Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review: Wide-Eyed and Legless

Wide-Eyed and Legless: Inside the Tour de FranceWide-Eyed and Legless: Inside the Tour de France by Jeff Connor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb on the cover says, "The No. 1 Cycling Book of All Time" (according to Cycle Sport magazine). Well, that is a little extreme - it is certainly high up on the list for readable books about the Tour de France or professional bicycle racing, but it also has certain technical drawbacks . . .

Team ANC Halfords 1986
ANC-Halfords Race Team in 1986, the year before the book describes

This book was originally published in 1988 and described the Tour race of 1987 - the author was a journalist and the British race team, ANC-Halfords, agreed to let him be with the team full time to cover the race. This was ANC-Halfords first (and last) participation in the Tour de France and they weren't really ready for the race - they didn't have good enough riders and they didn't have good enough financial (and therefore technical) support. The team ended up letting Connor drive some of their vehicles because they ran out of people to do so - his perspective is more like that of a technical support person than a journalist.

And in fact, his being so much a part of an unsuccessful team is the main drawback of the book, if one is looking for a description of how a team works to win or compete in the Tour. ANC-Halfords lost three riders not too far into the race (and only four riders finished out of nine) so they rarely had anything like strategy or tactics - they didn't have the riders.

On the other hand, the writing if good and it can be amusing to read an account of a failed effort, too, if it is done right, and this mostly is.

Apparently since there is greater interest in the Tour de France, in particular British riders, a publisher in the UK decided to republish a new edition in 2011. There is a short new foreward but otherwise it is the same as the 1988 edition.

View my list of cycling books and reviews

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