review of The Monuments: The grit and the glory of cycling's greatest one day races by Peter Cossins
This book focuses on the five biggest one day races in cycling. These are in order of the book - Liege - Bastogne - Liege, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Lombardy, Milan - Sanremo and Tour of Flanders. In cycling hierarchy, it goes basically the 3 grand tours then the 5 monuments (though it also depends on the riders) and then the rest really depends on where the riders are from on a seasons objectives. Of course other races are briefly mentioned but in context of the riders (Tou de France is in the index 28 times, Giro D'Italia 15 times and Vuelta isn't mentioned in the index.
Peter Cossins (former editor of ProCycling magazine) has done a really good jobs, he has worked to a structured plan on laying our. Each race gets four chapters, the first chapter tends to be pre World War I with some really good detail on the establishment of each race, the second chapter being the inter war period, the third chapters covering usually the 50s and 60s up to the 70s and the fourth chapter more recent times. Cossins has a fine eye for a good anecdote. One of which is that there is a story on the first running of Paris-Roubaix being that a catholic priest was unhappy with the race being ran on Easter Sunday, the race directeur arranged that an early morning mass so riders could attend mass. Cossins adds a further sentence to this story as a spoiler to it.
This was a really fascinating book, well researched with plenty of good sources in the bilbliography (2 of which I have read also being John Foot's excellent book on Italian Cycling Pedalare Pedalare and Laurent Fignon's autobiography. Though also in it is very knowledgeable cycling historian Les Woodland and other well known cycling writers like Daniel Friebe and William Fotheringham)
It isn't the full picture, some editions of the races are only briefly mentioned, others barely mentioned but in a book 370 pages long on 5 races, each race is worthy of it's own book (indeed looking at the bibliography, there has been several for many races :D) but this a really good read
* * * * *
Review of Lanterne Rouge by Max Leonard
Lanterne Rouge is the term for the last man in the general classemente of the Tour de France. This is split into 12 chapters each showcasing a different last man starting apropriately with trying to make sense of the first one, a difficult task made harder that the early years records had been destroyed by fire.
I also think as the number of finishers has increased steadily in the last number of years, the reknown of the position has diminished somewhat. Riders are now better prepared, speeds have miraculously slowed in recent years much like the miraculous increases in the early 90s. Of course that is not to ignore that this isn't a clean cut story of those struggling against the dopers, dopers are included like Phillippe Gaumont.
In Ireland's national race, The Rás a term for a finisher, particularly one of the county riders is Man of the Rás for the suffering that they go through to get to the line. For me, in many ways this book represents the same, atleast in the earlier years of it. You have riders like Lambot featured (1919 where he came 10th overall but also last, battling through the destruction of france and shortage of tyres. For the way Leonard describes it, Lambot's ride was epic to make it through), Britain's Hoar and the Algerian rider Abdel Kader Zaaf (though both Hoar and Zaaf I had known more about before reading). liked the pieces on the men I didn't known before. Thast number of chapters focused on recent riders (i.e. ones during my lifetime) like Durand, Vansevenent, Jimmy Casper , Flores Borthersand Gaumont
Being about the last man in the tour de france, it bought a smile to my face in the symmetry that this was the last book i read in 2015 when I realised, it brought a smile to my face. I enjoyed the read, Leonard's style is endearing. It is engaging