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Book Review: “Tour de France” by Graeme Fife

The Tour de France kicks off in a few short days…what better time than to present a review of Graeme Fife’s stellar Tour de France: The History…The Legend…The Riders…14th ed. (London: Mainstream Publishing, 2012)!

tour

Originally published in 1999, this edition of Tour de France was revised to include the Tours through 2012, where Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win the coveted yellow jersey. This book is a thrilling and weighty look at the lore, the triumphs, the challenges and the defeats of the greatest cycling event we know. Compiled from exhaustive research, interviews with riders and anecdotes from historical accounts, Tour de France is dense and satisfying like a fine meal. The book is of two major parts: the first section divided into chapters named after the famous Alpine and Pyrenean summits that feature so prominently in the Tour. The second part is a series of chapters, starting in 1998 and finishing with 2012, that give the highlights and lowlights, the victories and the scandals that accompanied those years. Interspersed throughout the first part of the book are Fife’s own cyclotouriste efforts up the celebrated cols where so many legends were made (and broken).

The word “epic” has been used overmuch in the world of cycling, but that word suits this book just fine. Fife’s writing has an almost lyrical quality to it; his descriptions of events as they happened is breathtaking. Here’s an example, where he is describing the scene of a mountain stage:

The riders plough on through a cacophony of klaxons yodelling like a jamboree of deranged Tyroleans, exhaust pipes snorting plumes of carbon monoxide, the whole circus parade of team cars, service cars, official race cars, motorbikes with and without cameramen perched on the pillion seat, broom wagon snaking up the mountain — as fast as the leader at the front, as slow as the stragglers at the tail — through a jungle of spectators crammed so deep by the road’s edge they leave no more than a single file path down their middle and then bulge shut over the riders as they pass, like a python consuming its lunch.

The entire book is like that — and sometimes those vivid descriptions require re-reading a time or two for them to sink in. This is not “light reading” in any sense of the word, and at 518 pages, this isn’t a quick weekend read either. The book is meant to be savored, and in fact that is the only way to survive this dense tale: read, absorb…read, absorb…repeat until finished.

Fife references many photographs of the Tour as he writes, and while he thoughtfully includes a small handful for the readers, I was left wanting more. There are so many references to scenes from the past that a companion photo album would not be out of the question. Perhaps a future edition may address that one shortcoming?

If you are a fan of the Tour, a cycling historian or anyone who loves learning about professional cycling, this is a fantastic book to read. It can be an uphill slog at times to get through this massive volume…but the view from the top is worth it!

Thanks to our friends at the Independent Publishers Group for furnishing a complimentary review copy to us.

Chicago “Bikey” Events this weekend – and you’re invited

Tonight – Friday, December 9 – our friends at Turin Bike Shop in Evanston, IL, invite all to this charity event: Dr. Jeff Spencer (of the Lance’s winning Tour de France Postal team) will speak tonight at TURIN, sharing his “insider secrets” about the tools you need to plan your success in cycling:

Charity Event at Turin Bike Shop

Then, on Saturday, December 10, the City of Chicago’s Department of Transportation will be hosting a community open house about the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan. As noted in an email from the Active Transportation Alliance:

Chicago’s Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan is gaining momentum. In a nutshell, the plan will guide the development of 150-250 miles of innovative bikeways—including protected bike lanes—that will make bicycling a safe and easy option for everyone in Chicago.

For an introduction to the Streets for Cycling Plan, come for an hour or two to an open house that will be held this Saturday. There will be mapping exercises, opportunities to speak with Chicago Department of Transportation staff about biking in your neighborhood and there will be videos on a continuous loop. Please tell (and bring) your friends!

The details:

Streets for Cycling Open House
December 10th, Saturday
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
23 E. Madison St. (storefront)
Find it on Facebook

Community advisory groups have also been set up in nine regions around the city to gather input for the plan. Each group is led by volunteer co-leaders and is open to volunteers who want to get involved outside of the public meetings to provide more focused, in-depth input.

If you are interested in working with the advisory group in the region of the city where you live, here’s more information.

For more events and opportunities in the Chicago area, see the calendar of events on TheChainlink.org — plenty to keep you and your bike busy each day.

Up close look at the Tour de France

If you like bikes, bike touring, bike racing and/or are following the Tour de France, then check out George Christensen’s blog about his worldwide bicycle travels, which ultimately take him along the Tour de France route every year.

From the his posting on July 20, 2009:

Friends: There was simply too much pep in the young legs of Lance’s teammate Contador and the Schleck brothers for the old war horse Lance to keep up on the climb to the Swiss ski resort of Verbier and the finish line of the 15th stage of The Tour. Lance has looked painfully hollow-eyed and at his limit whenever there has been any climbing during the previous 14 stges. It was no act, as he once hoodwinked Ullrich. He needed his German teammate Andreas Kloden to pace him the last few miles, finishing over a minute and a half behind Contador, though holding second overall in the race. Eight riders finished ahead of him, including Cadel Evans by nine seconds. I couldn’t tell if he muttered to Lance as he passed him, “c’est fini,” as Lance has pronounced of Evans over a week ago.

To read more from this post and his other travels, visit his blog at
http://georgethecyclist.blogspot.com/

Safe travels, George! See you in Chicago soon.

Mandatory 2008 Tour de France post

Yeah I know, what the heck does the Tour have to do with bike commuting? Well, professional riders do use their bikes to work! And think about their ‘commute’, over 2000 miles in a month! Anyhow, I am a fan of professional cycling, I do get excited when Le Tour starts. I record the morning race to watch it later at night, I usually watch the last 15-20km, that’s where a lot of the action happens.

Unlike previous years, I do not have a favorite rider to root for, but I think that Cadel Evans is a good bet to win it all.

How about you? Do you care about the Tour? If so, who’s your favorite rider?

Landis To Appeal Ruling

Floyd Landis will take the case to clear his name for illegal doping at the 200 Tour de France to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the cyclist said on his website on Wednesday.

Landis, who has been stripped of his Tour de France title, will ask the Lausanne-based CAS to overturn the decision handed down on September 20 by a panel of three US arbitrators, who ruled 2-1 that Landis was guilty of using synthetic testosterone during his triumphant Tour campaign.

“We were surprised by the ruling when it came down,” said Landis’s lawyer Maurice Suh in an interview with Bicycling. “When we left that courtroom, it was our impression that USADA had not carried their burden of proof at all. We thought it would have been difficult for the arbitrators to find in favor of them.”

US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) officials and Landis’s attorneys gave evidence to the three-man arbitration panel over nine days in May during which time the US cycling star maintained his innocence despite testing positive for synthetic testosterone.

“Knowing that the accusations against me are simply wrong, and having risked all my energy and resources – including those of my family, friends and supporters – to show clearly that I won the 2006 Tour de France fair and square, I will continue to fight for what I know is right,” Landis said on an item posted on the FloydFairnessFund website, through which he has raised money for his defense.

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