It’s probably fair to assume that many of us have more reading time on our hands than we’re used to, so – as well as reading Cycling Weekly, of course – why not make the most of it with this literary Grand Tour de force.
Giro d’Italia: The story of the world’s most beautiful bike race
Colin O’Brien (Pursuit) £9.99
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Style, landscape, passion – there are probably a dozen ways in which the Giro d’Italia could justify its bella corsa moniker. Colin O’Brien explores the characters and the stories that have provided the texture and shading for the Giro for more than 100 editions.
Packed with feuds and betrayals, heroism and suffering, O’Brien brings alive a race that is almost more akin to a Shakespearean tragedy than a sporting event.
Grand Tour Cookbook
Hannah Grant (Musette) £40
Former Tinkoff-Saxo team chef Grant offers a different take on the Grand Tour with this beautiful and colourful book of recipes based on three-week nutrition. Far from being 21 different versions of flaccid pasta and the odd buttock-tenderised steak, this book is packed with attractive and adventurous fare, as well as insights and interviews with riders and team staff. The layout itself also gives the nod to the Grand Tour, presented as it is in 20 stages and with a brace of rest days.
Tim Moore (Yellow Jersey Press) £8.99
If there’s one cycling author who doesn’t do things by havles it’s Tim Moore, and the results are invariably side-splitting. Having already followed the 2000 Tour de France route in the very funny and very well received French Revolutions, Gironimo harks back to the 1914 Giro d’Italia 100 years on. Moore calls it the “most appalling bike race of all-time,” but undeterred, and using a wooden-rimmed 1914 road bike and a period outfit that includes welder’s goggles, he sets about recreating the race as accurately as possible.
We Rode All Day
Gareth Cartman (Gareth Cartman) £6.99
In 1919 the competitors in the Tour de France faced a very different physical landscape to that of the previous edition in 1914. Northern France had been ravaged b the Great War, but the race didn’t shy away from it, spending the first few days between Paris and Cherbourg, during which time the riders faced the monster stages of 400km and more that were typical of the race at that time.
The Tour has probably never been more of a grand ‘boucle’ (loop), describing as it did almost perfectly the circumference of the country.
We Rode All Day is the story of that Tour, told in the words of riders like Firmin Lambot, Eugène Christophe and Henri Pélissier.
Cartman has drawn upon the available knowledge of the riders involved to create what is essentially a historical ‘faction’ – a reimagining of the drama of a great race, drawing on quotes and factual history.
“Piecing together the action was the easy bit,” says Cartman. “The chronology was easily available. The riders’ voices, however, are the result of reading interviews and biographies – and I hope that I have stayed true to them.”
This is a rare and innovative glimpse into the Tour de France of 100 years ago, and has been elevated by some fans to the level of Tim Krabbé’s The Rider, as compulsory reading for cyclists.
The Yellow Jersey
Pete Cossins (Yellow Jersey Press) £25
Written to mark the centenary of the yellow jersey, this celebration of the most sought-after prize in cycling includes interviews with some of its most famous wearers: Chris Froome is there, Thomas Voeckler and even Antonin Rolland, who at 95 is the oldest living rider to have worn the maillot jaune. This sumptuously illustrated book certainly does justice to those featured within its pages.
Viva La Vuelta
Lucy Fallon (Mousehold) £18.95
In the face of a barrage of Tour de France books, a rare tome on the Vuelta a España. It boasts a foreword, too, by Sean Kelly, who became the race’s first Anglophone winner in 1988.
From its first edition in 1935 to the present day, this is the story of a race that has, in turn, been set against the backdrop of political turmoil, economic uncertainty and near-famine conditions, but manages to feature excitement and innovation.
Brian Robinson: Pioneer
Graeme Fife (Mousehold) £12.95
This is a good hopping-on point for British fans. Fife’s book is a celebration of the Yorkshireman’s breakthrough into Continental racing, his first Tour de France participation in 1955, and ultimately his stage wins, taken in 1958 and ’59. Robinson wasn’t the first Briton to ride the Tour de France, but he was the first to finish, and the first to win a stage too. Told in Fife’s elegant words, this is the story of a true pioneer.
Etape: The untold stories of the Tour de France’s defining stages
Richard Moore (Harper Sport) £9.99
Some Tour stages live longer in the memory than others, but all have their own stories. Moore retells these through the eyes of the protagonists themselves, shedding new light on some of the Tour’s most famous days and telling new tales in the process, as well as offering insight into some of the sport’s biggest characters. The book spans six decades and features riders including Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Lance Armstrong, Chris Boardman and Mark Cavendish.
Max Leonard (Pegasus Books) £11.99
Some of the most interesting stories to come out of the Tour de France come from what, on the face of it, are the least impressive performances.
Max Leonard explores the race upside-down, telling stories of stage winners and former yellow jerseys in last place – or how about the lone escapee who stopped for a bottle of wine and then got lost? These are stories taht bring the race alive, and perhaps demonstrate that last place doesn’t always equal biggest loser.
Cartes du Tour
Paul Fournel (Rapha) £40
If there’s one thing that goes hand in hand with cycling, along with coffee and pride in odd tan lines, it’s a love of maps. Tracing the lines of past and future adventures, even if those adventures belong to someone else, can all be part of the fun. To this end Rapha has created this typically sumptuous ‘cartographical’ history of the Tour de France.
From the first edition in 1903 to the present day, the book traces the history of the Tour via the medium of route maps. And not just the official ones – the Tour used to be more flexible when it came to external publications creating their own versions of its official offering, and the book is enriched by many of these. Thanks to its magazine and newspaper extracts, Cartes du Tour also serves as something of a social and political history – both of which tend to be reflected in cycling more generally.
Curated by celebrated French author Paul Fournel, the book includes his original text plus a translation into English and a foreword by current Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.
This is obviously no throwaway paperback, and like a lot of things Rapha, it doesn’t come at a throwaway price either, with its listing for £40. If you’re really feeling extravagant there’s also the option of spending £150 on the special edition, which is a run limited to 200 copies, featuring a special protective sleeve and signed by Fournel.