Ned probably IS the nation’s cycling soul, or rather, the voice of the soul of British cycling. Poignant, sensitive, heart-warming and downright laugh-out-loud funny, this book is not just about the bike and the riders, the cycling souls he so respectfully connects with. Rather, these are also used as impetus for a whole host of introspections and insights re: human interactions, obsessions, limitations and achievements. I laughed 'til I cried whilst reading the chapter, “Romantics in Britain”. You do not have to be a cyclist to appreciate the nuances of the complexity involved when meeting people you don’t know and who don’t know you, with a vague awareness that everyone is somebody, except you.
Reading this book is more than entertainment, it’s an experience of the human condition and Ned tells this tale in his usual fluent, articulate, indeed, masterful literary style. Once, upon luckily having my copy of “Yellow Jumper” signed Tour-side by Ned, I ventured to tell the author that from an English teacher’s point of view, it was a “literary masterpiece”, and that I have read passages aloud to my class. Now that I am no longer in the classroom, I find myself in search of people to read this book aloud to, stopping friends on the street or in cafes or holding my family as captive audiences: “Listen to this”. They always laugh out loud. If you love words, you cannot help but marvel at his verbal virtuosity(“to hurt is to be”), the poetry and meter(“All this I love”) (“the cut and thrust and puncture”) ,the unique invention of new words, not unlike the Bard himself (“unrequitedly” !), and the endless metaphors for pain on a bike.
As well as all this, I sense the author’s soft spot ,and a certain well-deserved and well-earned respect for, our sometimes controversial British cycling hero, Sir Bradley Wiggins, our “side-burned knight of the realm”. This just endears this book even more to my cycling soul. I’m reading it all over again.