Cafe Bookshelf: Cadel Evans - Close to Flying

Title: Cadel Evans - Close to Flying
Author: Rob Arnold, Cadel Evans
Publisher: Hardie Grant
Pages: 304
Strengths: very well written (for a sports bio); interesting sections from Chiara, mum, old coaches and other riders (Damian Grundy, Hendrik Redant, Dario Cioni, Matt Lloyd, Charlie Wegelius...), gives a thorough picture of Cadel's early life, formative years as a cyclist and his family.  Not too cycling-geek heavy for non-cycling readers.
Weaknesses: a cycling geek might want more racing anecdotes, very occasionally the odd sentence is a bit drippy.
Rating: 4/5

More on the flip...

Well, at least one person asked for a review (of my personally signed copy, no-less!), so here it is.  Co-written with Rob Arnold (who edits the Australian Ride Cycling Review magazine, which, incidentally is an excellent magazine), the book charts Cadel's life from birth and early childhood up to his World Championship win in 2009.  Rob's narrative is very well written, and is interspersed with sections from other individuals (mainly Cadel, with a supporting cast listed above).  These sections were highlights - very personal opinions and recollections of Cadel.

Other interesting tidbits:

* his mum wrote a very personal and harrowing account of Cadel being kicked in the head by a horse when aged 8, suffering a depressed skull fracture and likely brain injury. He was air-retrieved from the country to a major hospital, and was given a pretty bleak prognosis while in intensive care, but slowly recovered.  (side note: the Neurosurgeon who operated on Cadel is my wife's friend's uncle!  Three degrees of separation!)

* his early MTB days - I enjoyed this section as this was when I first became a Cadel fan.  As a 17 year old kid he came 5th at a World Cup race.  Some great pics of him wearing a special red/blue jersey as leader of both the under-23 and senior World Cup series.  He really was very skinny in his MTB days (and nicknamed "The Lung")!

* Dario Cioni (who was an MTB rival, but teammate at Mapei and then Lotto) writing about Cadel's bonk while in Pink at the Giro.

* Heiko Salzwedel (Australian coach) let him try Robbie McEwen's TT bike at the 1995 Worlds.  He'd never ridden a TT bike before, but still came 3rd in the juniors.

* lovely section of his meeting and courting Chiara, and their relationship.

* Chiara's section on the World Championships - a great read (an edited version is in Chiara's section of Cadel's website).  She writes very well for someone for whom English is not their first language.  (I may have just massacred the grammar of that last sentence...)

I guess most cycling books now get compared to Lance's "It's Not About the Bike" or "Every Second Counts".  This one isn't as chest-beatingly full of polemica, but gives the reader a fairly full picture of Cadel, his persona and his background.  There are some cycling anecdotes, but not an onerous amount - it doesn't follow each tour stage in excruciating detail, nor give detail of cycling equipment, or too much on the behind-the scenes side of the *-Lotto team.  (Compared to say Michael Barry's "Inside the Postal Bus" - different intent, different kind of book.)  It stays away from being critical or controversial, which may be a good or bad thing.

Worth reading?  Yes.  Well written and easy to read?  Yes.  But I am a fan of his.  However, I think that even if you like pro cycling in general (and why else would you be at PodiumCafe?), you will find this of interest.  Cadel seems to polarise people and he generates a lot of chat on various cycling forums - this book gives good insight into why he is the way he is.

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