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Blazing Saddles: The Cruel and Unusual History of the Tour De France Hardcover – 7 Jun 2007
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A rattling good ride through the highlights of each race...a brisk solo breakaway through a history littered with bad behaviour… hugely entertaining - Independent--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
The Tour de France is probably cruel and it's undoubtedly unusual, but it also makes for an exceptionally good story. After 104 years and 94 laps of the France (time out only for World Wars), the fine spectacle of life-threatening exertion, bare-faced cheating, road-side sabotage, ludicrous clothing, extreme intimate discomfort, and grown men at the absolute end of their tethers has gathered the race an audience of millions. With the Tour taking to London's streets, Blazing Saddles takes a no-holds-barred look at its history - the rivalries and controversies, the blind passions and filthy suspicions, the wheeling and the dealing Embellished with over 100 classic images, Matt Rendell's vivid and entertaining history plunges deep into the peloton, combining the Tour's golden legends with tales from its dark side to capture the indomitable, inimitable spirit of the world's greatest race.See all Product description
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Passable enough as a run-through - that's literally all this is. The writing is often garbled and the attempted humour just doesn't work. For all the concentration on the history and quirky anecdotes, topics such as the introduction of the green jersey or king of the mountains categories get no mention - they just suddenly appear on the list at the end of each summary of how the race was lost/won in any given year.
As a last gripe, there are just too many typos in the book.
Overall, this feels like a book that was written in a hurry. You get a passing sense of the author's enthusiasm and can't help feeling that, with a bit more work, this would have been a really enjoyable read.
That is not really the fault of the writer so much as the format. Every tour is so deep so dramatic that they probably warrant 200 pages each, to try cover every tour in 200 pages with photos was always going to be superficial. Notabley the post war tours, where records are more readily available are described in a little more detail and much more evocatively. Unfortunately this suggests a good writer who was limited through time or inclination in researching the earlier tours more comprehensively.
Ultimately I was most dissapointed by the failure to really address the doping issue. The "they used to cheat by taking the train" stories are unhelpful in any discussion of how drugs are affecting sport, and the dismissal of Simeoni as "a not very good italian rider" was frankly pathetic. If cycling is to remain a vaild sport and the tour retain/ regain its place as on of the great sporting events it will be through the bravery of men like Simeoni and Bassons, rather than superficial Hagiographies like this one.
If you are a newcomer to the history of the Tour then it can be a little daunting as there are many, many books which will guide you through from 1903 via all the usual anecdotes myths and legends. What Matt does here is boil the whole thing down into one compact volume. Rather than a dense academic tome, you get a kaleidescopic flickbook which hurtles from the moustache and wooly jumpered days of Maurice Garin, via the primitive advertising of Jacques Anquetil's Bic jersey and on to the space age hi-tech suits of the Armstrong era. It might not give much depth but you do get a very clear sense of things changing and progressing before your very eyes. His writing, quick-witted, occasionally flippant and always enthusiastic, matches the pace perfectly.
This book was where I started, where I first read about Eugene Christophe's broken fork, the rivalry between Coppi and Bartali, Merckx's perfection in 1969. It fired my enthusiasm and set me off looking for books that told me more about these heroes. Jaded old hands may find it superficial, but for those who don't know their Poulidor from their Aucouturier it makes a great starting point.
Is it too much to ask that the skill of the printer and graphic artist not be squandered by some arty f***y designer
sticking a pin in a book of fonts. That the first paragraph of each chapter is screened just adds to the insult.
I donated it to charity
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