"Racing is licking your opponent’s plate clean before starting on your own.’ Hennie Kuiper said that. Lebusque will stay out front for kilometers. Where would we be without Lebusque? Lebusque doesn’t know what racing is."
The Rider, first published in 1978 (but wasn’t translated into English until 2002) follows our hero Tim Krabbé during a 137 km race in The Tour de Mount Aigounal. During that 137 kilometers Krabbé rides his way into both delirium and metaphor and all the way back. Providing a blow by blow account of each kilometer, going through the thoughts, emotions and mental state of The Rider, this book travels through a stream on conscience blur of what cycling can be and what this race could/can be. The dreams, aspirations, training that go into bike racing are splayed out across 150 pages. Written as only a true insider could do, the details are as familiar as they are humorous, such as the racer nicknamed le douze in honor of the fact that he rides with a 12-tooth cog just because Eddy Merckx had one.
"Road racing imitates life, the way it would be without the corruptive influence of civilisation. When you see an enemy lying on the ground, what’s your first reaction? To help him to his feet. In road racing, you kick him to death."
I sat down with this book at the beginning of October to dig up some motivation before the cold, wet weather of the winter. On a second thumb it still remains captivating and a must read for a racer, rider, arm chair fanatic it ultimately explains what it feels like in a race. And more than that: what it really means.