3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The greatest sporting book I have ever read,
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This review is from: Tomorrow, We Ride (Paperback)
"On the following Sunday, he escaped"- a single sentence that, like Hemingway's "For sale, baby shoes, never worn" uses six words to tell a gripping, emotional story more than reams of flowery prose ever can. This is typical of a very untypical sport biography/autobiography- it is said that cycling and boxing promote the best sports writing, but Jean Bobet has gone much further in this one. As well as being a successful professional cyclist and brother of first 3-time winner of the Tour de France, Louison Jean Bobet was also an academic- leaving a life destined as a lecturer in university in Scotland at his brothers behest, and together they experienced the highs and lows, triumphs and failures of the Classics and Grand Tours in the 1950s.
Within the first 17 pages Roland Barthes has been quoted, and a couple of pages later the protective Jean actually turns Barthes away from Louison's hotel room after a hard won stage victory. This is a book that really could only be written by a Frenchman or woman. As well as bringing to life the strain and horror that is climbing the Ventoux on a scorching hot day, Jean also draws from many aspects of life-intellectual, physical, cultural- and with an obvious love of language has created what I consider the best sporting book I have ever read. He is poetic but never mawkish in describing the sight of Coppi, Gaul, Kublet, Kobler and other post war greats heading the peloton, taking on the pave or conquering the legendary climbs that make up the Tour, the Giro and the Veulta. His writing is so enlightening and eases the reader in, that even someone with no interest in cycling would get drawn into it.
It is probably obvious that I am a big fan of this book, and its combination of influences mean it is no simple "he did this, I did that" narrative, but an inspiring, emotional and sometimes funny revelation of what life as a pro-cyclist in post-war France was like.