Title: The Tour According to G – My Journey to the Yellow Jersey
Author: Geraint Thomas (with Tom Fordyce)
Order: Quercus Books
What it is: Another chamoir from Geraint Thomas
Strengths: The name on the cover
Weaknesses: The words between the covers
Whenever I’m back home and off the leash and out on the lash in Cardiff, people come up to me and ask, Geraint bach, tell me, how can you go from winning the Tour de France, the fourth biggest sporting event in the world after the World Cup, the Olympics and the Ploughing Championships, and just three months later you’re publishing a top ten bestselling cycling book? I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy. I’ve got no track record with writing bestselling cycling books, apart from my last bestselling cycling book, The World of Cycling According to G. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the list of bestselling cycling books by Welsh winners of the Tour de France but let me tell you, it’s impressive. I was already second on it with my last book and now I’m also on the bottom step of the podium with my new one. It’s insane, it’s incredible, it’s a dream come true. One day I hope to make it to the top of the list.
Another question people come up to me and ask whenever I’m back home and off the leash and out on the lash in Cardiff is Geraint butt, how can you go from winning the Tour de France in July with the biggest and best cycling team in the whole history of British cycling, and come November you’re publishing a top ten bestselling cycling book that was nominated for the cycling book of the year award at the Daily Telegraph-sponsored British Sports Book Awards? Got to be honest with you, it’s not easy. I’m blessed with the team I have around me. First there’s the people at David Luxton Associates, the sports writing agency. What they don’t know about publishing award-winning cycling books isn’t worth knowing. From Brendan Gallager’s history of the Giro d’Italia, Corsa Rosa, to the Cycling Podcast people’s A Journey Through the Cycling Year, they have a track record that speaks for itself. And then there’s the people at Rocket Sports, Elton John’s talent agency, who as well as managing my affairs also manage Laura and Jason Kenny, whose ground-breaking two-for-the-price-of-one autobiography, The Inside Track, was also written by the ghost in the machine of both of my books. Between them, these people came up with the brilliant idea guaranteed to get my book nominated for the cycling book of the year award at the Daily Telegraph-sponsored British Sports Book Awards: put my name on the cover. Genius.
Other people bumping into me when I’m back home in Cardiff and off the leash and out on the lash, they ask Geraint mush, you’ve published a top ten bestselling cycling book that was nominated for the cycling book of the year award at the Daily Telegraph-sponsored British Sports Book Awards but just where do you come up with the clever and witty titles for your books? Again I have to give credit to the experts. I wanted to call my first book My Struggle but they said that The World of Cycling According to G was better, people would smile at the way it ripped off the John Irving novel’s title. I had to ask them who John Irving was and they told me to forget him and think of the Robin Williams film of the book, The World According to Garp. Like everyone, I’m a massive Robin Williams fan, he was a comic genius taken before his time. And even though I’d never actually seen that film – Mrs Doubtfire is my favourite – I thought it was a really clever idea for the title of my book, especially as Robin Williams was such a big fan of cycling. When it came to coming up with a title for my second book I again wanted to suggest My Struggle but even Sara thought that wasn’t a good idea so I thought about maybe again using Robin Williams film titles (Good Morning, Tour de France! or The Adventures of Geraint Thomas or Insomnia) but my advisers said we were sticking with The X According to G formula and it’d be called The Tour According to G. Tidy.
The really big question people come up to me with whenever I’m back home in Cardiff and off the leash and on the lash and ask is Geraint beaut, how do you actually write a book as brilliant as The Tour According to G, one that is a top ten bestseller, nominated for awards, and has a clever and witty title? Not being funny, but it’s bloody hard work. Here’s just some of the tricks used by my ghostwriter and me. Think of this as The Tour According to G, according to G.
- Clichéd tidbits of information go down a treat, even if you can’t imagine me knowing them or even caring about them. Like, when I remember watching the Tour on Channel 4, my ghostwriter can tell you that the Channel 4 theme music was written by Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks. Doesn’t matter that the Buzzcocks last had a hit song eight years before I was born, it’s still half a dozen words knocked off the target. And the middle-aged MAMILs who rush out and buy these books love stuff like that. Job done.
- Adjectives are great. If you’re like me and not sure what they are, they’re the descriptivy words you pile on to stretch things out. A stage covering 181 kilometres from Natua to Chambray, that becomes 181 twisting, climbing kilometres from Natua in the Jura mountains to Chambray. And you see how we added in that Natua is in the Jura mountains? It’s extra detail like that that ticks off the word count. This writing game, it’s not as easy as it looks!
- Dodgy history. No one really likes history. It’s all just dates and places and countries Britain defeated in wars. But everyone loves dodgy history. The more dodge the better. Take the way climbs are categorised. That’s got to do with what gear you need to be in when driving up them in a car. Category 1 climbs, first gear, Category 2 climbs, second gear, and so on. Hors catégorie? They’re too steep and too tough for all but the insane and elite to attempt. Which is why if you’re driving up them you have to get out and push!
- Repetition. If a thing’s worth saying, it’s worth saying twice. So, like, I’ve got a great anecdote about Dan Martin and meeting him one morning before the start flag had been dropped and him saying to me “Hey G, I’ve barely seen you yet.” That story is too good not to tell twice! So I said to my ghostwriter, tell it twice!
- Padding. This may be my book, but it doesn’t have to be all me all the time telling the story. Others can be brought in every few chapters for a page or two of waffle. You can have my wife Sara saying she always knew I had it in me and was really happy for me, and Rod Ellingworth saying he always knew I had it in me and was really happy for me, and Tim Kerrison saying he always knew I had it in me and was really happy for me, and Dave Brailsford saying he always knew I had it in me and was really happy for me, and Chris Froome saying he always knew I had it in me and was really happy for me. Peachy.
- Throw in a joke about wanking, to show what a wicked sense of humour I have, but don’t use the w-word, I don’t want to offend anyone.
- Play games. You know how you’re out on one of those endless rides and you have to play games in your head to get you through the miles? It’s the same with writing a 300 page bestselling, award-nominated book with a clever and witty title. One of the games me and my ghostwriter played was to see how many different sports we could use to describe what cycling is like. All the ball sports are there: football, rugby, cricket, snooker. Boxing, that’s there. And horse racing: one stage was a strange sort of day, a Grand National with a lot of fallers yet an awful lot of finishers. It’s great having a ghost who’s knocked out instabiogs for Chris Gayle, Ben Ryan, Peter Crouch, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee. He knows stuff like this even before Googling up the Wiki pages.
- Another game we played was to get in words that Sa suggested after they’d come up on a vocabulary app on her phone. So I get to say I was phlegmatic about something, or I can tell you how I talked about the minutiae of football, or hoped to have the numbers for the denouement. Or I can tell you that winning the Tour by conserving energy is a counter-intuitive idea, as is the idea that six hours in the mountains can be less tiring than six hours on the flat. I haven’t a clue what counter-intuitive means, mind, but Sara says it shows off my brainy side.
- Drop in a bit of politics to make it look like I’m edgy. The drafting rule, for instance, what’s the point? It they catch someone drafting, he’s penalised, and if they don’t catch someone drafting, he’s not penalised, but he’s still drafted. Either everyone should be penalised, which isn’t going to happen, or we should just get rid of the rule and let everyone draft. It’d make it a level playing field, so it would.
- Because my ghostwriter only has three months in which to type up the manuscript and get it printed, managing time is very important. It’s not about getting it right, it’s not about getting it readable, it’s about getting it out there in time to go into all those Christmas stockings for the dads and lads who someone thinks likes cycling and they don’t know what else to buy him. So I tell my ghostwriter not to worry about fact checking anything. If I say that Froomey rode the cobbles in the 2014 Tour de France, well any keyboard warrior who wants to disagree with me can sod off, the twat. It’s our word against his word. I like our word.
- Don’t try and find anything new to say, just repeat all the tired old clichés like fans not being able to dribble a ball across the hallowed turf of Wembley but being well able to ride up Alpe d’Huez, or how the Mûr-de-Bretagne is the Alpe d’Huez of Brittany, a great cathedral. That’s what people want to read, stuff they’ve read or heard in cycling magazines and podcasts a thousand times before.
- Do try and be different, even if you do have to say all the same old stuff. I told my ghostwriter that I didn’t want a bog-standard, by-the-numbers, safe, dull, stage-by-stage account of the 2018 Tour, one stage per chapter. I wanted most chapters to cover two stages.
- Remind people that I’m just a kid from Birchgrove, just a kid from Cardiff, just a kid from South Wales. I’m not letting Brad get away with playing the kid from Kilburn card, I can be chopsy too. And to show it make it clear that I wasn’t happy with the way the team managed the protected rider thing at the Tour, saying I wouldn’t be protected if I got dropped in the team time trial, or allowing Froomey to plan an attack five kilometres out from the summit of Alpe d’Huez. And to show just how effed off I was with the whole thing, I tell the air-con story, about how all of us having air-con on in our hotel rooms one night tripped a fuse in the hotel and so it was agreed that only Froomey would be allowed to have his air-con on, but when no one was looking I switched my air-con on anyway. You don’t want to cross us kids from Birchgrove, we know how to fight back.
- Also, to show people just how angry I was about the way the protected rider thing didn’t work and how no one had faith in me in the team, I repeat the bit from my post-Tour party speech where I said I’d be splitting the win bonus with the riders, dividing it by the twenty-one stages and seven riders, and only giving each of the seven of them the money from the three of those stages they actually worked for me on and not Froomey. I was so hanging the morning after that night I can’t remember whether that was meant as a joke or not.