PEZ ‘TOP TEN’ Cycling Books of 2019
Bookshelf Top Ten: The PEZ literary editor, Leslie Reissner, has had a busy 2019 with a book or film review published nearly every Sunday through the year. There has been a lot of top class cycling books this year for Leslie to peruse and so, here is his choice of book reviews from 2019: As he says: “in no particular order since these were all really good:”
The Beast, the Emperor and the Milkman (my choice if I had to pick No. 1!)
Belgium: it’s an odd place. A country put together from pieces other nations didn’t really want, it seems resigned to an eternal identity crisis. But beyond this historic and political mess, there is a remarkable sporting story – cycling and the Flemish, described by author Harry Pearson as “a grand romance.”
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/pez-bookshelf-the-beast-the-emperor-and-the-milkman.
Good To Go
Cyclists determined to improve their condition have a wide variety of choices, from training diaries to formal programs to online coaching. But recent developments have now opened up a multi-million dollar market for an aspect many of us don’t pay much attention to: recovery. A new book, “Good to Go” is devoted entirely to this subject and the science – or lack of science – behind it all.
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/pez-bookshelf-good-to-go.
The first printed books were meant to emulate hand-written manuscripts and since the days of Gutenberg we continue to admire fine publications. The Rizzoli company is noted for its quality works and has not disappointed with “Japanese Steel”, a celebration of “bike boom” two-wheelers that features superb presentation along with exquisite photos of bicycles you probably have never thought much about.
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/pez-bookshelf-japanese-steel/.
Pantani Was A God
Okay: don’t be misled by the title of this excellent book. “Pantani Was A God” is not a panegyric, a worshipful recounting of the life of the last pro cyclist to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. It is two books in one – a masterful look at the great stages where Pantani triumphed, and brief remembrances by those who knew him personally. Sadly, the inherent possibility of his successes, unlikely as his background made them, seems to have been greater than that of his end.
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/pantani-was-a-god.
Queens of Pain – Legends and Rebels of Cycling
Is there a reasonable explanation why so little attention is paid to the ladies in cyclesport? A book from Rapha.CC by Isabel Best brings new light to half-forgotten epic tales of women on wheels, women of enthusiasm, competitiveness and athletic accomplishment equal to any male counterpart.
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/pez-bookshelf-queens-of-pain-legends-and-rebels-of-cycling
The Greatest – The Times and Life of Beryl Burton
We have made reference in the past to Britain’s Beryl Burton, one of cycling’s most remarkable record-setting athletes, and now comes an excellent new biography that looks beyond Burton’s numbers to try to understand how this Yorkshire housewife was so driven to achieve what she did. Considering what she did with what was available to her in the circumstances, the reader can only wonder what would have been possible for her today.
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/pez-bookshelf-the-greatest-the-times-and-life-of-beryl-burton
It was cold this morning on the way to work. A beautiful, sunny day to be sure but not a day that would tempt one to ride the commuter bike, the roads had the suggestion of ice – the winter is on its way. To say nothing of heedless drivers, squinting into the sun and not expecting someone on two wheels. But it is the kind of cold day that when you return home, make a hot cup of tea and put up your feet you can think about summer and the great rides ahead. It is then that you need to escape into a copy of “Ultimate Étapes” by Peter Cossins.
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/pez-bookshelf-ultimate-etapes/
Butcher Blacksmith Acrobat Sweep
Since 1903 the Tour de France has occupied a three week slot in July, overshadowing every other event in the cycling calendar, and making the sport, with its competitive highlight in the middle of the season, strangely unbalanced. But as author Peter Cossins describes in his history of that first race, the inelegantly titled “Butcher, Blacksmith, Acrobat, Sweep”, the original Tour de France, something totally new and untried and flawed in many ways, “should be considered as one of the greatest events in sporting history.”
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/butcher-blacksmith-acrobat-sweep.
Mont Ventoux, the legendary “Giant of Provence” stands alone and apart from the Alps to which it belongs geologically. Topping out at 1,909 m (6,263 feet) above sea level, it has acquired considerable fame through its association with the Tour de France, which has ascended it 15 times since 1951. It is a magnet for amateur cyclists, including a group of Dutch friends who are the protagonists of the novel “Ventoux”, a fictional account of how one ride changes lives forever.
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/ventoux.
The Call of the Road
Cycling offers a grand buffet of disciplines, from the narrow specialities of track racing to the diversity needed for the open road, mountains or the looney antics of cyclocross (to say nothing of artistic cycling or bike polo or trials riding). Road racing is the golden-haired child today, where the money is and the stars shine but it was not always so. The origins, history and present state of road racing are nicely summarized in author Chris Sidwells’ book, “The Call of the Road: The History of Cycle Road Racing”.
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/pez-bookshelf-the-call-of-the-road
If we could make it a cool dozen I would also add:
The Big Climb
As we all know, Europe is the Promised Land of Cycling and as a professional athlete if you want to make it big you need to make it there. The Tour de France has inspired cyclists from nations outside of the continent proper – the Yellow Jersey has been won by riders from the United States, Australia, even Kenya (if you count Chris Froome that way). 2019 saw a Colombian, Egan Bernal, victorious, and a fascinating new book, “The Big Climb”, recounts the ups and downs of a South American country’s love affair with pro racing.
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/pez-bookshelf-the-big-climb.
Chasing the Rainbow
As a professional cyclist you don’t get a nice jersey for winning Milan-San Remo. Or Paris-Roubaix. Or the Tour of Flanders. Victory in the Clásica de San Sebestián entitles you to wear a big black beret that looks like a giant floppy pancake for a humiliating moment. But there is a very special jersey that, once you win it at a one day event, it is yours for a year wherever you race—the Spring Classics, the Tour, or the Meiji-Jingu Outer Garden University Criterium. This jersey, is of course, the glorious rainbow-striped confection first donned by Alfredo Binda in 1927 and which today adorns Spanish Sexy Senior Citizen Alejandro Valverde for the Elite Men and Dutch star Anna van der Breggen for the Elite Women. Its fascinating history is the subject of “Chasing the Rainbow: The Story of Road Cycling’s World Championships” by British author Giles Belbin.
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/pez-bookshelf-chasing-the-rainbow.
So hard to choose. There were very few inferior books this year; an excellent crop overall.
Best Video I would go with Wonderful Losers – A Different World
For many fans, pro bike racing begins and ends at the finish line as the stars duke it out but a bike race is in fact many races. A superb documentary by Lithuanian filmmaker Arūnas Matelis, filmed in Italy over several years, takes into Deep Cycling and the world of the gregario.
Go to the full review here: pezcyclingnews.com/features/pez-goes-to-the-movies-wonderful-losers-a-different-world
And a special mention for Sport Smoothies!
You might think that at the ‘PezCycling Test Kitchen’ we only undertake our continuing research into the efficacy of beer as a recovery aid but in fact we actually try out recipes. The latest concoctions come from a new book called Sport Smoothies, smoothies so outstanding that even we can make delicious ones.
Go to the full review here: https://pezcyclingnews.com/features/sport-smoothies
Looking forward to another bumper year of book reviews in 2020 – Happy New Year everyone.
When not enjoying a beer while reviewing a new book, Leslie Reissner may be found at www.tindonkey.com.