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9 Cycling books that are worth reading

The Passion of Fausto Coppi by William Fotheringham Fascinating biography of probably the first true cycling superstar. Well-researched and written, Fotheringham ably recounts Coppi’s scandalous affair with a married woman which led to his and her excommunication from the Catholic church and his tragic death as the result of an insect bite he received while cycling in Upper Volta. Read it. The Death of Marco Pantani by Matt Rendell Matt Rendell’s biography is well-researched and written and ably captures the tragic short life of this icon of sport. Rendell does not seek to gloss over Pantani’s many short-comings and his account of his miserable, bleak and lonely death in a cheap hotel in Rimini is heart-breaking. Stay off the drugs kids. One More Kilometre and we’re in the Showers by Tim Hilton Hilton pens a beautifully written elegy to the post-war amateur cycling scene. Not necessarily on the surface an exciting topic but Hilton’s skill, compassion and obvious passion for his subject shines through. Goes to prove that a fine writer can make any topic fascinating. Read it. The Escape Artist by Matt Seaton Matt Seaton intersperses his loose cycling autobiography with the tragic early death of his wife (the journalist…) from breast cancer. He writes beautiful, moving prose and as many of his rides embrace the Old Ports Kent countryside there is a familiarity and recognition to many of his locations. Buy it. Fat Man on a Bicycle by Tom Vernon Vernon (who died recently) was an 18 stone journalist who decided to ride the Tour route long before it became fashionable, popular and the preserve of charity junkies. His book is gentle, enjoyable, enlightening and does not suffer either from that laboured, self-deprecation or thinly disguised boasting so common in books like this. His journey (before that phrase was used by every X Factor contestant) from unfit, over-weight journalist to successful completion is told with wit and humour. Well worth seeking out on Amazon or in second-hand book-shops (if such things still exist). The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien The Third Policeman is a surreal flight of whimsical Irish fantasy and although not exactly a cycling book, does contain important references to bikes and cycling. Read it on a winter’s evening in front of a roaring fire with a few tots of whisky to loosen your brain cells. Wonderful. In Search of Robert Millar – Richard Moore Millar is a mysterious, enigmatic, troubled character who chose to disappear into anonymity after his stellar cycling career ended. Moore intersperses his biography with his search for Millar the man from whom he seeks a final interview to explain his reclusive behaviour. Does he find him? Read the book. Put Me Back on my Bike: In Search of Tom Simpson by William Fotheringham Tom Simpson attracts a level of reverence and admiration which I find hard to fathom – but then dying young never did anyone’s career any harm (see also Pantani). However this is an excellent biography of probably the first British cycling superstar, World Road Race Champion and BBC Sports Personality of the Year 1965. Fotheringham does not flinch from the details of Simpson’s drug fuelled, untimely and tragic demise on Mont Ventoux in the 1967 Tour. The Rider by Tim Krabbe Translated from the Dutch, Tim Krabbe’s slight book is a finely written meditation on cycling and cyclists. The writing has a poetic feel and without getting too pretentious, drifts off into diversions on life, love and the links between cycling and happiness. There is a spareness and cleanness to the writing which is very effective. Recommended.            

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