Saturday, October 08, 2011

Slaying The Badger

Slaying The Badger by Richard Moore,
courtesy from Velopress.

Given the opportunity, I'd like to buy Richard Moore a beer. The Scottish author (also an ex-racer who represented his home country at the 1998 Commonwealth games) has written another great book, Slaying the Badger - LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France. This latest effort, following on from his bio of Robert Millar (also a must read) is an essential addition to any collection of cycling books.

While one might quibble over the title, Moore makes a strong case that the rivalry between Greg LeMond and Bernard 'The Badger' Hinault at the 1986 Tour de France produced the most exciting race in history. Moore goes behind the scenes to interview all the key players (including the two protagonists) in what surely must be the most thorough treatment of a much debated question: did Hinault betray his promise to teammate LeMond and try and pull the 1986 Tour out from under him? Hinault is clearly the villain; but he emerges not so much as a cardboard cut-out of a Hollywood bad guy but more the epitome of an old-school pro cyclist - totally in the game for himself and his own satisfaction, but not necessarily selfish (his support for teammates at lesser races is well known), and simply doing what he did best: confounding the expectations of history and, ultimately, LeMond himself along the way.

One should not limit oneself to just one cycling book a year, but if the budget is tight, Slaying the Badger would be a good choice. The book is a flashback to an epic era of racing, and even if you think you know the story of the 1986 Tour, this book will surprise you with its detail. Skip the Kindle edition and buy the actual book. Sitting on your shelf, it will be a constant reminder of why our sport is so cool. And if you get the chance to buy Richard Moore a beer, make sure you ask him why the 1986 Tour was better than 1989 - or even 1987, or 2003, or 2011…


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