This Christmas season, cyclists are blessed with a huge array of cycling literature to ask Father Christmas for, which is a marked change from previous years. If you’re a particular afectionado of Bradley Wiggins or Team Sky, you’re exceptionally well catered for – as Wiggins’ win at the Tour de France has heralded a huge new industry in the publishing sector for producing books about his efforts, which I’m sure are not at all attempts to cash in on his victory and the wave of post-Tour/Olympic euphoria across the nation. You can also read the ‘classics’ such as one of the few good things Matt Rendell has done, The Death of Marco Pantani, various books on the Giro such as John Foot’s Pedalre! Pedalre! and Herbie Sykes Magila Rosa, or soak in atmospheric pictures of the worlds best climbs in Daniel Friebe’s Moutain High, or read the autobiography of Victoria Pendleton, unless, as one bloke I overheard as he flicked through it complained about, you just want to see her scantily clad (‘she looks better on strictly’ he moaned, forgetting she’s an Olympic champion, not a strumpet.) You could even buy Tyler Hamilton or David Millar’s books, but then you should probably remember that they’d then be making money from cheating, so don’t bother.
However, there are still gaps in the market. The Tour de France, as ever must cover about 80-90% of all cycling books sold, and it’s time to change this. Of course, as I’m writing a 10,000 word dissertation on cycling at the moment, I vainly assume I could do all of these (some chance…) but I’d like to get some credit when someone else comes up with the idea themselves and puts the effort in.
Desgrange, the inventor of Stage Racing: Rider, Journalist, Legend
Excuse the corny titles I’ve come up with, but why has there not been a book on Henri Desgrange? This was a man who invented a sport (how many people can claim that?), organised the Tour de France for 40 years, shaped the way it was ridden through his various arguments and upheavals, for instance being very upset at riders using domestiques and being determined to make the race as ruthlessly hard as possible, and would rule with a tyrannical fist with sporadic penalties against whoever incurred his wrath. He even set the world Hour record, albeit at a measly 35.325km. There is surely and audience for an English language book about the creator of the most written about sporting event in the world, and chronicling the creation of the world’s biggest annual sporting occasion alongside the life of its first Tryant would be fascinating.
Viva la Vuleta! has already been taken as a title unfortunately, and is the only English language book on the race that I’m aware of. The Vuelta hasn’t been around as long as it’s more illustrious rivals, the Tour and the Giro, but it still has a story to tell. A popular history of it would be welcomed by many.
Miguel Indurain: The First to 5 in a Row
It seems odd that every 5 time winner has had at least one book on them written: Anquetil has Sex, Lies and Handlebartape, Merckx has two new books this year, Hinault has Slaying the Badger, and Armstrong has a whole library of works on him, which will no doubt continue expanding. But yet Miguel Indurain does not, despite being the first man to win 5 tours consecutively, as well as the Giro twice and being World and Olympic time trial champion. If you believe some overviews, it’s because he’s a bit boring – he time trialled his way to glory and hung on in the mountains, but then so did Wiggins and no ones complaining about that. There is clearly a story to be told on Indurain and a handy gap in the market for someone to get a cheeky book in to complete the 5 time winners set.
Mythical Places: The Locations that make the Races
The first of two ideas to pull away from the traditional books that a re about the races, this would be more in the mould of Daniel Friebe’s Mountain High, concentrating on the places that the great cycling races visit and their connection to the rich banks of cycling history. There would be pages on, for instance, the Arenberg Forest, the Champs Elysees, the Stelvio, Alpe d’Huez, the Muur van Geraardsbergen, The Via Roma, The Roubaix Velodrome, Madonna del Ghisallo, and so on, that would give a richer, more varied take on the cycling world then simply the Tour as a coherent mass.
The Giants of the Road: 50 Riders who made Cycling
Whilst there are plenty books on individual riders, there are none that really give a coherent thread across the span of cycling history by pulling all of the great riders and giving them (relatively) short biographies in one book. Such a book could work through from men like Garin, though to Bartoli and Coppi, then Merckx, and feature men like Bobet, Gimondi, Pantani, Ullrich, Cipollini, Bugno, De Vlaeminck, Fignon, Gaul, Gerbi, Moser, Kelly, Museeuw, Poulidor, Zoetemelk, Van Steenbergen, Petit Breton, Kubler, Koblet…the list goes on. You’d read it though, right?
Generation EPO: Why Drugs, Foul play and Downright cheating made the Nineties and Noughties the best Cycling Decades Ever
An over elaborate title perhaps, and controversial, but its based on my own nostalgic memories. Basically it would chart the sport from the moment cycling became modern, ie when Lemond beat Fignon by 8 seconds in 1989, and race through the birth of the EPO craze, the consequences such as the sad death of Marco Pantani, the Festina scandal, the near death of the Tour in 1998, the ‘rebirth’ under Armstrong and subsequent collapse in 2006 with Puerto and Landis, with the seedy secrets being washed out of the crevices of history round about now being fed in in their appropriate chronological place to fit the narrative. I’d read it anyway.
Cipo: The Lion King
A Biography of Mario Cipollini. Any excuse to meet him/use another picture of him really.