Friday, July 15, 2011

book review: How I Won the Yellow Jumper by Ned Boulting

"I have been told though, by a friend who was watching in embarrassed disbelief in a house in Chelmsford, that I uttered words like 'some sort of thing with his bike'. I followed this up, apparently with the killer line, 'kissing goodbye to his chance of winning the yellow jumper'.
Yes, the yellow jumper. That's what I said."

The Tour de France can feel like an alien world. Talk of different colour jerseys, general classification times and numerous riders and teams can put off all but the most determined from finding out about it. But as Ned Boulting's experiences show once you make the effort to understand the sport you are hooked.

There are ups and downs, with doping scandals continuing to feature in the sport, forcing Boulting to add an epilogue in response to the revelations that last year's winner Alberto Contador had tested positive, but there is still more to admire here than to scorn and the riders and the logistics of the Tour are both monumental and deserved to be praised.

What Boutling does is shows that it is possible to get into the sport as a complete novice and then build up a knowledge and a love of the sport fairly quickly. His introduction to commentating for ITV starts with a cock-up, hence the book name about jumpers and jerseys, and manages to stay in a light-hearted vein until the end. He is flanked by former professional riders and legendary broadcasters but he manages to find his own place in the world of cycling.

The behind the scenes book reveals not just what it takes to film the Tour and work on it but what the event means to the people of France and the way the world changes for those three magical weeks in July. It made me smile and it made me share a frown as Boulting reveals his disappointments over doping. But importantly it provided more details of the Tour and revealed just why this event is so special.

Books about sport are incredibly difficult to pull off because they either appeal to die-hard fans who dissect them for flaws and unknown nuggets or are so generalist they don't add any value to those who share an interest and want to know more.

Boulting pulls it off and his technique is not just around his use of humour but his use of biography. This is his story of how he fell ikn love with the Tour and although we can't all commentate and get taken round in a car with a film crew that essential journey from bike novice to fan is one that we are all welcome to head down.


@parridhlantern said...

As you already know I'm a fan & adore pretty much all aspects of cycling, from the tour to the far flung cults like fixed & trick . Yes there's the doping issues and they do appear to be widespread in cycling, although I think that's partly down to the fact that the sports open about such issues & doesn't ignore like a lot of other sports, fifa for example & also a lot of track stuff. Also as you say with little knowledge this sport(lifestyle) can be addictive, my wife has no interest in riding a bike, but she watches the TDF, even when I'm not around thru choice.

PS. Great post

Anonymous said...

thios sounds up my street simon ,I love him on the tv ,I ve a few tdf books and read a couple of the armstrong books but would like to read more ,all the best stu

Meredith said...

Around twenty years ago, a dear girlfriend and I were in Paris wondering what "all the fuss was about with these silly bicycles taking up so many streets". Ah, to be young (and idiotic?!) again, as we were actually there for the Tour de France...

We laugh about it now, but I do love cycling. My husband has a Pinarello which we bought on our honeymoon in Italy, and he rides it like the wind. I think this book would be an excellent present for him.

I especially liked this line from your post: 'What Boutling does is shows that it is possible to get into the sport as a complete novice and then build up a knowledge and a love of the sport fairly quickly.' Cyclists are the best kind of people, next to literature lovers that is. ;)

I came here from Parrish Lantern, and I'm quite enjoying your blog. From the opening photograph in your header (love the woods!), to the literature you read, this is a nice place to be.