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Interesting in places, but too plodding to grip consistently
on 3 September 2013
I am surprised (and slightly skeptical) at all the gushing reviews. This book was okay but nothing more. It takes an interesting moment in cycling history and turns it into a plodding tale that is poorly edited. Only in the last 70 or so pages when we get to the 1986 Tour does the story take off; before that the pace is leaden.
The editing is poor with anecdotes and stories repeated within pages of each other. The way Moore writes about Shelly Verses is illustrative - she is introduced as the soigneur of 7-Eleven. A few chapters later he comes back to Verses and repeats much of the earlier chapter about her being the only female soigneur in the peloton. Moore does this a lot - providing the same details multiple times.
The opening chapters about meeting with Hinault, LeMond and Kochli are very dull. The interviews also have little bearing on the rest of the book. For instance, for someone who was meant to have revolutionsed cycling, very little detail is given as to how Kochli actually impacted results or his methodology. At the end Kochli takes pride from the La Vie Claire results in 1986, yet it's probably fair to say Kochli made very little if any difference - La Vie Claire simply had the top two riders in the peloton and another 2-3 top riders. It is not clear what Kochli did as directeur sportif, indeed, it appears he was too weak to stand up to Hinault and had he been a better directeur sportif would have sorted the leadership squabble, but this is never addressed.
The writing is also jumbled with Moore jumping around timeframes without explanation. One minute we are at a race in 1982, then back to 1979, then again in 1982, then in 1976 etc without any reason, cohesion or narrative flow.
Hinault comes across as an arrogant, bullying pig. Equally, LeMond comes across as suprisingly weak. I understand that he was being bullied and intimidated by Hinault and everyone was out to get him, but the fact is Hinault rode with much more flair and panache and when it mattered, LeMond faltered or crashed. LeMond, in reality, got lucky that Hinault was a victim of his own hubris. There is never a moment in the 1986 Tour when LeMond stamped his authority and that is a shame.
I am surprised that Moore does not remark on the similarity with the 2009 Tour when the arrogant, bullying pig Armstrong came back to the race ostensibly to promote his charity and ride for team leader Contador, and then spent the race attacking him on the road and in the press / social media. He turned the team against Contador and used it to put time into Contador when the race split in the wind, mocked Contador's inexperience to the media and acted in many ways similar to Hinault in 1986.
I am also surprised that so little is mentioned of LeMond's post-Tour life, particularly his involvement in bike manufacturing, his association with Trek and the apology Trek forced him to make about doping, Michele Ferrari and Armstrong.
Overall, had this book been closely edited and reduced to half its length, it would have been a much better book. As it is, it is an interesting, but frustrating, read about a great edition of the Tour.