‘Wide-Eyed and Legless: Inside the Tour de France’ by Jeff Connor (1988)

Wide-Eyed and Legless was originally published in 1988.  During the 1987 Tour de France, the British cycling team, ANC-Halfords, agreed to let journalist Jeff Connor travel and stay with the team full-time.

1987 is a legendary tour for a number of reasons – not least for Irish people given Stephen Roche’s victory.  This was ANC-Halfords first (and last) participation in the Tour  and they really weren’t ready for the race.  They didn’t have good enough riders and they didn’t have good enough financial (and therefore technical) support. They were exceptionally disorganised by comparison to the modern sport of cycling.

The team even ended up letting Connor drive some of their vehicles because they ran out of people to do so.  The level of access Connor was given results in his perspective at times being more like that of a technical support person than a journalist.

The book suffers from not being clear in what it is trying to achieve.  It is half narrative from an insider’s perspective of the troubled ANC-Halfords team and half a broader race report of the 1987 Tour.  Ultimately the book feels like two ideas mashed together and works as neither.  The kernels of a fascinating emotional insight into the struggles of the ANC-Halfords riders and team members are there but aren’t fleshed out as the book becomes more of a routine retelling of the Tour’s progress and conclusion.

The cover of the book quotes cycle sport as declaring it ‘The No.1 cycling book of all time’.  Perhaps in 1988 it may have been but it isn’t in the same league as books like Rough Ride or Put Me Back on My Bike.  I expected more, largely based on this cover quote, which led to the book leaving me somewhat underwhelmed.

A decent read but doesn’t live up to the hype.

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‘My World’ by Peter Sagan (2018)

Peter Sagan is no ordinary cyclist.   Like most casual cycling fans, he first came to my attention at the 2012 Tour de France where he became the youngest ever Stage winner and also captured the Green points classification jersey in his first appearance in the race.   He has now won over 100 races, 6 Tour Green jerseys and 3 consecutive World Championship rainbow jerseys.

He is such an interesting cyclist to watch because he isn’t an out-an-out sprinter, yet can live with the very best sprinters in the world.   Unlike pure sprinters, he can perform in much longer races and doesn’t have a lead out team like Cavendish and others typically do.  I’ve loved watching in the Tour over the years and am always more interested in watching other races if Sagan is in the mix in the later stages.

Sagan can often times be quite controversial whether it is giving cheeky answers in press conferences, doing a non-hands wheelie as he crosses a finish line, or getting disqualified from the 2017 Tour de France, Sagan adds drama and character to an awful lot of his races.  The combination of success and personality guaranteed Sagan a strong following in his native Slovakia and around the world.

My World is a fairly standard autobiography written by a leading sportsman in the mid-to-late part of his career.  It offers good insight how Sagan thinks and operates and shines a light on the members of ‘Team Peter’ that are instrumental to his success.  In many ways the books main function is as a thank-you to those who have helped him along the way.

The book is loosely centered around Sagan’s remarkable achievement of winning cycling’s World Championship road race three years in a row.  I was particularly interested in some of his early struggles where he was on the verge of walking away from cycling and his decision to race mountain bikes at the Rio Olympics rather than the road race (I was at the Rio games and really wanted to try and watch Sagan race but sadly had already bought tickets other events that day).  The book however runs out of steam and starts to get a bit repetitive as it becomes more of a diary of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 seasons.   Ultimately, I was a little disappointed with the book but I can’t quite put my finger on why – I think I wanted to know the secret of his success, but it seems the answer simply is raw talent and surrounding himself with the right people.

The ghost writer (who doesn’t seem to be named) has done a very good job in capturing Sagan’s voice.  At times it doesn’t quite flow when reading it, but it feels very like the Sagan you hear in interviews.

If your a fan of Sagan or professional cycling more generally, there is plenty to enjoy in the book.  If you’ve no idea who Sagan is then I’d definitely give this a miss.

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