I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. For most of his career as a journalist covering professional cycling, Walsh has been an outsider, fighting to get to the facts of the matter, going against the grain and - ultimately - been proven right. This time it's different - he's on the inside. I didn't really think he would sell out but I did wonder how this book would stand up in comparison to the investigative journalism for which Walsh is most famous. Sure enough, Walsh doesn't sell out and, while he will remain most famous for Seven Deadly Sins etc, this book stands up well to his track record.
I hesitate to award a fifth star because personally I don't much like Walsh's writing style - but that's purely cosmetic and purely a subjective opinion on my part. It doesn't detract in any way from the substance of this book, which is after all what really counts. In that sense, Walsh didn't disappoint me.
Walsh makes clear that when he accepted Sky's invitation to come inside their operation, he did so with a degree of healthy scepticism and a determination to kick over as many rocks as possible and see what he could find - as he says, he had a lot to lose. He found nothing suspicious. That will disappoint a lot of people who are determined to find Sky guilty of doping but it's the truth, insofar as that can be ascertained. If, on the other hand, you dislike Team Sky because of their comparative wealth and their corporate image, this book probably won't change your mind - although there is a lot of good material on their human side (especially regarding Brailsford and Ellingworth but also their riders and back room staff).
There is a good balance of factual and anecdotal evidence and analysis (both are important and the anecdotes show that the culture is very different to the dark days of the peloton's omertà). Make no mistake though, Walsh doesn't gloss over the controversial issues. He goes into considerable detail concerning the cases of Geert Leinders and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (I think even too much in the case of the latter) and underlines the mistakes Sky made in those cases, especially the former.
If you want to read a scathing critique of current professional cycling and it's most high-profile team, then this isn't it. If you want to read a glowing hagiography to Team Sky, British Cycling, Brailsford and co, then this isn't it. If you want to read a balanced assessment of their operation, and above all if you do so with an open mind, then I think it's fair to say this book does the job.
Both Team Sky and David Walsh potentially had a lot to lose from their cooperation for this book and the scrutiny which it demanded. They both come out of it with their reputations intact - perhaps not enhanced, but intact.
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