I can’t really fall right to sleep. Sometimes I try, and there are always exceptions, like a particularly brutal ride, but often, I have to read myself to sleep. Luckily, cycling has produced a lot of materiel for writers.
In light of recent developments, one book that stands out is “Lance Armstrong’s War” by Daniel Coyle. I’ve recommended this book in the past, as it gives great insight into the “Boss” of pro cycling. Better than Armstrong’s autobiographies, which all give the well-honed message the now-disgraced rider wanted the world to see, Coyle’s book hints at a driven, almost obsessed champion, right in line with many of the cycling personalities of the past. It shows not just Lance, but the people and world he ruled over.
Another of those personalities who still casts a shadow over the sport is five-time Tour champion Bernard Hinault. The French cycling hero swore his allegiance to teammate and American Greg LaMond for the 1986 Tour de France. The Frenchman then began relentless attacks against the field and his own teammate. Hinault’s attacks and LeMond’s reactions made for what is widely considered the greatest Tour ever. This is the story of Richard Moore’s book, “Slaying the Badger.” It’s next on my list.
On Feb. 14, 2004, an Italian hotel worker knocked on a door, hoping to talk to cycling hero and former Tour and Giro champion, Marco Pantani. What he found was the disgraced climber dead on the floor from a cocaine overdose. “The Death of Marco Pantani” by cycling writer Matt Rendell, chronicles the troubled history of one of cycling’s Angles of the Mountains. It begins at Il Pirata’s end and pieces together a life that seemed destined for a pre-mature ending.
Finally, again, in line with current cycling events, “Blazing Saddles, the Cruel and Unusual Story of the Tour de France”, also written by Matt Rendell. Rendell covers the odd, laughable and sometimes disdainful stories of cheating in the great race. From catching a train in the second Tour, to elimination for “Outside Help” to the account of Floyd Landis and hints of what would eventually come to light about Lance.
These are just a few such reads. Some actually keep me up more than help me sleep. All are worth the time.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going reading.