on 19 November 2010
Les Woodland is, himself a man of the Tour. This is his 25th cycling book since he began writing about cycling in 1965, and many, if not most of them have been about the Tour de France. But Tourmen isn't just another rehash of all the old stories any true fan of the race already knows. Tourmen tells the reader about the race; its history, its directors -- and their rivalries, the drugs, and the true characters, it's all here.
In Tourmen, Woodland covers not only the friction between racers such as Coppi and Bartali, but also the ill will that existed between race directors Jacques Goddet and Felix Levitan. There are the expected stories about drug use, but there's also the touching tale of how the Winter Velodrme was used to house Jewish prisoners in squalid conditions before they were shipped off the the death camps. There's the "My-race-has-been-won-by-a-corpse" Tour of 1929, but here's also the delightful story of 'Baron' Henri Pepin de Gontaud, who rode in the 1907 race, often stopping along the route to picnic with his helpers, whom he paid lavishly. It's all here and much, much more. This brief review can't come close to imparting the level of enjoyment any cycling fan will have while reading Tourmen. Another wonderful book from the dean of cycling writers.
In the interest of disclosure, Mr. Woodland and I have the same publisher for our books this year, but I have always been a fan of his and own atleast half of the books he's written -- books I started buying more than 15 years ago -- because they're factual and very intertaining.
James L. Witherell
on 9 November 2010
Many sports have iconic tournaments and venues. Tennis has Wimbledon; golf has the US Masters at Augusta; a test match at Lord's is the pinnacle of achievement for a cricketer. For stage race cyclists, the Tour de France is the ultimate event but, unlike other sporting events, it is far and away the most challenging in its genre. Above all it requires courage.
Les Woodland tells the story of Le Tour from the perspective of participants - organisers, riders, agents, team members and many others connected with the race. Tourmen is a fascinating story of how Le Tour grew from an advertising venture into an international sporting contest. The book tells how the beginning of the race was linked with what many see as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the French republic and was affected by each of the world wars in different ways.
There have been jealousies and enmities; autocracy and unforeseen consequences when individuals tried to shape the race to their own preferences; formal alliances; informal alliances; doping; intrigues; fatalities. The author concludes with the thought that Le Tour may become victim of its own international success. The book is a fascinating read, worthy of consideration by anyone interested not just in cycling but in international sport generally and in organisational behaviour.