Title: Blazing Saddles: The Cruel and Unusual History of the Tour de France
Author: Matt Rendell
Publisher: Velo Press
What is it? A short history of every TDF through 2007
Strengths: Very nice summaries of each and every Tour, complete with podiums, times, length, and average speed. Beautiful old pictures. Does not shy away from performance enhancement all the way back to 1903
Weaknesses: Takes some liberties with the performance enhancement and crosses into speculation. Sometimes includes wonderful picture from a particular Tour, with no accompanying details in the summary. I want info!
Rating: *** (3 out of 5)
If you are looking for the perfect crib sheet for every Tour since it's inception, this is the book for you. More on the jump:From an explanation of how and why Henri Desgrange came up with this (at the time) masochistic beat down, to its evolution into the spectacle it is today, the average 3 page synopsis will tell you who won, who lost, and who cried for that particular Tour. Stunts that are inconceivable (yes, that word does mean what I think it means) today were routinely played out, from beers for the cyclists during a hot stage thoughtfully provided by the fans of the only competitor not to stop and imbibe, to 125 kilos of tacks magically spread across the roads behind a favored rider.
In more recent Tours the tone can get a little preachy, and some of the doping speculation goes a bit far for my taste (though I don't disagree with the conclusion, just didn't think it should come out as 'fact' in a book like that), overall it's an enjoyable read. I had no real knowledge of the pre World War II Tours, and found the players and actions fascinating. You think Boonen, Jens! and Cance are flahutes? They got nothin' on the old boys (though they most likely would have fit in perfectly). You'll also most likely see some words and actions that you weren't aware of by riders that you're more familiar with, and that too I enjoyed.
As both a Tour primer and secondary source material, I'd recommend having this book on your shelf. If for no other reason than you'll probably be able to throw a really cool, really old fact into a race thread and start a good half hour argument. Unless Tedvdw already knows the answer (which is quite possible).