Thursday, 3 December 2015

Book review-

The World of Cycling According to G
Geraint Thomas (alongside Tom Fordyce); Published by Quercus (2015)

Do you know those really annoying "lads"? I refer to those youngish fellas who like to talk about how drunk they had been the previous night, making sure they are loud enough to "impress" everyone else, not realising that it comes off as boorish, while the actual thoughts of their involuntary listeners aren't really suitable for a pre-watershed blog. Well, unfortuately that was the tone I picked up from what would have otherwise been an excellent read. Thomas' constant references to getting drunk in the off season and the details of how he and his team mates celebrated do get quite wearing and predictable. When he begins talking about another one of his victories, the immediate reaction of the reader is to brace themselves for yet another "entertaining" story about missing interviews with BBC Breakfast or something due to gettting hammered the night before. Once or twice would probably be OK but the constant repetition tends to reek of self-justification and a need to live up to some label. As someone who works in the alcohol and drug field I can honestly say that there is nothing more boring than other people's stories about how pissed they had been and what "hilarity" ensues.

OK, so I just had to get that off my chest. Am I being too harsh? When I look at all the other cycling (auto)biographies I think not. Cycling is one of the few sports that really lends itself to great and classy writing, and no other book by, or ghostwritten for,  a pro goes this route. Now I am all too aware that many of the heroes of the road were partial to the falling down water even mid-Tour, but they didn't feel the need to make that a central theme of their books. It seems that, despite being well travelled, Thomas falls into the trap of many Brits abroad in that they don't realise their attitude to drinking is viewed by most of the rest of the world as abnormal. Again maybe I'm just reading too much into it...

Otherwise this is a well crafted book with some interesting insights into life both on and off the bike. It is geniunely amusing in places, and Thomas (or Fordyce) has a great eye for the humourous or ironic detail that really highlights what a fantastic but also bloody weird way to make a living cycling is. The descriptions about preparations before some very high profile events both on the track and on the road go some way towards allowing the reader to enter the mind of the pro-rider as he experiences the extremes of emotions. Foe example the story of how he had to rely on a cycling journalist to help him get home after arriving back from Beijing with an Olympic gold medal in his luggage does show what can happen when two worlds- that of cycling's bubble and what we normal mortals could term the real world- bisect.

So, despite my rant at the start, this is still a worthy read. However how much better would it have been if Thomas had been a few years older when he wrote it, away from both the pissed-up lad and Sky influence. There is an underlying feeling that a lot more could have been included but I am sure the lawyers at his employers got a good read through before this hit the presses. So a good book, but I would like to see it revised, rewritten and added to after Thomas retires, probably a decade or so from now.

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