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THE REAL TOUR DE FRANCE REVEALED
on 21 November 2008
I'm not particularly a cycling fan but perhaps the best thing about this book is that you don't need to be, to really enjoy it. I read `Bad Blood' as a Francophile who has lived in France and as somebody who wanted an accessible, geek-free insight into the recent disasters of the Tour de France. In contrast to earlier reviewers, I didn't find it `prattish' at all, just refreshingly honest. It doesn't offer any pat solutions, just the wisdom of experience and it's all the better for it. The journey aspect of the book - from wide-eyed, star-struck sports fan, meeting Lance Armstrong for the first time, to world-weary cynicism as he watches David Millar weep in the Tour's press room - really worked and took me with it. At times, it's almost cinematic, cutting from Lance Armstrong's front room in Texas to the mountains of France and it gains from being personal and subjective, rather than forensic and black and white. It's also about letting go of your dreams, knowing that you will be alienated as a result - as he says in the book, drug-taking in sport is too easily demonised, because even `good' people cheat. Rather than a dispassionate scientific analysis of laboratory procedures, it's almost a love story and he's not afraid to admit that. The argument, that doping is not a simplistic issue with simple answers, but something with real moral complexity, is expertly made. But the book is at its best when he talks about Lance Armstrong's megalomania, the consequences of Armstrong's control-freakery, and about his relationship with David Millar, a rider he clearly adores, but whose doping confession clouded their relationship. Yes, I felt sorry for him and for other fans who have felt the same sense of betrayal. Yes, he says he is bitter, but then, after working in such a corrupt world for that length of time, who wouldn't be?