An amusing British writer creates a lively swirl of action and observation as he bicycles the route of the 2000 Tour de France.
Six weeks before the official Tour started, 35-year-old Moore (Frost on My Moustache, 2000, etc.) began the 2,256-mile circuit of France that finishes on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. Since 1904, when winner Maurice Garin was disqualified for riding a train, the Tour has a rich history of cheating, a tradition that Moore quickly embraces. He lops off the first 400 miles of the race, then in the Pyrenees circumvents the steep climb called Lourdes-Hautacam and walks up the Col de Marie-Blanc. Satisfaction does come with increased endurance and successful ascents of the Cols de Galibier and Izoard in the Alps. Moore observes a changing France as he rides; small towns are dying, and local cycle clubs ride with a casualness that underlies a national softening. His wife and three noisy kids show up for the Alpine section, offering a contrast to the orderly French families. Moore's expertise on Tour history carries the narrative; from Paul Kimmage's race laundry tips to Bernard Hinault's champagne-filled water bottles, interesting detail abounds. The author gladly plays the old game of Anglo-French sniping, firing entertaining blasts at the Tour’s unhelpful PR department, hostile hotel clerks, and condescending chefs. At the end, Moore clicks through 3,000 kilometers (1,863 miles) in Paris, compares his joyful, disbelieving smile to Hitler's at the Arc de Triomphe in 1940, and provides an earthy coda asserting that on some days, five breakfast croissants are not enough. Throughout, he employs colloquial British English—“bollocks,” “poxy,” and “ponce” lead the list of words, phrases, and inside national jokes that remind us we are not in Kansas anymore.
Outstanding: a must for cycling enthusiasts and recommended to lovers and haters of France, general sports fans, or anyone who has ever cheated at anything.