First of all, let me start by saying seven-hundred pages between the two books! SEVEN HUNDRED PAGES. In English at that! About Cycling! And when I say cycling, I don’t mean “The Complete History of Lance, Lance, Lance, and Some Other People Who Rode Bikes.” No, this is the Α to Ω of cycling literature.
The book starts out in the gritty post revolutionary times of France, and tiptoes around to explain the Dreyfuss Affair to us, while showing us what Henri Desgrange went through to make news to promote his little newspaper all the way to what the tour has evolved into today. The best part about ordering these books was that I was not sent some cheesy robo-automated shipping/payment confirmation. The authors contacted me and let me know that they would be willing ot autograph the books, and that they were going to be sent on their way on X date or so. Just having them do a mom and pop selling of their book and handling it their selves is a reason to buy these books.
I received the books midway though December and have been able to sneak enough time out of the holidays to read about 1/3 of the first book. So far, I believe the books give you a personal feeling of these vintage and forgotten heroes of the peloton, and really make you wonder how and why they did what they did back then. Going from year to year, learning how these riders viewed this race and how the tyrant Henri Desgrange kept the tour in line after instances of possible failure. I even found out that the second year of the tour, the fans were so passionate that sabotage, assault, and death threats were rampant. These little outside-of-the-race facts are scampered all over, and it really does go deeper than race stats and jersey standings.
While the images inside are low resolution prints; with the operating cost of creating a book, their publisher picked a good paper, fine font, acceptable images and printing techniques all while not detracting from the words or making you know you are holding a small company book. A hardback is on my mental wish list, and I would donate my paperbacks to my LBS or Library or something if they ever came out. As of today, Bill and Carol are not in the motions to make a hardback cover edition, but the minute they do… oh boy… This would make a great gift for any cyclist of any interest level.
Just for a second-hand look at the book, I went to Amazon.com and scrounged up a review.
Paul Scarpelli wrote:
History placed in context, drenched in rich detail…
The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1, is not only the finest documentary of the world’s greatest sporting event, it genuinely places each moment of the Tour, from inception through 1964, within the political, social, and historical context of the time. This intelligently-written book gives the reader a focused sense of what things were like at the creation of the race, and how it changed through the years, right up to the dawn of modern bicycle racing. Bill and Carol craft narratives of the races that are crystaline, and they capture the pivotal moments of each race, always conveying the urgency and excitement. Nowhere have I seen these great races described in such interesting and captivating detail. The reader is placed back in time, observing these great riders almost as if they are there. More than just a series of race synopses, the book delves into the riding styles, personality traits, weaknesses, and foibles of many of the riders, giving a truly 3-dimensional picture of the races and racers. And when words cannot describe the torture of these early races, there are many photographs showing riders toiling over mountain passes on unpaved roads.
Many road biking enthusiasts may have heard the names Coppi, Anquetil, Leducq, and others, but they have never had them described so vividly. I know of no other book that provides imagery of the Tour de France as this book does. In that respect, it is singular and unique, and if it weren’t so well wordsmithed, it would still win by default. If you ride a bicycle; if you have watched the Tour de France on television; or if you have an interest in the most grueling sporting event in the world, you must read this book. I can’t wait for Volume 2.
Very highly recommended.
See, I’m not the only one who thinks like this?! Kudos to Bill and Carol for having the drive and desire to put this set out.
Check out more of Bill’s historical writing finesse here: http://redkiteprayer.com/?p=1563