Must read: seven of the best cycling books
Before you pick up the latest biography of a Tour de France winner or another stage race travel guide, take a look at our seven reads that have stood the test of time. Whether you’re stocking up for a long flight, need some winter motivation, or want to get lost in your favourite sport, these recommendations are worthy additions to your library.
THE EAGLE OF THE CANAVESE by Herbie Sykes
In 2005, Herbie Sykes met with double Giro d'Italia winner, Franco Balmamion. When Balmamion revealed the secrets of the extraordinary 1962 race, Sykes felt compelled to tell Franco’s incredible story. "The Eagle of the Canavese" is a true story of mutiny, skulduggery, as well as the extraordinary mental and physical courage from the twenty two year old Franco. Sykes' writing brings alive the romantic, parochial community of Italian cycling in the 1960s. It is a heart-warming story about a rider nicknamed ‘the silent champion’ and an antidote to a slew of Tour de France books released each summer.
THE RIDER by Tim Krabbe
Krabbe came to writing and cycling late. In his adolescence he was a champion chess player and is best known for the novel The Vanishing, which was adapted into a Hollywood film. In complete contrast, The Rider, penned in 1978, is a fast-paced romp across the south of France narrated by Krabbe. In just 150 pages he takes the reader through a 150 kilometre battle of tactics and psychology that mere mortals call a cycle race. Journalist Matt Seaton heralded The Rider a “cult classic” and “it is both a paean to pain and a hymn to the fellowship of the road.” We suggest putting it down between chapters to savour the words in order to enjoy it.
FEEDZONE COOKBOOK by Allen Lim
Ever found it difficult to eat nutrition products day after day and wonder if it's what pros really do during multi-day stage race? Whilst energy drinks, bars and gels are easy to store &and eat on a ride, they can become rather mundane. Dr Allen Lim was the first chef/nutritionist to develop alternative foods for World Tour riders. He is credited with peloton favourite, the savoury rice cake, made with sushi rice, free from artificial sweeteners, flavours, and colours. The book, which has now sold in its millions, features a plethora of recipes that create portable fuelling and healthy foods that are perfect for riders' back pockets.
THE ESCAPE ARTIST by Matt Seaton
Matt Seaton’s book is a journey of discovery as the writer takes up the cycle racing in the late eighties. Although a solo task, Seaton finds it is very much a community-based sport. To make the solo break for the winning line in a race - to be 'the escape artist' - you've got to spend most of the race working with the other riders, preventing any one rider getting away. He beautifully describes how cycle racing makes him feel "an anonymous part of something much larger, like a swarm of angry bees or a shoal of silver, darting fish." But for Seaton there is a twist and tragedy that impacts his life in the mid-nineties, forcing him to turn away from the absorbing world of cycling he so enjoys and use the skills he's learnt from cycling to focus on a new endurance test.
THE GREAT BIKE RACE by Geoffrey Nicholson
Geoffrey Nicholson was the first — and for nearly two decades after – the only Englishman to write a book that followed the Tour. Nicholson’s writing captured the mystic of continental racing, with colourful accounts of foreign competition made it perfectly intelligible for the uninformed. The Great Bike Race is a sort of travelogue with anecdotes carefully written in a light manner that are witty and charming. His book fuelled the passions for many young readers including Guardian sports writer, William Fotheringham: “The Great Bike Race remains, in my eyes, the finest book ever written about the Tour de France.”
SLAYING THE BADGER by Richard Moore
For whatever reason, Paul Kochli, director sportif of the French La Vie Claire team, decided that his 1986 Tour de France team would have two leaders. Well that's what he told Bernard Hinault, whilst he said to Greg LeMond that he would be the sole leader. Frenchman Bernard Hinault was a man prone to ruthless megalomania with a riding style based on tradition. American Greg LeMond was the complete opposite and a man who had already given up his yellow jersey chances to support Hinault the year before. Richard Moore re-tells the twenty five days of the race, with accounts from riders, Paul Kochli, the public, and the sponsors. He captures LeMond’s paranoia that his own team mate was working against him, their dynamic, and the toxic atmosphere that evolves. Moore builds the race into a gripping page turner that keeps you on the edge of your seat, even though you know the eventual outcome of the race.
THE SECRET RACE by Tyler Hamilton
Winner of the 2012 Sports Book of the year, Tyler Hamilton’s book was the first memoir from a rider within Lance Armstrong’s inner circle. A blow by blow account of how the team deceived the race officials, how Armstrong created, ran, and kept his team ahead of his Tour de France rivals using more and more sophisticated doping techniques. Hamilton and ghost writer Daniel Coyle offer up page after page of revelations that it feels like it should be a movie script it is so far fetched, yet true and brilliantly conveyed, showing readers both sides of the doping story that shocked the world.