As the winter nights start to close in now is a great time to read a few cycling books and get inspired for next season. We’ve reviewed a couple here about stars from the ‘80s, perhaps the last great age of cycling before the serious performance enhancing drugs of the ‘90s undermined our belief in what we were seeing, and the super teams and race radios sucked the excitement and spontaneity from the racing.
First up is “Hunger”, the new Sean Kelly autobiography. It’s easy to forget just how good Kelly was, rising from humble beginnings in rural County Cork to become the world’s number one ranked road rider from 1984 to 1988. All the well-known stories are here. My personal favourite is the 1992 Milan San Remo. World Champion Moreno Argentin crosses the summit of the Poggio 15 seconds ahead, a lead that history tells us is unassailable. Kelly is in the final year of his career, and not as dominant physically as he once was. But with some tactically astute riding, he’s still in the chasing group at the top of the Poggio. His attack on the descent, and the look of utter disillusionment on Argentin’s face as he is caught with a kilometer to go, are the stuff of legend.
There are also some great photos in the book too, particularly of Kelly in the classics.
Having said all that, I found the book a little lightweight. There is little that we haven’t heard before, and there are few insights into what drove the “hunger”of the title. Kelly is famous for once nodding during a radio interview, and much of this inscrutability remains.
If you are new to cycling, or the Kelly stories, then this book provides a great introduction. But if you’re looking for a more in depth analysis of the riders and races, read on…
Our second book is “Slaying the Badger” by Richard Moore. This focuses on just one race – the 1986 Tour de France – and the epic battle between Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond. Moore does a great job building up a picture of the two main characters. He has interviewed both, along with many of the other key players, and it shows in the detail. Hinault is the pugnacious, ageing champion, aiming for a sixth victory and looking back at the days when he could dominate the bunch both physically and mentally. Lemond is the young challenger from the new world, very strong physically but open, likeable and slightly naïve mentally. The build up to the race is fascinating, and once it starts you don’t want it to end. Brilliant!
If you’ve read a good book recently, why not let us know. Maybe we could even persuade the club committee to buy a few copies and share them round 😉