Best Cycling Books
The best cycling books are at the forefront of my mind, for three reasons.
One, we’re into the first week of the 2013 Tour de France, the greatest bike race on earth. Two, I’ve just finished reading two of the books in this list. Three, I’ve recently launched a new website www.touryorkshire.com which is all about the Tour de France, and will be focusing in on the Tour coming to Yorkshire in 2014.
So, shameless self-promotion over, lets get on with our run down of the best cycling books. You will note that the Tour de France looms large in this list, and I’m completely unapologetic about that. The Tour de France, is after all, the greatest cycling race in the world. So you could equally say, this is also our list of the Best Tour de France Books.
10. How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France – Ned Boulting
A fun look at the Tour de France, through the eyes of ITV4 reporter Ned Boulting. Full of amusing episodes and anecdotes from Boulting’s time following the Tour de France.
Boulting has since penned a follow up to this book, which I haven’t read yet, but may also be worth checking out – On the Road Bike: The Search For a Nation’s Cycling Soul.
How I Won the Yellow Jumper, is probably one of the best cycling books to read if you are relatively new to the sport, and it will certainly make you chuckle.
9. Wide-Eyed and Legless: Inside the Tour de France – Jeff Connor
Wide-Eyed and Legless is the story of the first British team to take part in the Tour de France for over 20 years. No not team Sky, but ANC Halfords.
Its a fascinating account of how an inexperienced team, deals with the gruelling three week race. Connor covers the teams trials and tribulations through the 1987 Tour de France with an equal helping of candour and humour.
There is a fair helping of scandal, but also real insight into the race and what really went on behind the scenes.
8. We Were Young and Carefree: The Autobiography of Laurent Fignon – Laurent Fignon
We Were Young and Carefree is an autobiographical account by two time Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon. One of a few books on this list, covering the period that many consider to be the golden age of cycling, in the1980’s. Fignon writes entertainingly and revealingly about his career, and about the narrow defeat to Greg LeMond in the 1989 Tour.
Its a book that reveals the vulnerability of Fignon, as much as the triumph. He pulls few punches and you certainly get a sense of the rivalry and animosity towards some of his fellow riders.
7. Rough Ride – Paul Kimmage
Paul Kimmage is the pro-cyclist turned journalist who originally blew the lid on the doping culture in pro-cycling. For his candour he was shunned by the tight knit professional cycling community. Kimmage is clearly embittered by the fact he was unable to compete with his fellow riders on a level playing field.
Its an incredibly frank account, and you can completely understand the bitterness felt by Kimmage, as his fellow cyclists and “friends” abandon him.
Not just one of the best cycling books ever published, Rough Ride is widely considered to be a classic of the sports book genre, and rightly so.
6. Boy Racer – Mark Cavendish
Cavendish is the most successful sprinter of his generation. Not only that, but Cav could go on to win the most stages in the history of the Tour de France.
In Boy Racer, Cavendish tells his story. His love of racing bikes is apparent, but his personality and emotional nature, make this a great read. Fans of Cavendish and cycling in general will not be disappointed.
5. Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong – David Walsh
I’ve just finished this book, and coming off the back of reading the Tyler Hamilton book, I guess it filled in some of the detail, of the extraordinary Armstrong story.
The book is effectively an autobiographical account on the part of Walsh, into his long running investigation into Lance Armstrong. Its perhaps not the easiest read at times, but in reading the book you start to really understand the wider implications of Armstrong’s actions.
Armstrong was feted by the bulk of the media for well over a decade, and Seven Deadly Sins is not only about Armstrong and the doping culture of cycling. Its about perception versus truth, the libel laws of the UK that primarily appear to protect the wealthy and powerful, and its about the power of people’s will to believe in a great story rather than confront the grubby facts.
I felt admiration for Walsh and others in their dogged pursuit of the truth, and its hard not to felt antipathy towards Armstrong. He clearly used his influence to bully and intimidate others into protecting his now tarnished reputation.
A hugely important book, you will finish Seven Deadly Sins wondering about the future of cycling, and whether the UCI can be trusted to run a clean sport.
4. French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France – Tim Moore
This is one of the first books I read about cycling, and its probably the only one on this list that isn’t focused on the world of professional cycling.
The book tells the story of Moore’s attempt to ride the entire course of the Tour de France. Moore isn’t a cyclist, in fact he’s a self-confessed layabout, but he takes on the challenge to ride the 3,600 km course.
It’s a very funny read, but also oddly inspirational. It does poke fun at some of the French culture and customs, but in mostly an affectionate way. If you’re visiting France, its a great reading companion and arguably the best cycling book that isn’t about pro-cycling..
3. Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France – Richard Moore
Slaying the Badger tells the tale of the 1986 Tour de France, and Gregg Lemond’s attempt to become the first American rider to win the Tour. LeMond was a prodigiously talented young rider, and found himself in the same team as french legend Bernard Hinault. Hinault is a still a huge figure in cycling and heavily involved in the Tour de France organisation.
Hinault was a massive presence in the peleton at the time, and an old warrior. The Frenchman had pledged himself to helping LeMond win the Tour, but things didn’t turn out to be quite so straightforward for Lemond.
This fantastic book tells the story from both men’s perspective, and we find that each man has a very different recollection! What is clear, is that Hinault and Le Mond were rivals as much as teammates, and it’s a brilliantly written account. Undoubtedly, one of the best cycling books ever written.
2. Racing Through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar – David Millar
Racing Through the Dark is an incredibly frank account of the career of David Millar, the Scottish Team Garmin rider. The book centres mainly on the early part of Millar’s career, and gives a detailed and very personal account of how he became involved in doping. Millar was caught of course, and has since become one of the most vocal anti-doping campaigners in professional cycling.
What makes this book stand out, is that we don’t just hear the facts of who did what and when, but we get a genuine insight into what was going on in Millars head throughout this time.
Its one of the most insightful sporting autobiographies and best cycling books I’ve ever read. It helps you to understand the human impacts behind the headlines.
1. The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs – Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
Along with Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton is one of the former riders instrumental in the fall of Lance Armstrong. Like Landis, Hamilton is a former teammate of Armstrong, and he has some story to tell.
Hamilton in common with Landis was nurtured by Armstrong, before later being cut loose from Armstrong’s inner circle. Daniel Coyle has done an outstanding job in helping Hamilton to tell his story, and its an immensely readable book.
Again what helps to make this book stand out, is the telling of the human impacts and fallout of the actions of both Hamilton and Armstrong. Its also a pretty detailed account, and gives a real sense of how Armstrong and his cohorts went about things.
Probably the best cycling book I’ve read. If you only buy one book about doping during the Armstrong era, then make it The Secret Race.