In the late 1990s, Frank Vandenbrouke, known to his fans as “God” or “VDB,” set the professional cycling world on fire with his exciting performances and assertive style but in only a few short years his rocketing star burned out, and the end came in a squalid hotel room in Africa after a decade of spiralling downhill.
Ah, Bella Italia! For many of us it is the Promised Land of Cycling, with its professional cyclists whose names could be those of opera singers. An interesting book from Australia relates the story of cycling in Italy, interwoven with an historical narrative of the country. Leslie Reissner reviews “Great Rivalries - Cycling and the Story of Italy” by Kevin Andrews.
The Giro d'Italia has, since its beginning, played host to great drama, and one of these is the story of Fausto Coppi, a heroic and tragic figure of bike racing's Golden Age. On January 2 every year there is a big event in Castellania, a tiny village in Italy’s Piedmont region. Cycling fans from all over come to pay homage.
Don't be misled by the title of this excellent book. “Pantana 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 when Pantani triumphed, and brief remembrances by those who knew him.
Thanks to “Maglia Rosa: Triumph and Tragedy at the Giro d’Italia” by British author/Italian resident Herbie Sykes we have not only an English-language history of the Giro d’Italia, which is in itself distressingly rare, but an extraordinarily entertaining book.
Not so much a book review, but more Ed Hood's memories of the 'Enfant Terrible' - Frank Vandenbroucke, who was sadly taken from us at only 34 years of age. 'God is Dead: The Rise and Fall of Frank Vandenbroucke, Cycling's Great Wasted Talent' by Andy McGrath looks at the life of VDB.
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. 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.”
Participants in men's professional bike racing have not been noted for intellectual pursuits or firepower. Maybe you don't have to think much when riding. But in “The Art of Cycling,” perhaps the most unusual cycling-related book we have enjoyed, there is revealed a very different side.
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.”