Review: The Complete Book of the Tour de France

Book Review: The Complete Book of the Tour de France.

Fergal McKay

“Every Tour, every single day generates as many stories as there are people riding it.” Feargal McKay in seven hundred pages selects a tiny fraction of these stories, re-told with fresh narrative  and drama. For every one of the 100 races so far he describes the stories, strategies and scandals that best illustrate the greatest sporting event ever.

All the results are listed. Tables of day by day leaders, winners and their times. If you need sporting statistics they are all there. Further pages tell how many victories for this or that award has been won by an individual or country. Some names appear crossed  through, again and again.

The other four to five hundred pages make this monster of a book stand out from all the others cashing in on this year’s Yorkshire start of Tour 101. Dip into any year and find a special story. Did Bartali’s revival and victory in 1948 really divert attention and prevent a civil war in Italy?  In ’87, despite a civil war within his own team, how did Stephen Roche somehow win through against the other young stars. Also in that year British Cycling’s coach Shane Sutton led the tour for all of three seconds.

From the best race ever to the decadent and depraved more recent times, it tells the story of the race as well as the riders.  Trying to read of all the tours from 1903 to 2013 might take so long you could miss seeing the 2014 tour. It might almost be worth it.