The Rider, Tim Krabbe (1978) (trans Sam Garrett)
pub: Bloomsbury (2002) 0 7475 5941 4 148 pages cover price £6.99
A gripping exploration of the experience of racing a bicycle written
as an account of a fictional race
The Rider is the best book on the experience of cycle racing ever written.
Indeed, by any margin, it is a great book; and an exemplar to any who
would set out to imortalise the guts of an experience in such a way that
a reader might momentarily inhabit the soul of the protagonist.
First published in Dutch, the book is a fictionalised account of the
Tour de Mont Aigoual. It draws heavily on Krabbes own career as
an amateur cycle racer and is at its best describing the effort required
to compete at this level. There is plenty of insight into the preparations
that he makes for a race and the curious tactical melange that is mass-start
The race narrative set out kilometre by kilometre draws
readers along like a peleton with the wind on its back. It is interspersed
with an account of the riders sporting career, and a more general
discourse on professional cycle racing. For a reader unfamiliar with cycle
racing, this provides useful context. Anyone immersed in the sport might
find it slightly distracting.
Nonetheless, it is not surprising that since its English translation,
the book, and its author, has become as lauded among British cyclists
as it is on the continent. Indeed, some have even gone so far as to produce
cycle jerseys in the colours of the fictional teams against whom Krabbes
rider races. There cant be many books whose fans feel so passionately
about them that they create tribute t-shirts.
PS May 08
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