A Ride Through the Greatest Cycling Stories

written by Gilles Belbin
illustrated by Daniel Seex
published by Aurum Press

The first Cima Coppi (Stelvio, 1965), the longest Tour de France
(5,745 km, 1926), the day Merckx was punched by a fan (July 11, 1975), the day Gino Bartali saved Italy by winning the Tour de France (July 15, 1948) – all notable moments in cycling history. Fans of the sport know these facts and stories. Budding fans are keen to learn them. Author Gilles Belbin and illustrator Daniel Seex have done an excellent job of highlighting these moments with a page of text and illustration for each of the 80 stories in the collection.

Some stories are probably less well-known. There’s Dutchman Wim van Est, born March 25, 1923, who rode off the Aubisque and needed to be rescued by a safety rope made of spare tubulars. In 1965, Jacques Anquetil won the Dauphiné, then started the 557-km-long Bordeaux-Paris less than 12 hours later. He won the second race, too.

I like how the collection also includes achievements by female cyclists, such as Maria Canins, the Italian cross-country skier who added a win at the national cycling championships to her palmares. Marianne Vos’s great achievements are noted as well as those of Victoria Pendleton.

The stories are ordered by the month and day that they occurred. You might want to mark your calendar to return to these stories on their anniversaries. It’s what a hardcore cycling fan would do.

Giro 100

written by Herbie Sykes
published by Rapha Editions

Sorry Canadian cycling fans. You won’t find any reminiscing by Ryder Hesjedal on his 2012 Giro d’Italia win in Giro 100 . The Victoria native does get brief mention at one point. But that’s it. Montreal frame maker Giuseppe Marinoni appears for a second. His nephew, Beppe Savoldelli, speaks of a bike Marinoni made for his other nephew, Paolo Savoldelli. Actually, a more peripheral (in this case) figure like Marinoni is more in-line with Herbie Sykes’s project than a recent maglia rosa winner like Hesjedal.

Giro 100 , for the Italian Grand Tour’s centennial this year, is a look at the non-headline-making riders or ones who haven’t been in the English press headlines in years. There are two sections on the gregari, one on runners-up, one on folks who worked behind the scenes as well as other chapters. Sykes has his subjects tell their tales in their own words, and then he provides a bit of context. The stories are all well-told. They will not only deepen your knowledge of the race, but give you a better sense of its depth. Think about it: thousands of riders have raced the Giro. Many stories can come out of one stage. So 100 years of a Grand Tour could keep a bunch of Scheherazades busy for more than 1,001 nights. Some tales in Giro 100 are funny, such as how Lucillo Lievore hid out in a bar to secure his maglia nera, the jersey for the last rider in the general classification. Some are tragic, such as Claudio Ravasio’s recollection of how a crash cost his brother, Emilio, his life. And there are many more.

I have two minor quibbles with this otherwise great book. One is the design. Maybe I’m a fogey when it comes to layout, but all the sideways type for section headlines is annoying, especially if you are encountering a rider’s name for the first time. Also, the image captions range from silly to almost useless. There’s an image of six men in suits, maybe riders, holding…something. The caption: “To infinity and beyond.” I’m not sure what the connection is between the Buzz Lightyear character who utters this phrase and this black-and-white photo. Something to do with the “ trofeo senza fine ,” the Giro’s trophy without end? No, that can’t be it. The photo obviously predates the trophy. Then, as with most of the captions, I throw my hands up.

Still, it’s the stories in Giro 100 that shine. They’re worth getting lost in.

Ask a Pro

written by Phil Gaimon
published by VeloPress reviewed

Books by retired pro cyclists can be dangerous documents. Think of Michael Rasmussen’s Yellow Fever , in which the disgraced Dane revealed that he’d given Ryder Hesjedal doping lessons. Remember the scandal? Well, in retirement, Phil Gaimon also names names.

Gaimon, who stopped racing professionally at the end of 2016, says that former Kenda presented by Gear Grinder teammate Jake Rytlewski kept the TV on all the time when the two were roommates during races. Tom Zirbel snores too loudly, and is thus a terrible roommate. Then, there’s the news that will make Canadians gasp. “[Other roommates] stay up until midnight and set their alarm for 11 minutes before we have to leave for the race, so they’re getting dressed, pouring cereal down their throats, and barely making it to the bus, Will Routley,” Gaimon writes of his Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies teammate.

Of course, Gaimon’s Ask a Pro isn’t breaking news. It’s a collection of his columns from VeloNews . The pieces are funny and sometimes cutting. In the collection, Gaimon provides some annotations for extra context, and extra gags. There’s some legit advice mixed in, too, and a cookie recipe that features peanut butter, chocolate chips and pretzels.

But did Routley know what Gaimon had written about him, first in the magazine and now republished in book form for posterity? I asked Routley, who also retired at the end of 2016. “Phil says I would wake up late!?!?!,” Routley replied. “I was just smart and would wake up at a reasonable time! Maximize sleep – it’s the only way to survive a stage race.” (Routley also added he and Phil are good friends.)

OK, so maybe Gaimon doesn’t set off any scandals. His humour, however, will still provoke some smiles.

Shred Girls: Lindsay’s Joy Ride

written by Molly Hurford

The best fiction featuring bikes is often about more than just bikes. Take the film Breaking Away , for example. Character Dave Stoller’s obsession with cycling and Italy doesn’t just allow director Peter Yates to explore the sport, but ideas of identity and growing up. The movie also looks at class dynamics in a small town. Most important, it’s a fun and endearing story.

Molly Hurford’s Shred Girls: Lindsay’s Joy Ride also has bikes within a fun and endearing story. It centres on Lindsay, a shy preteen bookworm obsessed with superheroes. She spends a summer with her older, cooler cousin Phoebe. Phoebe works and rides at the Joyride indoor bike park north of Toronto. She was also a shy, bookish kid, who has some plans to help Lindsay gain more self-confidence. Those plans, of course, involve getting a little rad on a BMX bike.

Hurford has described Shred Girls as The Baby-Sitters Club with bikes, a reference that only partly resonates with me. My younger sister read The Baby-Sitters Club , while I stuck with more masculine series, such as the Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators . Still, I was stoked, yes, stoked to delve into Shred Girls , hoping it would be something I could recommend to or read to my daughter when she’s old enough. Now, I plan to do just that. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the book to a young boy. Riding is riding. Struggling with learning who you are and making friends are universal. The only sections that might drag for a boy are the bits about who’s wearing what and how good an outfit looks. But, I do know middle-age men who take great pains to match their socks, of just the right length, to their kit.

Like The Baby-Sitters Club , Shred Girls is a series. Lindsay’s Joy Ride (which will be re-released early next year) marks only the first adventure featuring the titular character and her friends. The Baby-Sitters series ran for 14 years. In that time, 213 novels were published and 176 million copies were printed. If the same happens to Shred Girls , that would be rad.

The Time-Crunched Cyclist, 3rd Edition

The Time-Crunched Cyclist Chris Carmichael

written by Chris Carmichael and Jim Rutberg
published by VeloPress

When The Time-Crunched Cyclist debuted in 2009, Chris Carmichael was on the cover along with a blurb from Lance Armstrong. The second edition came out in 2012 not long after USADA’s Reasoned Decision against Armstrong and the star rider’s collapse as a marketable figure. Carmichael’s brand soon suffered because of his Armstrong connections. With the latest edition of The Time-Crunched Cyclist , Carmichael’s name is still on the cover, while his picture is gone and his presence in the book’s pages is low-key.

While Carmichael may have receded, the book has grown. It has about 220 more pages than the first edition, which was 213 pages. Additions include recipes and new training plans for gravel rides and ultra-endurance
mountain bike races. Of course, Jim Rutberg and Carmichael acknowledge the limits of their methods for big rides: you can only do so much for long events with little time. Building endurance simply takes time.

As with the previous editions of Time-Crunched , there are sections of the book that are mere promotion for the time-crunched methods. With the first edition, those hype sections were probably necessary. In 2009, a busy amateur cyclist likely needed a bit of convincing for Rutberg and Carmichael’s almost-too-good-to-betrue proposition: roughly six hours a week of training throughout 12 weeks brings quality fitness for a nice peak. Today, I feel many riders understand how interval workouts can boost a body’s endurance systems. The hype for the time-crunched methods now seems unnecessary. We almost need more of a corrective in the other direction: yes, do short, hard workouts if you are strapped for time, but remember to get enough rest and recovery. Also, grab every chance you can get to ride long. (To be fair, the authors have always advocated doing endurance blocks when you can.)

Strava, that ubiquitous social media tool for athletes, has been brought into the time-crunched fold. Frankly, I was suspicious when I saw “powered by Strava” on the cover. Chasing KOMs for segments during a Zone 2 ride can be just as counterproductive as drilling it with the fast pack when you should be recovering. Still, if you are like many cyclists, Strava has a lot of your data. Rutberg and Carmichael do give you some good ideas for interpreting it. As with all their advice, you have to apply it properly to get the most out of it.


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