Friday, July 31, 2009

More Book Reviews - "Boy Racer" and the "Man Who Cycled the World"

The changeable weather is taking its toll on my cycling - I'm finding it easier to make excuses not to go out. I think it is a combination of the rain, colder temperatures, blustery wind and the sheer disappointment if the promised BBQ Summer here in the UK turns out to be a damp squib. It does seem as if the folks at the Meteorological Office are back-tracking on their original predictions.

I am not a racer, I enjoy social cycling but have never really been that interested in either watching or participating in competitive cycling. A few years ago they held a Kellogs-sponsored cycle race around the streets of Cambridge which was fun to watch though and I do like to keep up with Le Tour. It annoys me how little coverage you get on the Television or in Newspapers on the race - but with the Internet I found that the Yahoo coverage had a moving graphic showing where the breaks/peloton were which you could leave open as a browser window whilst "working".

I enjoyed the Tour this year, partly because of the Armstrong drama, but also because a couple of Brits did remarkably well. Despite Armstrong not winning I think it was pretty amazing to come third. I also liked Mark Cavendish's approach - he ended up winning 6 stages of the race and does seem to be a pretty awesome sprinter. I also liked the fact that he spoke like a sprinter - letting all the motion out before coming back and apologising. In the end I bought his book - Boy Racer. It was a good book to so close to the Tour and gives an interesting insight to what it takes, both to be a racer but perhaps also what sets Sprinters apart from the other cyclists.


One of the cycle authors who has inspired me is Josie Dew - and when I bought this book - "The Man Who Cycled the World" I had assumed that it would be similar. In some senses there are similarities in terms of the almost single-mindedness that long-distance cyclists need to have. It seems also that whilst in the main there are many kind people out there willing to helped a cycling stranger there are some not so kind people. Both Josie Dew and Mark Cavendish had to deal with some unsavoury people.

The difference with this book (compared with Josie's travels) is that Mark Beaumont was also in a race - a race to cycle around the world faster than the existing holder of the record. I remember reading snippets of Mark's travels in the press when he was actually doing the race - so I knew the outcome, however I found the book almost compulsive reading. It gave a fascinating insight into his motivation, but more importantly the methods he used to get into the zone. Indeed both Marks highlight the need to focus almost selfishly to achieve their goals. I thoroughly enjoy cycling in other parts of the world for the pleasure of seeing new sights, meeting new people and challenging myself - however Mark B went way beyond and had to drive himself though inhospitable, uncharitable places in his attempt.

For those interested in mark B's current adventures check out this BBC web page - he is cycling from the top of North America to the bottom of South America - 15,000 miles.


I thoroughly enjoyed both books - because of the insights into the authors. I also understood the challenges Mark B describes of getting into the "zone" in order to ride mile after mile day after day. with the change in the weather I have been cycling less, partly work, but mainly I fell out of my "zone". Yet yesterday when I forced myself on a cycle ride out in the rain I returned exhilarated wondering what was stopping me from getting out there.

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