Books Featured Reviews


VentouxBert Wagendorp’s Ventoux, recently translated by Paul Vincent, is a coming of age novel that opens with an old photograph of six friends on a cycling holiday in1982 and develops slowly into an odd, but enjoyable, brew of mystery, sport and social history genres. The novel, which at first glance seems a speed-read holiday book, has more depth than that and takes in the nature of friendship, musings on the nature of time, the small choices we make that can change our lives and a floating brothel.


Wagendorp is shameless in employing the well worn trope of childhood friends who share a dark secret and reunite later in life to reconcile with their past. If that sounds like a cycling version of ‘lets get the band back together’ then here is the line up:


Our hero and narrator, Bart – crime journalist, cyclist, divorced and nearly fifty

Andre – gone off the rails, drug dealer, getting his life back in shape after prison

Joost – maths genius turned rockstar scientist, but heading for a fall

David – the ‘stay at home’ owner of his father’s travel agency in their hometown of Zutphen

Peter – ethereal, gifted poet and published by the time he’s 18


The Yoko of this story is siren and muse, Laura. Her sudden appearance among the teenage friends triggers the competition and jealousy that ultimately leads to the tragic event that forms the hub of the story.


The re-emergence of Laura in 2012 and the renewed connections between the characters develop in a fractured timeline that suits the slow reveal of the ‘event’. The conclusion of these renewed relationships drives them all to make a return journey to mark the 30th anniversary.


Despite the non-linear structure and the rich references this is a page-turner that is very funny, and often very touching. The Epilogue, which feels a little of an after-thought, is pure Edam but we can forgive that as the rest of the book is such a fun ride.


The book is heavy with musical, literary and artistic allusions and connections – from Proust and the Col de Madeleine to Petrarch’s ‘The Accent of Mount Ventoux’ to the film The Night Porter and Italian Cinema in general. That’s all before we get to the liberal references to the history of cycling, the poems of Jan Kal, The Rider by Tim Krabbe and, of course, Tommy Simpson.


As co-founder and editor of the cycling magazine The Wall, Bert Wagendorp obviously knows his cycling. The book was a bestseller in Wagendorp’s native Netherlands as well as Germany, France, Denmark and Norway. A Dutch version of Ventoux was filmed in 2015.


Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp / Paul Vincent is published by World Editions International, currently available from, amongst other places, Amazon at £10.68 hardback and £ £6.53 on Kindle.



Books Featured Reviews

Alpe d’Huez

Alpe d'HuezIt might seem madness to dedicate an entire book to a single climb, but when the climb in question is the legendary Alpe d’Huez it all starts to make much more sense.


Sometimes referenced as the Tour de France’s ‘Hollywood climb’ the iconic Alpe d’Huez, which tortures riders through 21 numbered hairpins at an average gradient of 7.8% for a sapping 13.8km, was first introduced in 1952 (conquered by Fausto Coppi) but had to really sit it out until 1976 to become the institution it now is.


Cycling journalist Peter Cossins – author of the equally excellent The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling’s Greatest One-day Races – combines both passion and reverence for the climb, weaving together stories of TdF appearances with tales of the climb’s (and resort’s) developments and occasion scandals. Whilst you might expect such a niche book to appeal wholly to the geekiest of cycling enthusiast Cyclo would argue that the highly accessible prose and sheer joy of the writing could tempt even the most casual Sunday cyclists.


Only a handful of pictures are included – something of a shame, but a limitation of the format – although more than an intimate sense of association with Alpe d’Huez is conjured up regardless. Anyone who has ever watched the TdF riders slug slowly – sometimes not so slowly – up this climb, battling the legendary crowds as much as the mountain, will find inspirational detail here and those who have been brave/fortunate enough to tackle it themselves will be able to relive every last energy-depleting twist and turn.


If any one single climb deserves a book all to itself, it’s the Alpe d’Huez and Cossins is demonstrably the man to tell the tale.


Alpe d’Huez: The Story of Pro Cycling’s Greatest Climb by Peter Cossins is published by Aurum Press, currently available from, amongst other places, Amazon at £12.99 hardback and £12.34 on Kindle.


Further details and all the latest news from Aurum Press can be found on Facebook and Twitter - You can follow Peter Cossins on Twitter too @petercossins

Books Reviews

Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy

Gironimo!Tim Moore is a writer not afraid to take on a challenge. Over a decade ago he rode the route of the Tour de France for his book French Revolutions and now, feeling his achievements somewhat undermined by the exploits of Lance Armstrong, he has taken on the less tarnished (discuss) Giro d’Italia in Gironimo! That may sound tough enough by most standards but Moore goes one further recreating, of sorts, the notorious 1914 edition to give the book its full title Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy. This was a race defined by almost unimaginable weather (‘a cocktail of fog, rain, mud and bone-chilling cold’), 400km stages and the fact that of the 81 riders who set off from Milan 90% failed to make it back. Want more from Moore? He does the whole thing on a hundred year old bike with wooden wheels, no gears and brake blocks carved by hand from corks…


Moore’s style is one of gentle humour and knowing self-mockery – think, perhaps, Bill Bryson on two wheels. But he also serves up an excellent history of cycling both as a social movement and sport (1869 claimed the first cycle-related death, did you know?) and doesn’t hold back the forthright views: ‘I don’t hate Lance Armstrong because he was a drugs cheat, but because he’s just so thoroughly unpleasant.’


His achievement in completing the route is commendable, even if he did take 32 days to complete what the 1914 riders did in eight, and the humour in the face of adversity (frequently closed restaurants) is always heart-warming. As history in the retelling Gironimo! works perfectly and is likely to lead reader off towards a dozen other books – French Revolution should be amongst them. Who knows, maybe even a handful of readers will be tempted to set out on their own recreation; so long as more than 10% make it back.


If Moore’s looking for his next book idea maybe he should recreate the Froome-claiming Stage 5 of this year’s Tour de France. ‘Very Terrible’ indeed…


Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy by Tim Moore is published by Yellow Jersey (ISBN-10: 0224092073). It is available in both paperback and Kindle format from

Books Featured Reviews

At Speed

At SpeedThere’s really no arguing with the fact that Mark Cavendish has achieved incredible things for a 28-year-old – so much that it more than justifies the publication of At Speed, a book that amounts to volume two of his autobiography. Boy Racer was published back in 2010 and, to be slightly reductive, whilst it dealt with the ‘getting there’, At Speed covers the ‘being there/staying there’.


Of course much has happened in the intervening years both personally (marriage, the birth of his daughter to whom he dedicates the book) and professionally – the small matter of a World Road Race title, the London Games, jerseys at all three Grand Tour events –and At Speed recounts what this period has meant to and for him. Cavendish opens with a thrillingly recounted ‘Prologue’ chapter on the World Championship road race in Copenhagen before taking an occasionally non-linear journey through the other ups and (occasional) downs of his recent career across three teams. As befits a cyclist who places equal emphasis on mental as physical prowess – he’s an avid Sudoku solver – he never presents excuses for his failures, just highly analytical and insightful reasons, this alone raises the book above many in the genre.


At Speed is co-written by Daniel Friebe, author of Eddy Merckx: The Cannibal and Mountain Higher (see Cyclo review here) but there is a real sense of Cav’s own voice throughout. His fastidious and sometimes foul-mouthed approach and take doesn’t feel tempered by Friebe, though this of course is the art of a good ghost-writer and having worked together on Boy Racer a symbiosis is inevitable. There is perhaps a lack of insight into some aspects of Cav’s personality which we would have expect to be explored further – particularly his bad-boy image, which was hinted at in the title of Boy Racer. But regardless At Speed is a credible and highly readable second instalment and with no sign of tailing off in performance there’s bound to be room for this in volume three…


At Speed (ISBN-10: 0091933404) by Mark Cavendish and Daniel Friebe is published by Ebury Press. RRP £20 hardback and £9.49 on Kindle – available from, amongst other paces,


Books Featured Reviews

Mountain Higher

Mountain HigherSubtitled Europe’s Extreme, Undiscovered and Unforgettable Cycle Climbs, Mountain Higher is the sequel (of sorts) to Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding’s beautiful Mountain High: Europe’s 50 Greatest Cycle Climbs. Concentrating here on the continent’s lesser-known, but still challenging and spectacular mountain roads and passes this is a sumptuous large-format book (no cycling jersey pocket potential unfortunately) that gives both lucid and narrative accounts of each detailed climb along with all the stats and stunning photographs to boot.


The spread through Europe is good – even Belgium gets something of a surprise entry with the 111m climb over 2.2km of the Oude Kwaremont – although the UK gets just a single mention in the shape of Scotland’s Bealach ne Bà (626m). But this isn’t a book for stay-at-homes (assuming UK residency), but rather for those looking for truly remote adventure in the less-explored regions of the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland and more. Correction: This isn’t necessarily a trip-planners guide, it works equally well for those who daydream on the sofa…


Along with a smattering of lesser inclines, Mountain Higher details around 30 routes that rise above the 1000m mark and a dozen real monsters that top out above 2000m. Because the book is broadly organised lowest to highest each turn of the page reveals an increasingly lung-busting proposition until you finally reach the… No, we won’t spoil the ultimate climb; it would be like revealing that Rosebud was a sledge (with apologies to anyone you still hasn’t seen Citizen Kane.)


For those of you that find books made of paper a bit antiquated (tsk!) the free QuercusEye app allows you to hover over a selection of the photos and have them augmented with video and other detail. It’s a slightly fiddly affair and Cyclo found it distracted from the pure pleasure of flicking through such a gorgeously constructed ‘wish-list’ but horses for courses. You can take a look at the video guide to the app at the end of this review…


Mountain Higher is certainly amongst our favourite coffee-table books of the year (along with Tour de France 100th Race Anniversary Edition, review here), regardless if you are planning to use it for adventure prep or fantasy musings; if you love two-wheels, it belongs on your shelf.


Mountain Higher: Europe’s Extreme, Undiscovered and Unforgettable Cycle Climbs (ISBN-10: 1780879121) by Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding is published by Quercus, RRP £25.00 – available from



Books Featured Reviews

Every Inch of the Way

Every Inch of the WayAt the start of Every Inch of the Way, author Tom Bruce, explains that this is not a book, ‘…full of arty descriptions about beautiful places, it doesn’t have any clever metaphors; it’s just my story.’ And so it proves to be – an everyman story (assuming said ‘everyman’ is capable of pedalling 14,379 miles) that covers the globe and proves how liberating two wheels can truly be.


Setting off in March, 2011 from his home in Cheshire, Bruce goes unsupported through Europe to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and beyond to China before tackling the trans-American route to his end point – some nine and a half months later – Daytona Beach, Florida.


The beauty of the read is two-fold. Firstly Bruce is not setting out to break any records or prove anything about the human condition (though resilience, endurance and self-reliance are certainly discovered along the way) and, secondly, his story is simply told (as he promised it would be). There are no pretentions to the writing, no soaring similes or flights of poetic licence, just a good old-fashioned adventure yarn with the many people me meets and sometimes cycles with providing as much colour as the remote destinations. Bruce is as interested in people – and occasional beer (‘beer tastes so much better after a day of exercise’) – as he is in either cycling or proving his ability.


For cyclists Every Inch of the Way may well inspire; perhaps not an epic of these proportions but it’s certainly hard not to read and then immediately want to take to the open road on nothing more complex than two wheels. Every Inch of the Way by Tome Bruce (ISBN-10: 148208306X) is available in paperback, £8.99, or on Kindle either illustrated at £6.98 or sans-photos at £4.99. Either way for pictures and for further information see - buy online at


Books Featured Reviews

A Lake District Grand Tour

A Lake District Grand TourIf the Tour de France looks too exhausting to contemplate (even watching) and the Giro is a distant memory how about a Lake District Grand Tour? Part travelogue, part cycling guide and part beautifully sketched social and natural history, Mike Carden’s book takes readers through the literal ups and downs of one of the UK’s most spectacular and diverse landscapes.


Heading off with his son Richard in tow – actually most often out front rather than ‘in tow’ – Carden sets about tackling routes via every lake in the Lake District in a nine-day odyssey that is as beguiling as it is (seemingly) simple. The written style, like much of the cycling involved, is relaxed and a gentle, dry humour makes light of proceedings whilst delving into some true gems of archaic local trivia that could have you winning a specialist pub-quiz round hands down. Like any good bike ride there is food aplenty (‘man-size pies’ loom large) and whilst nine-days around the Lakes might not sound like the kind of epic quest that makes for inspiration, Carden does an excellent job of ‘selling’ the area as a must-see destination.


Each chapter covers a day in the saddle – for example the 56miles from Gramere to Cockermouth – and whilst the book regrettably lacks pictures there are frequent QR codes that link to the accompanying website ( for itinerary details, places of interests and further reading; a resourceful approach to publishing. In fact the lack of pictures is perhaps not a downside at all; Carden does a more than adequate job of describing the wonders of Lakeland and there has seldom been a photograph that does adequate justice to the majestic beauty anyway.


As US President Woodrow Wilson said – and Carden notes in his book – ‘No doubt God could have made a lovelier country than the Lake District, but I cannot believe he ever did.’ A Lake District Grand Tour is gentle and lyrical, but above all it is an open invitation to come and cycle by the shores of Ullswater, Grasmere, Wast Water, et al. And why wouldn’t you want to? Read the book – take the tour, Lakeland is waiting.


A Lake District Grand Tour (ISBN-10: 095566022X) is published by Bike Ride Books, RRP £8.99 and available from


See also for further details.


Books Featured Reviews

Racing Hard

Racing Hard by William FotheringhamFew cycling journalists have enjoyed a career as long and esteemed as that of William Fotheringham; since joining the Guardian in 1989 he has established himself as a writer respected not only by the lay-reader but by the Grand Tour participants – he is undoubtedly as ‘riders’ journalist’.  Racing Hard, published by Faber and Faber, brings together what might be considered the definitive collection of tales from the front line of pro-racing, which, taken together, becomes something of a meditation on the changing face of the sport over the last two decades.


Whilst Fotheringham’s newspaper features can, at times, feel a little cold or detached (he is after all a great analyst), as an anthology of work they are transformed somehow into something greater – something in which a true passion shines through. The original articles are annotated and noted for context and this lifts the entire book to one that chronicles the lives – and races – of the great and the good in a way that positively glows with admiration. There is, of course, much scandal and controversy covered here (none of it salaciously presented) and Lance Armstrong looms large – how could he not? But there is balance and wisdom too throughout Fotheringham’s writing.


The forward to Racing Hard, by David Millar, not only sets out the regard with which Fotheringham is held, but encapsulates the span of his work; Millar writes: ‘William has put my career into words, from an ambitious teenager to a fallen world champion to a fervent anti-doping campaigner, team owner and father.’


Those that know and love Fotheringham’s work as a journalist or author (read the review of his book Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike here) will naturally gravitate towards Racing Hard; but hopefully it will also bring his words to those unfamiliar with his prolific output and earn him yet more dedicated followers. He’s worked long and hard for them…


Racing Hard (ISBN-10: 0571303625) is published by Faber and Faber, RRP £12.99 paperback and currently on Kindle offer at just £1.59 from


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