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How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France (Yellow Jersey Cycling Classics)
How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France (Yellow Jersey Cycling Classics)
by Ned Boulting
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How I Won the Yellow Jumper - A Sky fans review, 11 Jun. 2011
On Thursday I took delivery of "How I won the Yellow Jumper - Dispatches from the Tour de France" by Ned Boulting. Just under 24 hours later I had read it...

Ned Boulting, the cheeky chap from ITV, has always come across as the cool, brash, confident presenter, whether he was taking the micky out of the French or asking a pertinent question following yet another doping alegation. His book however, reveals quite the opposite. Ned's Tour de France experience actually takes the reader on a journey that most cycling fans can relate to, he makes no secret of his absolute ignorance of the history of the race, it's intricaties and tradition when he was initially told (there is no suggestion that he was asked) that he was reporting on his first Tour in 2003.

Boulting takes the reader behind the scenes, warts and all. Not many books can devote a whole chapter to the portable toilet facilities at the Tour de France and get away with it! There are several laugh-out-loud moments in the book, usually at the authors own expense but conversly some deeply moving passages, particularly the chapter dedicated to Glenn Wilkinson the cameraman that had covered the Tour as far back as the Channel 4 days and tragically died in 2005 aged just 44.

The beauty of the book for the cycling fan is that Boulting's reminiscences bring back so many memories. I just knew, even before I read it that Boulting's description of the reaction to London's successful Olympic bid, announced during the 2005 Tour, would touch upon his interviews at the finish line and in particular with the bald-headed moustached Cochonou salami man who wasn't particularly impressed..! Anyone who has been to a finishing stage at the Tour will instantly recognise this individual and as soon as I finished that chapter I just had to dig out the 2005 DVD and watch the encounter again. Priceless...

Whether or not it was the authors intention, the book leaves the reader in no doubt just how intense the Tour is and how much time and effort is required to bring the event to our TV screens. The camaraderie amongst the crew is quite evident and it is obvious that deep forged friendships are formed that I suppose is a must if you have to spend the best part of a month ensconced in a Renault Espace with three others and their dirty washing...

By his own admission in the introduction, or prologue, Boulting does not follow a particularly path and throughout the book he jumps from year to year, subject to subject. Despite this it is clear that over time Boulting has began to understand the race, the culture, embrace the tradition and is now a fully committed cycling fan and Tour enthusiast that cares deeply about the sport. In Chapter 20, `Blokes on Bikes', Ned expands on why fans can associate more with cycling than most other sports, a view that bears a striking resemblance to my own thoughts in my first ever blog `Why we love cycling' published on the site back in January last year.

How I Won the Yellow Jumper is a first-class read that I thoroughly recommend. It's funny, thought provoking and revealing. At times quite moving but above all an insight into the Tour de France that we don't see. Ironically, if it wasn't for the likes of Ned and his cohorts we wouldn't see the Tour de France at all... This book is a must for all cycling enthusiasts. It's just a shame that Dave B pulled the plug on the behind the scenes Sky documentary...

Sky's the Limit: British Cycling's Quest to Conquer the Tour de France
Sky's the Limit: British Cycling's Quest to Conquer the Tour de France
by Richard Moore
Edition: Hardcover

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sky's the Limit - A Sky fans review, 11 Jun. 2011
As a Team Sky fan, Richard Moore's latest publication was eagerly anticipated. An esteemed writer and cycling blogger, Moore's previous offerings, the excellent `In Search of Robert Millar' and `Heroes, Villains and Velodromes' have set the bar high. 'Sky's the Limit' does not disappoint.

Although Moore appears to have been granted unprecedented access from day one, perhaps surprisingly the book is neither authorised or official. This is good as it has allowed Moore to document the evolution of Team Sky and it's debut season warts and all.

The book is a journey with Team Sky the central character. But, as the sub-title suggests 'British Cycling's Quest to Conquer the Tour de France' it's clear that the Team Sky project was a culmination of the total domination by the British Track Team and the hugely successful British Cycling Academy that was producing world class talent in the shape of Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendish etc. The natural progression was to take the principles of the track and the World Class Performance programme onto the road.

Moore eloquently guides the reader through the early day's, confirming that Cavendish was originally first choice to lead the team before an apparent fall-out led to him signing a contract extension with Columbia High-Road just day`s before the official launch of Team Sky. Without a dominant British star for the all new British team the book chronicles the ensuing prising of Bradley Wiggins from Garmin, and to a lesser degree Ben Swift from Katusha, this and the apparent `new kids on the block' muscling in with their Jaguars, state of the art bus, and unprecedented philosophy resulted in a subsequent knock-on effect from the other teams that ultimately led to a ganging-up at the Tour of Oman.

Moore is able to witness first-hand and document the training camps, rider selection, the `marginal gain' attention to detail and the new coaching methods that Team Sky introduced, although such was not always well received by the traditionalists and in the early day's led to several staff members parting company, in particular `Senior' Sports Director, Scott Sunderland. A fascinating insight into the behind-the-scenes activities and innovations that haven't really been seen before on the road.

But it's the Tour de France that takes centre stage. After the fight to obtain a Tour contender and the stated aim of providing a clean British winner within five years all eye's were on Bradley. Moore was there, at the hotel's, riding in the team car, interacting with staff and riders - his account provides a fascinating testimony of the race and the disappointment by all when it started to fall apart. Knowing that Moore's book was in the pipeline, fair play to Team Sky for allowing him to stick around when it all started to go wrong.

The book culminates in the ill-fated Veulta a Espana, where half the team suffered from illness and tragically soigneur Txema Gonzalev contracted a bacterial infection and subsequently died aged just 43, forcing the team to withdraw from the race, and finally the Tour of Britain where according to Moore an apparent lack of confidence and insecurity contributed to the Team's failure to secure a win on home soil.

Moore quite rightly states that Team Sky should not be judged after just one season. The Team did enjoy considerable success in 2010 - The Tour Down Under, Het Nieuwsblad, Russ Downing's excellent Criterium International... Unfortunately a major classic victory, or overall success in a stage race eluded them but as Dave Brailsford said to a fan at the Tour of Britain "We'll be back, we've learnt a lot, it hasn't been easy but we've learnt a lot".

'`Sky's the Limit' is an excellent read, well written, superbly researched and apparently impartial. The story of Team Sky's debut season but without the spin. I thoroughly recommend it and eagerly look forward to the sequel...
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