With The Rider, Tim Krabbé has created a book unique in the ranks of sporting literature. He describes one 150-kilometre race in just 150 pages. In the course of the narrative, we get to know the forceful, bumbling Lebusque, the aesthete Barthelemy, the Young Turk Reilhan, and the mysterious rider from Cycles Goff'. Krabbé battles with and against each of them in turn, failing on the descents, shining on the climbs, suffering on the (false) flats. The outcome of the race is, in fact, merely the last stanza of an exciting and too-brief paean to stamina, suffering, and the redeeming power of humour.
This is not a history of road racing, a hagiography of the European greats or even a factual account of his own amateur cycling career. Instead, Krabbé allows us to race with him, inside his skull as it were, during a mythical Tour de Mont Aigoual.
"Like all the best sports writing, The Rider manages to convey the excitement, determination, and skill of the competitors even to readers who have little or no knowledge of the sport. Above all, he evokes the heightened focus of the cyclists, for whom nothing seems real apart from the race." (London Review of Books)
"A paean to pain and a hymn to the fellowship of the road. Nothing better is ever likely to be written on the subjective experience of cycle-racing." (The Guardian)
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