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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best stories written!
This book isn't only about cycling as I first thougt, it is also about human nature; our ability to ruine what is perfect in our lives, our desire to make amends, our need for acceptance, forgiveness and letting bygones be bygones. Reg Harris was no different from us. He might have been a war hero and one of Britain's greatest athlets, secretly he was a broken man, with...
Published on 13 July 2012 by Randy

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Reg Harris,the rise but not the fall
This book is full of inaccurate comments from issues with Raleigh to the bike that he died on.
I spent a good deal of time with Reg in the last years of his life and we talked for many hours
about the "old days".
Some of the tales in the book are difficult to assess as I wasn`t there, but the real point
here is if some details are wrong that I know...
Published 22 months ago by Banko


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best stories written!, 13 July 2012
This review is from: Reg Harris: The rise and fall of Britain's greatest cyclist (Hardcover)
This book isn't only about cycling as I first thougt, it is also about human nature; our ability to ruine what is perfect in our lives, our desire to make amends, our need for acceptance, forgiveness and letting bygones be bygones. Reg Harris was no different from us. He might have been a war hero and one of Britain's greatest athlets, secretly he was a broken man, with the desire to outdo his personal demons. Reg Harris: The book is a good read. I'll recommend it to anyone.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long overdue, 1 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Reg Harris: The rise and fall of Britain's greatest cyclist (Hardcover)
As an ex track cyclist who saw Reg Harris race I have wondered why so little has been written about him knowing that he had an "interesting life" besides his sporting achievements.
The book is a good read, although I thought the opening chapter or so was a bit 'Boys Own Paper' and there are some inaccuracies for those of us who would know, nothing of real importance though and it doesn't stop what is a great insight into our greatest pure sprinter, it's difficult in this age to realize how big a star Harris was, and this book goes a long way to show that, the cry - who do think you are Reg Harris - was every bit as common as the one used for Stirling Moss, Reg was the greatest sprinter and this is a fair tribute to him.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The British Coppi of the Track, 2 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Reg Harris: The rise and fall of Britain's greatest cyclist (Hardcover)
Long before the haul of gold medals were being clocked up in cycling helped with Lottery funding, Reg Harris had kept sportswriters enthralled by voting him either top or second as UK Sports Journalists' Association's Sportsman of the Year (the author claims perhaps incorrectly as the forerunner to the BBC's Sports' Personality of the Year when the accolade still exists and is awarded annually), beaten once by cricketer Denis Compton, once by boxer Randolph Turpin, and in 1950 finally topping all, pushing the great Liverpool goal machine of Billy Liddell into second place. Impressive for a sport which at the time had as much publicity in Britain as ice hockey, basketball, and professional wrestling today!

At the time Harris had already won one amateur World Championship gold in 1947, in Paris (the first British victory since 1922), followed by a bronze in the following year, and two silvers at the London Olympics, in 1948 at Herne Hill, in the 2000 m tandem sprint, with club partner Alan Bannister, and in the 1000 m match sprint, and before his retirement in 1957 he was to collect four professional World Championship sprints, three of these won in the successive years 1949-51, with a final win in 1954 in Cologne. On leaving the sport, he moved into business ventures, including managing the Fallowfield Stadium (renamed the Harris Stadium), all which quickly failed, and mixing with shady characters, such as Lord Kagan of Gannex raincoats, and Jimmy Savile, though when the scandal went public in October 2012 there was no sign that Harris was involved in any of Savile's sexual activities; rather it is more likely that Savile used Harris' popular name and past reputation for his own selfish ends. Reg Harris had one sporting come back in 1974 winning the National British Championships at the advanced age of 50. Until any cycling medals started being won, Harris had appeared for Chris Hoy as an ogre or a mountain to beat; since first achieving his own victories at the Athens Olympics in 2004, Harris has since been considered by him as one of the few great past legends, and when one passes his statue in the Manchester Velodrome he is now treated as an object of veneration.

Whenever a book about a legend readers will look at it if they legend is in tact, and if it is his supporters might add why an old hat for the bookcase? Those in the know at the time realised he was not an angel. Neither was the mythical Stanley Matthews. He did have his run in with the cycling authorities, and there was suspicion that they bore grudges. Twenty years after his death, and another eighteen since his brief come back, Robert Dineen faced the Sicilian omertà of silence from all sides. His third wife, with a smile, would not comment on the idea that his final National Championship win had been fixed. For publicity that Reg was still so good, or that the authorities and his rivals had wanted to draw a line under past disputes, who knows? Dineen states that the Professional World Championships had been decided among the leading riders themselves, almost like a buggins turn, and when Reg showed he would not play their game, but compete to win, and was proving unbeatable, they changed the rules for two years. That, one might still add, was done by the Continentals, and you can expect that from foreigners. But would you expect insider schemes in ones own patch? It might not be British -at least not in the 1940s or 50s traditional image, but who is to say that a wink, a nudge in a private club some anti-Reg scheme was not hatched.

In cycling Reg was his worst enemy, antagonizing his rivals. In writing his book the author contacted Tommy Godwin, twice bronze winner at the 1948 Olympics. Though being very much in the know on the track and among the cycling circle he would not speak bad about Reg now he was long dead. It was known that Tom and Reg were both prima donnas, and so different, but tale telling might kill the myths of their rivalry, as still exists in Italy between supporters of Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi, and that would kill off interests. It would also be poor form.

There is nothing new about the victory of the 20 year old Italian Mario Ghella in the 1948 individual sprint except that Reg had been properly robbed, and what had been said by an eye witness that "he must have been doped to his eyeballs". What do the Italians say these days, or was reported at the time in Gazzetta dello Sport? No mention. How did the Swiss and the Australians, who finished third and forth feel and report on the event. Ditto, no mention.

Why was no complaint made at that time? That was not done; it was not British to be seen whinging, crying, or bitching in public. A man had to stand up proudly, play the game, like all amateur gentlemen and accept victory or defeat equally. That defeat, however, the author concluded rankled for Reg. It was recognised that until Hoy he was the top Olympic cyclist; but for him coming second was not the sign of greatness, but of defeat, and in honesty his standards as most sports men and women will always admit is not just to compete, but to win, and if that does not occur having done one's best will be the best consolation whether it means coming second, third, or gaining a personal or national best. Reg in this was not a gentleman in any sense; he was a competitor who strove to glory and victory. He was even for Dave Brailsford, technical director, a man well before his time, as he was doing everything alone, at his own expense without all the technical support common of these days. It was he who started coaching Brenda Atkinson in the 1970s, something unknown for women cycling, and from the good start she went on to win national championships. Indeed, by breaking the mould Reg kicked professionalism into British cycling even for Team GB.

There was a hidden side to Reg, and Dineen demonstrates from a distance how uncomplicated his hero was. He was working class, but loved middle class habits: tailored suits, fast cars, eating at good food and wine at the best restaurants, expensive cigars, as well as the long line of glamorous fast women everywhere. He was the British Coppi with regards to women. A lot was well known to his three wives Florence, Dorothy, and Jennifer, and they all stood by him for long. There existed the shadow of his illegitimacy, something until the 1970s was hushed up, later was used as part of a sob story, and now is no longer treated as so important. I'm sure in time more stories will come out of the woodwork as the author and his wife discovered at his funeral. Being illegitimate, naturally, did affect his desire to achieve, to break the mould of conservative stuffiness and to take risks, some which worked while many in business went pitifully wrong. Dineen does not speak enough about the reason why he became so close to the Lithuanian born Joe Kagan, friend of Harold Wilson. I suspect he was aiming to be awarded with a knighthood, not as might have been talked by his jealous rivals as a sop to his ego, but for his wife, Jennifer, twenty years his junior, to be called Lady Harris once he had gone on his bike to the celestial velodrome. The OBE was very much something second best, and a disappointment. The author does show that Reg was very devoted to his mother, Elsie, - no way was he a mummy's boy, loyal to his family, and to all friends, and was exceptionally generous when he had to.

The work does not contain too much jargon, nor is it very technical, so can be easily read by the general reader, current British competitors, know-all sports journalists, and young aspiring champions who wish to follow both Sir Chris or Victoria Pendleton, the first woman World Champion. It is not a story of "50 years of hurt", it was a story of a man's unique special gifts, twenty years after the successes of Tommy "Tiny" Johnson silver medallist at Antwerp in 1920 (his first silver won at the first London Olympics of 1908), and World Champ two years later. Johnson was the cradle of British cycling, Reg Harris was the teenager, and now we are witnessing history in the making with many more Tommies and Reggies named
Jasons or Lauras coming through as far as the podium. None of Reg's loyal fans should be too unhappy with Robert Dineen's contribution in his present tome. It recounts his high peaks, and very low troughs, as well as lots of fun and pain in between for all. It is a well timed book for the next sprint for a World Cup, World Championship or Olympic gold.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reg Harris; The rise and fall of Britian's greatest cyclist, 26 April 2013
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Well written and full of some of the technical side of cycle racing as well as a great human story
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Not Just About The Bike, 19 Mar 2013
This review is from: Reg Harris: The rise and fall of Britain's greatest cyclist (Hardcover)
This is a beautifully written book about a fallen sporting icon. Dineen approaches his subject with both great sensitivity and a keen eye for the truth and paints a compelling picture of the post-war cycling scene and the furiously driven and deeply flawed man who dominated it. Avoiding the clear temptation of either hatchet job or hagiography, he's written a book for both cycling fanatics and general readers. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most complete story ever told about Reg Harris., 25 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Reg Harris: The rise and fall of Britain's greatest cyclist (Hardcover)
I was a regular attendee at Hern Hill track in the golden years of track racing in the 40s & 50s when reg was competing against Arie van Vliet, Jan Derksen & other UK regulars such a Tommy Simpson, Lew Pond & many others. I always admired Reg for his professionalism so was a little taken aback by Tommy Godwin's hatred of him in his book 'It wasn't that Easy'.

Reg was never a 'team' man, which was at the heart of Godwin's attitude towards Harris. Reg never considered himself part of a team, which comes out clearly in his autobiography 'Two Wheels to the Top'. so readers must up their own minds about the respective views. Reg's personal life was an eye opener to me. I had always assumed he had eye for the ladies (three wives) but had not realised he was the philanderer depicted in this book.

I could not imagine Reg fitting into the current British Cycling Academy scene

A good book which I thoroughly enjoyed reading & would recommend it to anyone with an interest in cycle racing whether current or historical.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A cracking story, very well told, 4 Jan 2013
This review is from: Reg Harris: The rise and fall of Britain's greatest cyclist (Hardcover)
Robert Dineen pulls off an unusual feat in the field of sports biography - after well over 300 pages he leaves his reader (well, this reader at any rate) wanting more. Which is not to say that he skimps on detail or analysis in his account of the tangled life of champion sprinter Reg Harris. Far from it. Dineen clearly undertook prodigious research and he controls the material well, giving us not only vivid accounts of his subject's achievements on the track, but also his various activities off it.
It is almost 60 years since Harris won the last of his five world titles, but he emerges from the past as a compelling figure, not least because of the paradoxes of his life. The British public adored him, and he was twice the winner of the 1950s equivalent of the Sports Personalty of the Year. Yet he was known by cycling insiders to be a "ruthless, evil bastard", and on the day of his wedding Harris's father-in-law told the bride "I'd rather walk you to your grave than down the aisle to marry this man." Harris showed enormous commercial nous during his cycling career, but suffered a string of business failures afterwards. He was as hard as nails, but also a hypochondriac....and so on.
Dineen, who clearly respects the ethos and traditions of track cycling, produces a gripping account of events at the 1948 Olympics, takes us inside the professional "circus" of post-war sprinting and nails the remarkable story of what really happened in 1974, when 54-year-old Harris reclaimed his British professional title. He also sheds light on aspects of his subject's personality, such as Harris's compulsive womanising, that would certainly have tarnished his commercial image had they been widely known during his career.
The only reservation is that Dineen imposes a chronological sequence on his book (all chapter headings are simply dates), yet tracing the fascinating strands of Harris's character and career makes such a framework restrictive. But, that aside, this is a cracking story, very well told.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reg Harris: The Rise and Fall of Britain's Greatest Cyclist, 8 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Reg Harris: The rise and fall of Britain's greatest cyclist (Hardcover)
I had not heard of Reg Harris when I discovered this book, so to read about this cyclist who was such a big name in the 1940s and 50s was a real education and a revelation for me. The great thing about it is that it is not just a record of a great British cycling hero's exploits on the track but it also tells you a lot about the man and the places he lived and raced in as well as a lot about the amateur and professional cycling scene of the time.
When we think about British cycling heroes today we think of people like Sir Chris Hoy, Chris Boardman and Bradley Wiggins - men who were at the top of their game in their 20s and early 30s - but Reg Harris was not only a double Olympic silver medallist, he went on to dominate the world professional cycling scene for many years and continued competing at a high level into his early 50s.
But far from simply lauding this man as an exceptional athlete, the author Robert Dineen has produced a fascinating account of a man who, through his womanising and unusual family background, had many flaws that we can probably all relate to on one level or another.
His real achievement has been to get friends and family and contemporary cyclists to open up about Reg Harris the man, as well as Reg Harris the rider. A huge amount of research has clearly also gone into this book to produce a valuable and comprehensive record of this great cyclist's life. Both the cycling fan and the casual reader will find something to enjoy in this book. Robert Dineen has found a great subject to write about and has helped to preserve the memory and revive the reputation of one of Britain's greatest ever sportsmen. I thoroughly look forward to reading his next book and hope he can find a similarly fascinating subject to get his teeth into.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book, 17 Aug 2012
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I really enjoyed this book and got a lot out of it. I'm very interested in cycling (I doubt I'd have picked it up if I wasn't) and found Reg Harris fascinating in two main ways. First, it tells the story of the history of competitive cycling in this country. Back in Reg's day it was huge, not just in the UK but in Europe too and even today, after the Olympics, it's still nowhere near as big as it was back then. Reg was like David Beckham. So that's one thing. The second is the man himself, Reg Harris who was a complicated, difficult, insecure and brilliant man and the portrait Dineen paints of him is utterly compelling. He's obviously done his research and the book is really well written. As I said, I really enjoyed this book. Anyone who's interested in cycling or even the history of major sports in this country will love Reg Harris.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life lived at top speed, 3 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Reg Harris: The rise and fall of Britain's greatest cyclist (Hardcover)
This book is brilliantly timed to coincide with Britain's greatest ever summer of cycling.

Eighteen months of painstaking research into the life and times of Reg Harris has resulted in a fascinating and very personal portrait of one of our post-War sporting heroes. There are countless stories of derring-do (verging on hubris); there are sprints, crashes, bibulous celebrations, international liaisons, epic rivalries, more than the hint of skulduggery and a London Olympic Games - does this sound like 2012?

Unlike some sports biographies which can read like rehashed newsprint chronologically listing achievements, this book has managed to bring together shared reminiscences and stories from those who knew or encountered Reg Harris. It is clear that some acquaintances had kept their counsel for many years before deciding that enough time had passed to be able to confide in the author. The resulting book is a great addition to the sporting library - delivering excitement, endeavour and surprise in equal measures.
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Reg Harris: The rise and fall of Britain's greatest cyclist
Reg Harris: The rise and fall of Britain's greatest cyclist by Robert Dineen (Hardcover - 5 July 2012)
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