French Revolutions, Tim Moore (2001)

A humerous account of the author’s attempt to cycle the route of the Tour despite his lack of experience on a bicycle

Yellow Jersey Press 0-224-06095-3 Paperback 277 pp £12

This is a good – if obvious – idea for a travel book. Follow, at touring speed, the route of the Tour de France, in this case the Tour of 2000. As a non-cyclist, this gives Moore a framework around which to hang a travelogue, meditation on cycle racing and a chance to marvel at those who complete the route at a rather less leisurely pace than the author achieves.

Moore is undoubtedly an amusing writer. Here he is teeing up his assault on Ventoux.

“The trouble with cycling up mountains is that – panniers or, as today, no panniers – after about four minutes, as soon as that first metallic-tasting, lactic gasp rasps inward at the back of your throat, any thoughts of appreciating your surroundings, contemplating the Continental way of life, or otherwise entertaining an appropriate holiday mentality have been booted out of your brain by an all-encompassing him-or-you struggle to the death with the force of gravity.”

Were someone who knew nothing about cycling looking for a light-hearted introduction to the Tour, this book would serve well.

To anyone who starts the book with a deeper knowledge of cycling and cycle sport than Moore, however, it is impossible to shake a feeling of irritation with him. He is an able writer, for sure, although the efforts of his wise-cracking show. He has read up on the great race, and can rehash many of its curious tales with some élan. But at the end of the day, he has little that is actually new to add. You can’t help feeling that he alighted upon the idea of a Tour-based book as a commercial opportunity, rather than anything fired by passion. As a result, he steadily creates a feeling that, at heart, he is mocking cyclists and cycling for the amusement of others.

PS August 2008

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