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The 101 on Tour 100 Books (and more than a few of the classics)

With the hundredth edition of the Tour de France all but upon us we take a time-out to look at one hundred Tour (or Tour-related) books that are either already on the Café Bookshelf or are soon to be added as we work through this year's bumper crop of cycling books (and through the backlog of books that still need to be added).

Tour de France
Tour de France
Bryn Lennon

Tour 100

Tour de France Official Anniversary EditionTour de France: Official 100th Anniversary Edition
by Françoise & Serge Laget, Philippe Cazabam, and Gilles Montgermont, edited by Peter Cossins
Quercus, 2013, 335 pages

The official history of the Tour, in words and images. Originally released for the 2003 centenary this edition is heavily revised, the text cut down and the images extended. The authors offer about a page of text per year - a few stretching two or three - and a page or more of images. As well as the year-by-year stuff there's a few thematic excursions along the way. Like all Tour books you have the problem here of trying to squeeze a lot of information into too little space and, while this is far from a definitive year-by-year telling of the story, it is remarkably efficient at cramming in the key stories, either in the text or in the pictures and their captions.

Tour de France TreasuresLe Tour de France 100: The Official Treasures
by Serge Laget, Luke Edwardes-Evans, and Andy McGrath, with a foreword by Bernard Hinault, edited by Martin Corteel
Carlton, 2013, 96 pages

The book in a box. Originally released in 2007, revised and updated for the hundredth Tour. More about the memorabilia that comes with it than the book itself. That book itself is thematic in structure, tackling the race by looking at the different eras (Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault etc) and then some specific aspects of the race (individual jerseys etc). But what you'll really want to spend money on this one for is the memorabilia, which varies from postcards - including one by Salvador Dali - to a copy of the rule book from 1907. A real tactile Tour experience.

Le Tour 100Le Tour 100: The Definitive History of The World's Greatest Race
by Peter Cossins, Isabel Best, Chris Sidwells, and Clare Griffith, with a foreword by Bernard Hinault and a preface by Stephen Roche
Cassell, 2013, 288 pages

Maybe its not quite the definitive history of the Tour, but it may be the definitive miscellany, serving up the Tour in bite-sized chunks. Sidwells serves up potted histories of the men who made the Tour, Best and Cossins detail the one hundred best stages of the Tour, and Griffith provides the skinny on the routes of the one hundred Tours.

Tour de France 100Tour de France 100: A Photographic History of Cycling's Most Iconic Race
by Richard Moore
Bloomsbury, 2013, 224 pages

A photo history of the Tour. Super-large format, the pictures are beautifully presented. Includes some pictures from the British photographer Bert Hardy who covered the 1951 Tour for Picture Post. A good coffee table photo book with a good balance between action and reaction shots.

Mapping le TourMapping Le Tour: The Unofficial History of All 100 Tour de France Races
by Ellis Bacon, foreword by Mark Cavendish
Collins, 2013, 336 pages

Probably the most original of the new crop of Tour books, taking a cartographic approach to telling the tale of one hundred Tours. The route of each race is charted on a large-scale map with these maps themselves mapping changing eras, changing style as the years progress. Against each map is offered a single-page telling of the story of that year's Tour.

Beginner's Books

Vive le TourVive le Tour! Wiggo and the Amazing Tales of the Tour de France
by Nick Brownlee
Portico, 2007 (updated 2013), 275 pages

A Dummies' Guide to the Tour crossed with Schott's Miscellany. First released for the Tour en Angleterre in 2007, updated for Tour 100/Wiggo's win. Bite-sized story-telling full of facts, figures and anecdotes.

Tour de France MiscellanyThe Tour de France Miscellany
by John White
Carlton, 2013, 160 pages

A Dummies' Guide to the Tour crossed with Schott's Miscellany. Bite-sized story-telling full of facts, figures and anecdotes.

Mountains and Things

Mountain KingsMountain Kings: Agony and Euphoria on the Peaks of the Tour de France
by Giles Belbin
Punk, 2013, 256 pages

One man, twenty-five climbs, twenty-three men of the Tour. Part personal travelogue, part Tour history, all grimpeur.

The Tour is Won on the Alpe: Classic Battles of the Tour de France
by Jean-Paul Vespini
VeloPress, 2008, 256 pages

A history of the Tour's visits to the Dutch mountain.

Mountain High/Mountain High Saddlebag Edition
by Daniel Friebe
Quercus, 2011 (saddlebag edition 2012), 224 pages

Not specifically a Tour de France book but as one of the best mountain books needs to be included. Roots the mountains it profiles in history, not just geography and along the way tells some great tales from Tours past.

The Classics

Tour de FranceTour De France: The History, the Legend, the Riders
by Graeme Fife
Mainstream, 1999 (updated annually), 528 pages

This daddy of the perennials, updated annually, is really two books in one. The first is a quirky look at the history of the Tour up to 1998 through riding some of the Tour's mountains. The second is an account of each Tour since 1999. The first part is the reason to buy it, the second is too immediate, each year's story written too quickly after the end of each race, lacks the perspective you're looking for when you sit down months and years after to read.

The Story of the Tour de France, Vol 1 and II
by Bill & Carol Mcgann
McGann, 2006 and 2008, 316 and 404 pages

The Tour history you turn to if for you're looking for the story of each and every Tour, as close to a stage-by-stage basis as you can make it.

Roule BritanniaRoule Britannia: Great Britain and the Tour de France
by William Fotheringham
Yellow Jersey, 2004 (updated 2012), 384 pages

The story of the British and the Tour de France, from the era of the pioneers through the Foreign Legion and up to the modern era.

Blazing Saddles - the Cruel and Unusual History of the Tour de France
by Matt Rendell
Quercus/VeloPress, 2008, 320 pages

A fun and slightly irreverent bite-sized history of the Tour that fits in your back pocket.

Golden Stages of the TourGolden Stages Of The Tour De France
by Richard Allchin and Adrian Bell
Sport and Publicity, 2013, 251 pages

A look at the history of the Tour that places its focus on individual stages but still manages to tell a very broad story.

Le Tour: A History of the Tour de France
by Geoffrey Wheatcroft
Simon & Schuster, 2004 (updated 2007), 396 pages

Something of the Marmite of Tour de France books, loved by some, disliked by others. Wheatcroft unashamedly plunders from other people's Tour books but mixes that with a slightly more intellectual approach to the telling of the tale.

Tour de FranceTour De France: the Complete Illustrated History
by Marguerite Lazell
Carlton 2003 (updated 2013), 232 pages

The history of the Tour in words and images.

The Unknown Tour de France: The Many Faces of the World's Greatest Bike Race
by Les Woodland
Van der Plas, 2002 (updated 2009), 152 pages

A Tour history, of sorts, with Woodland stopping off at some of the usual destinations but also exploring areas many other authors have forgotten exist.

Inside the Peloton: Riding, Winning and Losing the Tour de France
by Graeme Fife
Mainstream, 2001, 220 pages

Graeme Fife's cycling heroes.

Cycling Heroes: The Golden Years
by Les Woodland
McGann, 1994 (updated 2011), 166 pages

Les Woodland's cycling heroes.

A Race for Madmen
by Chris Sidwells
Collins, 2010 (updated), 330 pages

Possibly the single most error-riddled history of the Tour de France I have yet had the misfortune to read. One or two errors are ok, but when you're averaging them every other page?

The Comedies

French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France
by Tim Moore
Yellow Jersey, 2001, 277 pages

In 2000 Tim Moore - who last year rode the route of the 1914 Giro d'Italia and will tell that tale next year - pre-rode the route of the Tour de France and crafted a comic classic of an amateur Brit abroad on a bike.

How I Won The Yellow Jumper: Dispatches From the Tour de France,
by Ned Boulting
Yellow Jersey, 2011 (updated 2012 to include How Cav Won the Green Jersey), 396 pages

The much-loved Sideshow Bob from ITV4's Tour de France coverage serves up a behind-the-scenes look at reporting the big buckle.

On the RoadOn the Road Bike: The Search for a Nation's Cycling Soul
by Ned Boulting
Yellow Jersey, 2013, 320 pages

Boulting asks how Britain fell in love with the bike and discovers some odd answers.

The Tragedies

The Death of Marco Pantani
by Matt Rendell
Weidenfeld, 2007, 324 pages

An objective look behind the scenes at life during Gen-EPO.

Rough RideRough Ride,
by Paul Kimmage,
Yellow Jersey 1990 (updated 1998 and 2007) 336 pages

Paul Kimmage's j'accuse to the UCI.

Breaking The Chain: Drugs And Cycling - The True Story
by Willy Voet,
Yellow Jersey, 1999 (trans 2001) 128 pages

Willy Voet spits in the soup and spills the beans on his life helping riders dope and dodge the controls.

ScapegoatThe Scapegoat - About the Expulsion of Michael Rasmussen from the Tour de France 2007 and Beyond
by Verner Møller
Akaprint, 2011, 384 pages

Less about Rasmussen and his doping and more about the system responsible for policing his doping.

Put Me Back on my Bike
by William Fotheringham
Yellow Jersey Press, 384 pages

Fotheringham's telling of the death of Tom Simpson.

The Secret Race
by Tyler Hamilton
Bantam, 2012, 304 pages

Ty tries to say he wasn't as bad as that bad man, Lance Armstrong.

Seven Deadly Sins
by David Walsh
Simon & Schuster 2012, 426 pages

The rush-released account of David Walsh's pursuit of Lance Armstrong

The Crooked Path to Victory: Drugs and Cheating in Professional Bicycle Racing
by Les Woodland
Cycle Publishing, 2003, 192 pages

A gentle look at cheating in professional cycling.

Bad Blood: The Secret Life of the Tour de France
by Jeremy Whittle
Yellow Jersey, 2008, 234 pages

One journalist's struggle with the pull of the dark side and the pain of the light.


The Jersey Project
by Bill Humphreys and jerry Dunn
Trichis, 2012, 199 pages

Cycling jerseys as small objects of desire.

Bike ArtBike Art: Bicycles in Art Around the World
edited by Kiriakos Iosifidis
Publikat, 2011, 256 pages

As with some of the other books listed here, another that's not specifically about the Tour but does include some Tour-related pieces that make it worth consideration when talking about the grande boucle.

Vélo - Adventures in the Peloton
by Andrew G Smith
bymyi, 2012, 124 pages

An exploration of the metaphysical aspects of cycling, built around photographs of the Tour de France that teeters awkwardly on the border between art and art-wank.

Techs Mechs

Bike!I have yet to read a techs-mechs book that looks solely at Tour bikes - tells the history of the Tour through technology - but a few of the ones I have looked at do tell, along the way, tales from the Tour. A couple of suggestions here include Guido P Rubino's Italian Racing Bicycles and the Daniel Benson and Richard Moore-edited Bike! (disclosure: I was one of the contributors to the latter).

Newspaper Books

The Daily Telegraph Book of the Tour de France
edited by Martin Smith
Aurum, 2009 (updated 2012), 324 pages

A collection of Daily Telegraph newspaper columns. A mixed bag with no real attempt to step back from the moment but you get to see how men like Jock Wadley and Phil Liggett have sold the Tour in the past.

The Tour de France ... to the Bitter End
edited by Richard Nelsson
Guardian, 2012, 362 pages

A collection of Guardian newspaper columns. A lot of them have that curious, askance look at the race, that ‘oh those silly French people' vibe, never really taking the race seriously.

Racing HardRacing Hard: 20 Tumultuous Years in Cycling
by William Fotheringham
Faber, 2013, 360 pages

As well as the story of British track success at the Olympics Fotheringham's collection of Guardian and Observer columns also covers his reporting of the big buckle, from Lance Armstrong to Bradley Wiggins.

Specific Years

Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France
by Richard Moore
Yellow Jersey/VeloPress, 2011 (updated 2012), 296 pages

A recent book about one of the best ever Tours (1986)

Field of FireField of Fire: The Tour de France of '87 and the Rise and Fall of ANC-Halfords
by Jeff Connor
Mainstream, 2012, 256 pages

A sort of re-write of Connor's classic Wide-Eyed and Legless, interesting insofar as it moves the story beyond the 1987 Tour and you get a story that is also about the British newspaper industry in the 1980s.

Argyle Armada: Behind the Scenes of the Pro Cycling Life
by Mark Johnson
VeloPress, 2012, 297 pages

A look behind the scenes at Garmin's 2011 season, including their Tour de France performance.

Tour de Lance: The Extraordinary Story of Lance Armstrong's Fight to Reclaim the Tour de France
by Bill Strickland
Harmony/Mainstream, 2010 (updated 2011), 300 pages

Wonderfully written account of The Comeback (2009). At times saccharine, at times too in awe of Armstrong, but still wonderfully written.

Sky's the LimitSky's the Limit: British Cycling's Quest To Conquer The Tour De France
by Richard Moore
Harper, 2011, 314 pages

Team Sky's debut year (2010) as witnessed by Richard Moore.

A Significant Other: Riding the Centenary Tour de France with Lance Armstrong
by Matt Rendell
Weidenfeld, 2005, 192 pages

The 2003 Tour as seen through the eyes of USPS domestique Victor Hugo Peña.

On Tour
by Bradley Wiggins and Scott Mitchell,
Orion, 2010, 192 pages

Wiggo's 2010 Tour.

The TourThe Tour: Behind the Scenes of Cadel Evans' Tour de France
by Rupert Guiness
Hardie Grant, 2012, 336 pages

Rupert Guiness takes a peak behind the curtain on Cuddles's 2011 Tour win.

Specific Riders

Among the hundreds of men-of-the-Tour books, offerings from/about the following can (or will) be found on the Café Bookhelf: Jacques Anquetil, Lance Armstrong, Federico Bahamontes, Gino Bartali, José Beyaert, Chris Boardman, Louison Bobet, Johan Bruyneel, Mark Cavendish, Fausto Coppi, Vin Denson, Shay Elliott, Cadel Evans, Laurent Fignon, Chris Froome, Philippe Gilbert, Sean Kelly, Octave Lapize, Greg LeMond, Freddie Maertens, Robbie McEwen, Eddy Merckx, David Millar, Robert Millar, Marco Pantani, Allan Peiper, Davis Phinney, The Ccycling Professor Marco Pinoti, Bjarne Riis, Brian Robinson, Nicolas Roche, Stephen Roche, Tom Simpson, Charly Wegelius, Bradley Wiggins, Sean Yates.


The Rider
by Tim Krabbé
Bloomsbury, 1978 (trans 2002), 148 pages

More a novella than a novel and not really about the Tour, but telling Tour tales it is essential reading for all lit-loving cycling fans.

The Third Book About Achim
by Uwe Johnson
Harcourt, 1961 (trans 1967), 246 pages

Like the Krabbé, not really Tour related. Unlike the Krabbé, not even loosely Tour-related. But if you read and love the Krabbé, you have to read Johnson.

Need for the Bike/Vélo
By Paul Fournel
University of Nebraska Press/Rouleur, 2001, (trans 2003, updated 2012) 150/157 pages

Two editions of the one book, the second (Vélo) containing more essays. Not actually a novel (though Vélo contains a couple of short stories) and - like the Krabbé - only loosely Tour related, but in the same category as the Johnson on the if-you-liked-that-read-this scale.

Cat Freya NorthCat
by Freya North
Heinemann, 1999, 427 pages

The Tour de France bonk-buster. Classic tale of girl meets boy, boy rams his tongue down girl's throat, girl wants to show boy that she too has a tongue like an electric eel and can do more than tickle his tonsils with it. They go at it like wild animals. Only for a cycle of misunderstandings to ensue. All set in the midst of the Tour.

27 Stages
by Kimberly Menozzi
Menozzi, 2013, 442 pages

One moment he's top of the world, the next Federico Renard isn't even leading his own team.

Chain ReactionChain Reaction
by Ross E Goldstein
Goldstein, 2011, 400 pages

Another of those selections that's not specifically Tour-related but worth consideration. A father-son boy-meets-girl coming-of-age story set in Italy but featuring a former pro.

Bad to the Bone
by James Waddington,
Dedalus, 1998, 194 pages

The novel about doping in modern professional cycling, featuring a Ferrari/Frankenstein svengali who turns his protégés into race-winning champions in a Mephistophelean bargain.

Consumed class=Consumed
by Jonathan Budds
Budds, 2012, 293 pages

A more recent attempt to write the doping in professional cycling novel.

The Yellow Jersey
by Ralph Hurne
Breakaway, 1973 (revised 1996), 285 pages

Considered by some to be a classic, by others to be an embarrassing anachronism.


Sweat of the GodsSweat of the Gods: Myths and Legends of Bicycle Racing
by Benjo Maso
Mousehold, 2004 (trans 2005), 165 pages

A look at the history of the Tour that moves beyond the racing and looks at the relationships between three of the key stakeholders in the sport: the riders, the sponsors and the media. When you get bored with reading the same stories about the same riders over and over again, re-reading Maso will always rejuvenate your enthusiasm.

Tour de FranceThe Tour de France: A Cultural History Updated with a New Preface
by Christopher S Thompson
University of California Press, 2006, 414 pages

As with the Maso book, Thomson looks at the history of the Tour beyond tales of daring do in the high mountains or against the clock. Offers the sort of perspective that is lacking in all the cycling-focused books.