‘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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