the post

previous book reviews

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rouleur

rouleur magazine

those enthusiastically enterprising people at rapha, not content with bringing class and quality to cycle clothing, have branched into cycle magazine publication with the limited edition rouleur magazine.

the magazine costs 9 plus postage direct from rapha, and will be published twice a year in an edition of 3000 copies. rouleur is less concerned with the current affairs of road cycling but "celebrates the drama and beauty of road racing."

The magazine is edited by Guy Andrews, editor of www.roadcyclinguk.com and contains, according to rapha, "all the things we'd like to read and look at ourselves - exquisite photography and writing that really gets under the skin of the great riders and theatres of the sport."

a copy is already in the possession of thewashingmachinepost, and i'm not sure i can wait six months till the next one. articles include an interview with magnus backstedt, kraftwerk, shimano & campagnolo, a photographic celebration of the dauphine, single speeds and, of course, rouleurs. much like the clothing itself, a worthy addition to the pantheon of road cycling

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marco pantani: the legend of a tragic champion. edited by john wilcockson. softcover illus. 181pp velopress $19.95

marco pantani - story of a tragic champion

on the wall behind my desk in the ileach office, i have a large colour poster culled from the pages of the comic (when they used to do such things), of marco pantani in suitably aggressive mood with hands on the drops ready to rip the legs off those around (metaphorically speaking of course).

and next to that is a picture of pantani, arms aloft in the pink jersey of the giro d'italia winning a stage and the legend 'grazi ragazzi'. this was culled from the bianchi website around 1998.

in the same year, i cycled to dublin for the first two stages of the tour de france to see marco come in fourth from last in the prologue of the tour that he won outright, having effectively destroyed ullrich on the road to les deux alpes.

if you read the last post, you would know that i also got hold of a pink rapha mortirolo jersey principally because the mortirolo was marco's favourite mountain, and one on which he holds the record for climbing. (spookily, the 'mort' in mortirolo does actually mean 'death'). marco pantani was, and is, a hero.

it was a cause for slight worry then, when this book appeared from velopress in the usa. nobody likes to have the character of their heroes destroyed. that pantani was hounded from 1999 onwards for variations on the term 'sporting fraud' after being ejected on the penultimate day of that year's giro, and having died from a drugs overdose on valentines day 2004, there was always the possibility that this book would exist as an expose of an apparently drug riddled career.

well it isn't. it is a marvellous book in true celebration of an incredible if drastically short career, often bringing a tear to the eye as we read of pantani's exploits in the mountains peaking with the '98 double of giro and tour.

there is brief illustration of pantani's childhood and early cycling exploits, well illustrated with colour and monochrome photos, but the main body of the work is culled from a series of articles written at the time of each and portrayed essentially in chronological order. these have been brought together by the book's editor john wilcockson, an editor on us publication 'velonews' with the most obvious benefit being that they are bereft of hindsight. by this i mean none can allude to his early death and attribute it to significant, or otherwise, events of the time. an added bonus is that the bulk of the photography is from graham watson - there can be little better fitting tribute to the great climber.

if you missed out on pantani's greatest years (up to the point of the madonna de campiglio in 1999) and his erratic, if valiant attempts at a comback in the early part of this century, then buy this book and read of one of the greatest cyclists the world has seen in recent years.

like me, if you applauded every explosive pedal turn, watched disbelievingly at the giro in 1999 (who could fail to have marvelled as marco stopped just at the decisive bottom part of a climb to fix a displaced chain before riding everyone, including jalabert, off his wheels on the way to winning at the top) and hoped against hope that il pirata would make a blazing comeback and frighten the willies out of armstrong in a subsequent tour, then you should be clamouring for a copy before you finish reading this review.

and if you have no idea what all the fuss is about, get a copy of the 1998 tour video, grab a copy of this book and just make sure that you have a cushion on the floor when you lower jaw hits it.

the book ends with an interview with marco's girlfriend during his great years, christina jonsson and a reprise of pantani's career, listing his teams, his wins and a brief precis of the major points of each year. there is also a comprehensive index. a more than fitting tribute to a great man and a great cyclist. it will be some time before we see his like again. buy two copies - one to read and one to cut the pictures out of and pin on the wall.

ps the winner of the 2004 giro d'italia, damiano cunego, also has a poster of marco pantani on his wall and has adopted his favoured climbing technique of hands on the drops. marco lives.

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tour de fource: lance armstrong by daniel coyle. published by collins willow 326pp illus. 15.99

lance armstrong-tour de force

since the beginning of this season, i have been continually sending e-mails to cycling weekly berating their incessant coverage of lance, bordering on the sort of coverage publications such as 'ok' and 'best' give to your average movie star. this hit a peak at the paris-nice when he got three times the coverage for coming in last in the time trial than the guy who won it. however, my beef was not about lance per se, but about the obsessive coverage as if no other cyclists existed.

and after winning his seventh consecutive tour on 24 july this year, you could almost be forgiven for thinking that no other cyclist did exist. it takes a serious amount of ability, luck, strength and planning to win one tour, let alone seven.

if the pantani book (see above) is a celebration of a great cyclist this one is almost an investigation. and it gives us a tremendous, apparently unbiased view of just why and how armstrong manages to achieve what he does. for starters, he owns part of the company that own what was the us postal team and is now the discovery channel team. this gives him an unprecedented amount of control over both the cycling and business aspects of his (very successful) career.

coyle has been very thorough in his research for the book. he manages to gain valuable insights into the man by speaking to various team members and ex team members, helped greatly by the fact that he and his family moved to girona for a year in order to follow armstrongs every move.

coyle relates substantial information relating to michele ferrari's training methods (someone from whom lance has now distanced himself) and the production of the magical number that equates to a cyclist's power to weight ratio and how close he is to that target as the tour de france draws ever nearer. as both a method of training and a means of finding out what sort of figures the usp guys were producing during the early season, lance and co. pedalled repeatedly for all they're worth uphill, and ferrari removed a drop of blood at the top and calculated the necessary. and the training didn't stop there. lance is well known for his reconnaissance of the tour mountain and time-trail stages but coyle hasn't stopped just at the good stuff. he tells of the writer of 'la confidentiel' with its circumstantial evidence of armstrong's supposed drug-taking and of lance's surveillance of same - and also of those with whom he associated. the word 'control' might not be out of place here.

the author's references to sheryl crow don't always come across as complimentary, though not so much as a reflection of his own opinion, but as an inference of that of the rest of the team and michele ferrari. there is the notion that, despite her stardom, she is tolerated rather than accepted. there is also little reference to armstrong's divorced wife kristin, other than the fact that the divorce apparently cost armstrong $14 million. how many other cyclists do you know that could afford that kind of settlement?

we are also provided with an insight into just how many stops his bike sponsor, trek, are willing to pull out in the quest for those few vital seconds over the opposition. and just how willing they are to throw it all away when the discover that it doesn't work. apparently after ullrich was seen pedalling a walser time trial bike with a narrower bottom bracket, trek decided that this was the way to go. this narrows what's known as the 'q' factor. unfortunately, after spending around $250,000 on development, they discovered that lance couldn't produce the same power output as on his regular bike. oops!

the book follows armstrong's preparation for and participation in winning his record breaking six tour in 2004 - all the pluses and minuses, the fact that he is currently in legal dispute with his former mechanic, the simeoni affair, the subsequent guilty verdict on ferrari and armstrong's distancing himself from the doctor. but also the cycling, his incredible power, his tactical brain and everything else we have come to know, or would like to learn about lance armstrong. and even more so now that he has retired from professional cycling. this is truly the end of an era in cycling, and daniel coyle's book is a fitting description of an amazing career.

interestingly, this book appears to have been published in the states as 'lance armstrong's war'. think that might be a rather unnecessary title.

while the pantani book is available direct from velopress in the states, both books are also available from localised amazon online stores.

coming soon - inside the postal bus by michael barry, velopress publications

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this website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine

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as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

this column appears, as regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.

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