Midweek Books: Cycling and fiction

While I’m taking a summer break from the blog, I’m posting links this week about sports history, books, culture and the arts that I haven’t mentioned here before. If you have any suggestions on great sports reads you’d like to bring to my attention, contact me at wendygparker@gmail.com. Enjoy!

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If you haven’t heard of the magnificent book blog The Millions, do yourself a favor and have a look around. Sports books are occasionally featured, and I can’t think of a better summertime topic than the Tour de France that’s currently underway and cycling in general.

The RiderEarlier this month, literary critic Matt Seidel wrote about Dutch writer Tim Krabbé’s 1978 book “The Rider,” which has been lauded as one of the best novels about cycling.

It’s about Krabbé’s participation in an amateur cycling race in France. Here’s the first paragraph from Seidel’s piece:

“The ongoing Tour de France is the most novelistic of sporting events: There is ample character development with riders responding to three weeks of brutal tests; plenty of intrigue with opportunistic alliances and rivalries springing up; masterful set pieces like ascents up the denuded landscape of Mt. Ventoux and group sprints through medieval towns; villains, be they deranged fans sprinkling the road with tire-puncturing tacks or a certain disgraced Texan; some upstairs-downstairs class tensions between aristocratic team leaders and their toiling, water bottle-ferryingdomestiques; and finally, a romance between man and exquisitely engineered, custom-fitted and gorgeous machine.”

Seidel writes the book, finally translated into English and published in 2003, is often overwrought, but that Krabbé ” knows how to let the air out of his inflated rhetoric.”

Read the whole thing: “The Scourge of the Peloton.”

“The Rider” is among the Top 10 cycling novels listed in 2010 by William Fotheringham, cycling columnist for The Guardian.

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