The 100th running of the Tour de France gets underway this Saturday and I can’t wait! My wife will tell you that the only reason we have a wide-screen high-def TV in our house is so I can watch the Tour (and as usual she is absolutely correct). Every June I get a copy of the Velo Magazine Official Tour de France Guide and carefully study the routes for each stage and team line-ups. The 2013 Tour de France promises to be especially exciting due to the six mountain stages with four summit finishes—including two climbs up the Alpe d’Huez in the same day! This year my pre-tour reading material included Tour de France 100 by Richard Moore, a book sent to me for review by VeloPress.
The full title of the book is Tour de France 100: A Photographic History of the World’s Greatest Race. I don’t want to bury the lead, so here it is: This is the most beautiful book about cycling you will ever see! The photos are simply stunning. Even though I’ve read dozens of books about the Tour de France this book has a lot of photos I’ve never seen published anywhere before. While I own several thousand eBooks (an occupational hazard), this is one book that you really need to have in your hands to appreciate. This hardcover book measures 11″x12.5″ and has 224 pages with over 250 color and black and white photos.
My wife hasn’t been on a bicycle since the day she got her driver’s license, but she watches every stage of the Tour de France with me. Even non-cyclists can appreciate the beauty of the French countryside, the excitement of the crowds that line the routes and the incredible endurance of the world’s greatest athletes (plus I’ve noticed that my wife pays special attention to the race when Fabian Cancellara in on the screen).
Tour de France 100 divides the history of the Tour into twelve sections, beginning with the early years (1903–1914). The black and white photos in the early sections show the Founding Fathers of the Tour riding (and sometimes pushing) their steel bikes with metal water bottles and several spare inner tubes wrapped over their shoulders since outside help was banned in the early days of the Tour.
While the Tour began in 1903, this year is only the 100th running since the Tour was interrupted twice by war. On page 55 of the book there is an interesting photo from stage two of the 1936 Tour—it shows the peloton passing a small group of French soldiers near Amiens (during WWII Amiens had a Gestapo prison that was bombed by the Allies as part of a raid to free French Resistance fighters).
One of my favorite riders in Tour history is Eddy Merckx (“The Cannibal”). Merckz won the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia five times each, had one win at the Vuelta a España, and claimed nineteen wins at the Classics. Chapter seven of the book is aptly named The Cannibal, 1969–1977. This chapter has some of the most spectacular photos in the book (black and white photography had come a long way since the early days of the Tour).
The Armstrong Era, 1999–2005 is the focus of chapter eleven. Whether you love or hate Armstrong, you have to admit that he was fun to watch. I don’t know about you, but I still have a few posters of Lance hanging in my garage (and a few more scattered throughout my house).
The last chapter of the book covers the growing influence of Australian and British riders. Here you will find photos of all the modern cyclists most people are familiar with—Cadel Evans, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Andy Schleck and many others.
In the past few years I’ve written over 400 product reviews for cycling products—and along the way I’ve only put five or six items in the “highly recommended” category. Tour de France 100 is the only item I’ve ever put in the “must buy” category! If you don’t buy this book you are missing out on what I believe to be the best cycling book ever published. After you buy the book you will probably read it twice—the first time you will go through the book you will probably just look at the photos (and that is going to take a while). The second time you can actually read it!
Tour de France 100 retails for $35, but is available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com for under $25. The author of the book, Richard Moore, is a sports journalist and the author of several other cycling books, including Slaying the Badger—a book about the struggle between Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault during the 1986 Tour de France.
I would like to thank the folks at VeloPress for allowing me to use a few photos from the book in this review. If you would like to view some of the other photos from the book you can visit the Tour de France 100 blog.
Images from “Tour de France 100″ used with permission from VeloPress, copyright © 2013. All rights reserved.