famous cobbles that pop up now and again, he covers a mountain top finishes and the strangest non contest when two riders sit up and decide not to contest a stage they are leading because their teams hate each other so much.

This book offers a number of new inside stories from the tour, ones that I haven't heard before despite having read close to forty books on cycling. I wouldn't say it's all 'untold stories' as the cover suggests but it does cover them from different or new angles. Not only that but it was a great accompaniment to this years tour. The book of course opens with a prologue stage, accident or not it then covered the cobbles just as this year's tour hit the bone shaking route that would in part decide this year's winner of the yellow jersey. As it's is a book made up of 'stages' you can pick up and put the book down after each chapter knowing next time will be a new story and something fresh. A great read, well done Richard Moore.