Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review: The Story of the Tour De France (Vol 2)

After the first volume had me mesmerized, that I would buy the second half (kindle edition) was a forgone conclusion.

Here, you have the story of the Merckx days, the semi-tragic story of the Greg Lemond rides, including all the background story behind his fight with Bernard Hinault, the tactical racing-style of Miguel Indurain, and of course the Lance Armstrong years.

Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt, but I found these stories nowhere as compelling as those in the first volume --- part of it was that I knew so much of it already, but also because the story-telling style felt stilted. For instance, the discussion of the Bjarne Riis story did not mention that Riis admitted that he took EPO until well after the description of the race was over. That's perhaps so as not to spoil the reader's enjoyment of the race, so perhaps it's forgivable.

No analysis of bicycle racing would be complete without an essay on doping, and indeed there is one. Basically, once EPO burst onto the scene, the testing technology did not exist, so speeds went up in the races for the next several years after that. The transformation was so sudden that winners from the previous eras would have been has-beens in the era of EPO.

There's also an analysis of why the Tour de France is still the dominant bicycle race, though that one is much more subjective. Finally, the authors deliver their opinion on who the greatest Tour de France was of all time, though I disagree with their selection. All in all, I'm ok with having paid Kindle price for this volume, but found it a much less compelling read than the first one, so I'd only recommend it if you've already read that and want more.
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