Book Review: The Breakaway - Nicole Cooke

The Breakaway is an exceptional book, an intelligent sporting autobiography, also a feminist critique of professional cycling by the British rider who won more than all the men. It is a story of huge success against massive odds.

Anger at the sexist discrimination in cycle sport is a consistent theme. Why do male athletes get so much more public money than the women who perform better?

Britain's most successful ever cycling athlete was driven by a passion for winning, by great racing intelligence and by anger at the incompetence of the cycling establishment. Nicole Cooke tells how she became the first British rider to win the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia. She became Olympic road race gold medalist and World Champion in the same year and much more.

She was British Road Race Champion ten times, starting aged 16. Being so good, so young put her at odds with the male dominated British cycling establishment. They controlled the public money coming into elite cycling. Nicole got almost none of it.

Anger at the drug takers is another strong theme. The cheats stole all the glory and all the income from riders who chose to remain clean. She accuses them and the complicit cycling authorities of destroying women's cycling as a professional sport.

Despite it all Nicole achieved her childhood dreams yet she despairs over so many others who lost out.