The passion and drama of the Tour de France has inspired plenty of literature. Here’s our selection of the best Tour tomes to enjoy.
The classic one
Wide-Eyed And Legless
By Jeff Connor, £7.25
In 1987, small British outfit ANC-Halfords set out for the Tour. Only one rider, Graham Jones, had ridden a major stage race before. With them was Daily Star sub-editor Jeff Connor, who gradually becomes one of the boys. He captures every ludicrous twist and turn in the riders’ fight for survival in a distilled and honest tabloid style. It’s a true classic of cycling literature – in fact, it was chosen as the best cycling book of all time by CW’s sister magazine, Cycle Sport.
The doping one
Bad Blood: The Secret
Life Of The Tour De France
By Jeremy Whittle, £8.99
Bad Blood exposes the drug-taking and systematic denial that has plagued professional cycling for decades in honest and damning style. Whittle starts the book as a wide-eyed newcomer to the sport, and gradually lifts the veil on what it’s like in the heart of cycling’s travelling circus. Two hundred pages of needles, denial and corruption isn’t pleasant reading, but it gets to the meat of the problem.
The funny one
By Tim Moore, £4.95
Moore’s account of his attempt to ride the route of the 2000 Tour; this book is genuinely hilarious. He starts out as a self-confessed slouch who rode as a child, but hasn’t touched a bike for years. He ends a committed and passionate cyclist, and takes the reader through numerous laugh-out-loud anecdotes along the way.
The classic race one
Slaying The Badger: LeMond, Hinault And The Greatest Ever Tour De France
By Richard Moore, £6.48
From its gem of a scatological opener, this is a gimlet-eyed look at the events surrounding Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault at the 1986 Tour de France. Slaying The Badger unravels the two riders’ tempestuous relationship and jarring personalities, the fascinating intra-team dynamics, the backroom figures at La Vie Claire, culminating in every nervous twist and turn of the famous LeMond-Hinault clash-cum-collaboration in a thrilling Tour. This book is compulsive reading – although we don’t reckon the 1986 race was the best one ever.
The mountains one
By Chris Sidwells, £11.77
A complete compendium of the Tour’s great climbs, this book has sections for them all – the Alps, Pyrenees, and even the less well-known slopes of the Massif Central and Vosges region. Sidwells is a master of France’s climbs – we at CW trust him to do many of the ride articles you find in this very magazine, in fact – and the photography’s gorgeous too.
The serious one
The Tour De France 1903-2003
Editors Hugh Dauncey and Geoff Hare, £29.44
This series of articles takes a more thoughtful and academic look at the Tour. With chapters on its economics, culture and politics, it’s a good option for anyone looking to get serious about understanding why things are the way they are. Its subtitle – a century of sporting structures, meanings and values – tells you all you need to know. Not an easy read, but fascinating stuff, nonetheless.
The history one
Tour De France: The History, The Legend, The Riders
By Graeme Fife, £7.79
The majority of this excellent history of the Tour looks at each of the race’s most famous climbs in turn. Each one is a window on the race’s rich history – they all have myriad stories of legendary ascents, descents, personalities, and races won and lost. Since its first publication in 1999 it has been updated every year with a chapter for that year’s race, and the last third of the book looks at the Armstrong years and beyond in depth. One criticism is that it focuses too much on mountain stages, with little said about the green jersey or great sprinters, but for an accessible and entertaining history of the race, it’s one of the best.
The British one
By William Fotheringham, £6.68
Seasoned cycling journalist and author William Fotheringham follows every episode of plucky Britishness in the world’s greatest race. Each chapter follows an individual or team, and takes the reader from the earliest British adventures in the Tour – the Hercules team in the mid-1950s – right through to David Millar. It’s written in an anecdotal and entertaining style, and gives you a strong sense of how hard it is in the Tour as a cultural outsider.
Another history one
Le Tour: A History Of The Tour De France
By Geoffrey Wheatcroft, £7.19
This history is more complete than Fife’s, and it’s also written by less of a cycling aficionado – Wheatcroft describes himself as a general-purpose journalist. This makes it more accessible and lighthearted, although it’s packed full of interesting angles on the race and commentary on its history.
The anorak one
The Yellow Jersey Companion To The Tour De France
Edited by Les Woodland, £7.69
An A to Z of all things Tour, this book has got everything you could possibly want to know about the race between its two covers. There are entries for riders, places, incidents and Tour institutions. It’s a must for anyone wanting to out-trivia an armchair rival.
The pictures one
Tour De France/Tour De Force: A Visual
History Of The World’s Greatest Bicycle Race
By James Startt, £10.79
The Tour de France wouldn’t be the Tour de France without the colourful pomp, circumstance and drama – and the photos that do justice to it. This is a year-by-year and champion-by-champion visual journey through the Tour’s history, the main focus of which is some great photography, but it also has good, short entries describing each year of the race, so it’s good for
remembering races gone by when your memory’s gone a bit hazy too.
The new one
How I Won the Yellow Jumper
By Ned Boulting, £6.49
Ned Boulting has been ITV’s roving reporter for the last eight Tours, and his newly released book provides readers with an insight in to what covering the race is really like. Taking its title from an on-air gaffe he let slip during his first ever broadcast from the Tour, the book details Boulting’s rise from cycling novice to becoming an integral part of the ITV team. From David Millar’s coughing habit to mushroom toilets, Boulting presents his memories in a tremendously witty manner.