A flick through 100 Le Tours

Julia Donaldson is concerned that children's lack of access to books will send literacy standards into decline
Julia Donaldson is concerned that children's lack of access to books will send literacy standards into decline

This year marks the 100th Tour de France and there is a great selection of books about both the race and the riders.

There are several ‘coffee table’ books that celebrate the tour with one of the best being ‘Mapping Le Tour’. This book gives a tour-by-tour account of its history alongside a map showing the route for that year. It is interesting to see the development of the tour routes and when the Alps and Pyrenees made their first appearance. There is also a list of first three finishers along with the king of the mountains and points winners and the total time taken (except for the years when the tour was ranked by points and the rider with the least declared the winner).

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If you prefer a handier-sized history of the tour, then Chris Sidwell’s ‘A Race For Madmen’ may be ideal. Sidwell combines history with insightful interviews with former riders of the tour including team mates of his uncle, Tom Simpson, who tragically died while riding the tour. This book came out a few years ago but has now been updated to include the fallout from the Lance Armstrong years. Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s ‘Le Tour’ is also worth considering.

If you wish to read more about the darker side of the Tour de France, and Lance Armstrong in particular, then there are two titles that will be great selections for you. ‘The Secret Race’ gives the riders’ view of doping, written by Armstrong’s former team mate, Tyler Hamilton. He goes into detail as to what the riders did to avoid being caught and the staggering benefits of using EPO (nicknamed Edgar by the riders), a drug used to increase the red blood cell count and give the rider more power. David Walsh’s ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ tells the story from a journalistic perspective of the investigation into Lance Armstrong. Scottish rider, David Millar, tells his story of doping and his journey back into the peloton in ‘Racing Through The Dark’.

There are many biographies about the riders including ‘Va Va Froome’ by David Sharp about this year’s favourite, Chris Froome, or ‘My Time’ by last year’s winner, Bradley Wiggins. There are two recent biographies, one by Daniel Friebe, the other by William Fotheringham, about five time winner, Eddy Merckx – both are worth reading about arguably the greatest cyclist of all time.