This is the sequel to Boulting’s ‘How I Won the Yellow Jumper’ (see my review here) which I devoured and loved. What is it? It’s not really the story of how we came to win the Tour de France and quickly rise as a cycling power as a nation over the last few years. It’s not a systematic history of British cycling either. It’s the account of a number of our cycling greats – a say number because it is in no ways complete and looks often into either those who are alive and forgotten by the mainstream or the more idiosyncratic. Interwoven around this in Boulting’s easy to read style is his own story of falling in love with cycling and becoming a MAMIL (middle-agged man in lycra), something I can readily relate to. Again I loved it! It’s not a heavy weight book, it’s language is accessible to the non-cycling buff, which successfully conveys something of why we take to the bike and ride and how many Brits have done this despite it being unfashionable and eccentric to do so. Others may not rate it 5 stars, but I smiled my way through it, a knowing smile from both enjoying the jokes and realising that I have come to see cycling in much the same way as Ned has.
I absolutely loved this book!
Grew up watching the Tour de France with my Dad, and have seen virtually every stage televised in the 80s, 90s, 00s and 10’s to date. Throughout this time the commentary team of Phil Ligget, Paul Sherwen, Gary Imlach and more recently Chris Boardman and Ned Boulting have been my travelling companions as I’ve learnt how this gruelling sport works. I’ve watched heady days of dramatic climbs, ongoing duels between champions and of course the gloom of drugs cheats envelop the Tour. Most excitingly, I’ve watched as British Cycling has emerged from the occasional glimmer of hope to being Green and Yellow Jersey winners! Heady days indeed.
Boulting’s book is a wonderful behind the scenes read. His style is conversational, witty and easy going. He covers the big topics and the small idiosyncrases of life following the Tour with humour and personal insight. This isn’t a book about the racing – if you want to learn about how the race works, the tactics and regulations, this isn’t the book for you – but let’s face it, the Tour is so much more than just the race but is a movement, a lifstyle, an annual pilgrimage even. This is a book of the life around the Tour and the challenges of presenting it.
I would certainly recommend this book to all sports fans and anyone interested in the world of road racing. Look out for the edition that includes the update ‘How Cav Won the Green Jersey’. I wonder if there will be an update to include the unprecedented British Tour win by Bradley Wiggins?