interested in history, science, and pulp fiction
What a great book. This is an excellent history of the race known as Paris-Roubaix, the springtime one-day classic that features distinctive cobbled roads in the north of France. Cycling history is filled with such amazing characters, as a rule, and the Paris-Roubaix is rife with them. Great stories about riders stopping at pubs, quitting the race, or fighting with spectators; heroic tales of athletes plowing through ridiculously difficult conditions to win this hellish yet somehow irresistible race. The author creates a wonderful portrait of a century, a region, and a parade of legendary cyclists. The narrator is perhaps the worst narrator I have ever heard on Audible, sorry to say (the French pronunciations are quite painful). But if you need to listen rather than read, as I do, try not to let that prevent you from enjoying this cycling history. It's worth the struggle.
One of my favorite quotes from the book: "Every once in a while someone along the road lets us know how far behind we are. A man shouts: ‘Faster!’ He probably thinks bicycle racing is about going fast." Part memoir, part rant, part poetry, it is the story of a bike race in the subjective voice of one racer. The fictional 150 km 'Tour de Mont Aigoual' is the scene, and the characters are the fellow riders and the unforgiving terrain. I love how Krabbe so accurately renders the ceaseless inner monologues that occur while cycling. This book is perfectly suited to the audio format, and wonderfully performed by narrator Mark Meadows. The words, the language, are so beautifully crafted, so incisive, witty, and economical… I am so pleased that Krabbe turned his copious literary gifts toward cycling. This book has earned its status as a classic of sport writing.
Personal essays, mostly essay-length, about the author's travails as a late blooming cycling fanatic. These 'inner voice' stories are quite humorous, especially the author's ping-ponging between hubris and humiliation at the club rides. My favorite sections were the introduction, when the author makes the life-changing decision to get fit during an awkward elevator incident, and his ride of The Étape in France, a cyclo-sportive event in which amateurs may ride a Tour de France stage on the rest day during the 'real' Tour. In the essayist tradition, the best stories emerge when things go wrong, and the author has plenty of things go wrong. My one criticism - occasionally attitude gets the better of the author. For example, he makes a point to single out and mock fellow cycling essayist Elden, of Fat Cyclist blog. Why do that? The two are cut from the same chamois, so to speak, and Elden is a much beloved figure in cycling blogs. Still, this was great to listen to while trapped in the carpool wishing I were cycling.