bradley wiggins tour de force by john deering birlinn publishing softback. 227pp illus. £12.99

bradley wiggins tour de force

though october has failed to finish as of the time of writing, i have already received the december issue of cycle sport magazine. it's not the highlight of my month i must confess, but on the cover, and emulating a period of time when lance was never absent from the front page, is a photo of bradley wiggins. the heading top left is man of the year, bradley wiggins. brad has, of course, already been voted britain's most influential man, so i know not whether cycle sport is simply reiterating an apparently well-known fact, or trying to make a point.

there is no denying, however, that whatever you think of bradley wiggins the man, victory in the 2012 tour de france, followed very quickly by an olympic gold medal in the time-trial, set up britain's wonderful summer of sport. and a wonderful summer of sport it was indeed. it can therefore come as no surprise that the period following these successes would be infiltrated by several individuals and publications attempting to capitalise on both victories.

frankly, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that; the same thing has happened to a myriad of sportspeople and celebrities throughout recent history. the fact that this phenomenon has now plonked itself upon not only a cyclist, but a british cyclist at that (we're conveniently ignoring the fact that brad was born in ghent), is undoubtedly something that we ought to be thankful for. the bradley bubble will bring many into the welcoming arms of cycling, no matter which genre. how many remain when the bubble bursts, as it definitely will, is open to conjecture. authors ought therefore to strike while the iron is hot.

john deering is perhaps best known for his biography of the linda mcartney team's demise (team on the run), an excellent book which would recommend him for authorship of this current volume.

personally, i'm not at all in favour of titling each chapter after a stage of the tour in question; it's rapidly becoming somewhat of a cliche in cycling circles. however, there is a certain truth in each chapter doing what it says on the tin and moaning about it perhaps does deering a disservice. the basic premise behind the book is a detailing of bradley's tour to top step of the 2012 podium in paris, allied to that of brad's biography incorporated into each chapter. this actually starts out quite well, for it is easy to discriminate between that which is the present and the historical. though i'm jumping ahead of myself just a tad, it's a device which progressively disintegrates as the past becomes the ever more recent past. when discussing the 2012 tour de france rapidly followed by the tours of 2009/10 and 11, i found confusion intervened.

though i sound like the very editor that mr deering wishes not to have sitting on his case, i'd have thought a chronological detailing would have served he and bradley just a bit better.

it doesn't take long to realise that john deering wasn't riding team sky's death star, and nor was he driving in its wake in a french hire car (europcar?). bradley's three week ride to success, accompanied by the faithful (?) chris froome to second place has been disseminated by deering from interviews posted on the team sky website, from remarks in cycling publications, scouring of relevant twitter accounts and tv interviews. there is the overweening notion across the opening chapters that we could all likely have managed the selfsame result, but that conceit is glaringly undermined by the fact that john deering is a whole lot better at it than any of us would have ever been.

the narrative has an endearing ability to entice the reader to the next chapter, even though most if not all will be already appraised of the final result in paris. however, there are portions of his writing style that grate somewhat when descending into hyperbole. "(he) positively flew up the last climb to take an excellent sixteenth spot on the stage alongside his main rivals Evans and Nibali. He will look them in the eye tonight and say, 'I'm coming for you.'"

actually, no, he won't.

it also doesn't take deering too long to let his partisan hero worship show through that cool authorial exterior. the chapter relating to stage two, vise to tournai, opens with a dissemination of the team sky riders: 101: Bradley Wiggins. The leader. The man. The one. The reason we're all here." i can understand that the title of the book has rather let the cat out of the bag as to the main thrust of the subsequent pages, and it would be a brave brit indeed who admitted to perhaps having favoured someone else for the win. but to describe bradley in such terms so early in the book does little for the author's credibility in my mind. as the latter chapters are reached, all pretense (assuming there had ever been any) of impartiality evaporates entirely and deering comes across as an unapologetic bradley wiggins acolyte.

i am comforted by the thought that mr deering might well be the first to accede to such an epithet.

it starts all relatively innocent enough by broaching wiggins' favouring of mod culture as espoused by the who, the jam and presently, paul weller. i doubt there is another cyclist in the world so readily identified by their affinity with a particular genre of music, though in itself, it's quite refreshing. however, moving on we read 'Brad was interesting. He grew his hair sometimes. He often had sideburns that wafted out from around his helmet straps. He wouldn't dream of riding for a team that expected him to wear glasses made by anyone other than Oakley.'

this is subsequently followed by deering's quizzing of cultural expert stuart clapp. aside from the fact i had no idea stuart had such strings to his bow, i find it a bit supercilious to view the winner of the 2012 tour de france in such a manner. perhaps, however, and as i've said before, it says more about me than either the author or the intended readers of this book. there are other examples of such hero worship which i will leave you to find out for yourself, but i think it prudent to point out one that i think ought not to have made it into print. it pays erroneous testament to brad's often less than diplomatic attitude towards those he feels are not deserving of his approbation.

it concerns the tv personality piers morgan who invaded twitter with his thoughts regarding the british athletes who refrained from singing along with the national anthem on having won a gold medal. 'I was very disappointed @bradwiggins didn't sing the anthem either. Show some respect to our Monarch please!'. wiggins was reputed to have tweeted in reply '@piersmorgan I was disappointed when you didn't go to jail for insider dealing or phone hacking, but you know, each to his own.'

the latter tweet was, in fact, posted by a gent by the name of colm quinn. this was detailed on a number of websites in early august, and it does deering no credit whatsoever that he fails to be aware of this and thus embarrasses himself in print.

i'm very conscious of the fact that i appear to have conducted a character assassination of what is actually a very good book. it reads very well, it provides an excellent and accurate precis of this year's tour de france and a rather fine biography of bradley wiggins, if just not quite in chronological order. and if i'm quite honest, there's every likelihood that those purchasing a copy of tour de force may be a touch more enthralled by brad's sideburns than i am. this, you may safely learn, is not the only book to describe the exploits of mr wiggins; i have another currently under review, and there's a queue of the blighters on the way, including brad's own autobiography and one featuring the photos of team sky photographer, scott mitchell.

aside from the odd inexplicable error and the concerns voiced above, john deering is to be commended for having written and compiled such a comprehensive narrative in such a relatively short period of time.

friday 26th october 2012


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