Golden Stages of the Tour de France

Compiled by Richard Allchin and Adrian Bell

Read April 2006

The centenary edition of the Tour de France produced a flood of books, this amongst them. It has a fine premise: the stages, those races within the race, are filled with drama, often much more than the race overall. Ostensibly, this volume is a recounting of some of the most dramatic stages of the Tour.

There is much to commend in this volume. Its writers are passionate, they are knowledgeable, and they do not suffer from an excessively short-term memory. Indeed, some of the best pieces cover events dating back eighty years. Sometimes the power is in unexpected places, as when Matt Rendell (whom I have trashed elsewhere) demonstates his in-depth knowledge of Colombian cycling.

Set against that, the volume suffers from numerous flaws. Many of the pieces could have benefited from quite a bit more fact-finding and editing. Some articles entirely skip the ``stage'' premise and discuss entire Tours. Many do not exploit hindsight (these appear to be fresh articles written for this book, not reports of contemporary events—the latter would have been a different and perhaps more emotionally weighty conceit). In some cases the writers just appear to be out to lunch. In short, the editors either gave their writers too much rope or were forced by time constraints to cut short their process.

Also, while I am no Lance partisan, it is hard to imagine a volume such as this choosing his 1999 Prologue over the impact of his win in Sestrières in 1999, his power on Hautacam in 2000, the authority of his ascent of l'Alpe d'Huez in 2001, or even his emotional ride with ``the strength of two men'' into Limoges. Perhaps the book's Anglo-centricism hurts it in this respect, but surely some writer could be found?

There's a wonderful book waiting to be written that exploits the premises, explicit and latent, of this one.