The Yellow Jersey, Ralph Hurne (1973)
A pacy novel with a washed up pro-cyclist as its main charecter
Breakaway Books 1-55821-452-6 paperback285pp $14.95
This novel comes with the recommendation on its cover that it is “The greatest cycling novel ever written”, courtesy of Bicycling magazine. It is, of course, impossible to know how accurately that sentence reflects the magazine’s review of this book, nor of how qualified was the originator of the phrase.
At the time of writing, however, I can think of only a dozen or so ‘cycling novels’ in the English language. Even assuming that I have missed a great many others, can there be more than 50 ‘cycling novels’? If this is the case, being the best in such a small field, is not quite the recommendation that it first appears.
Most cycling novels – and this is no exception – take professional racing as their backdrop. Hurne’s story is of Terry Davenport, a washed up, end-of-career pro, who is down on his luck competitively, and unhappy in his personal life.
It is an engaging tale, with plenty of edge-of-the-seat thrills to keep the pages turning. And, as Hurne clearly has a considerable knowledge of, and a love for, professional racing, there is plenty of insider insight to impart.
What it does not do, however, is to transcend its backdrop – in the way, for example, that The Rider does. For a cyclist with a long-haul flight to pass away, it is thoroughly enjoyable diversion. Its is not, however, the volume to persuade anyone else that cycling has produced a rich literature.
PS August 2008