Boulting is an ITV sports' commentator who has specialised in the Tour De France since 2003. When he started he knew nothing about cycling racing which is more or less the position I am in now. Desoite having read his book. He writes for the army of sports fans, and cycling fans. It is a little sad that the bookwas published before Bradley Wiggins shot to national prominence by actually winning the TdF for Britain and before Lance Armstrong admitted using drugs; this makes the book outdated already.
Most of the book is a good-natured romp through France. He celebrates the courage of riders who fall off their bikes into barbed wire fences and then get back on again, still bleeding, to race eighty miles. He celebrates the dogged endurance of those who toil up mountains. He celebrates the madness of the army that follows the tour: the caterers and organisers, the lorry drivers, the journalists, the fans. He chronicles the difficulties of finding accommodation when an army has come to town, of getting your laundry done, and of holding TV interviews in multiple languages. A lot of this is wry humour and most of it is enjoyable although it got somewhat tedious towards the end. There is only so much you can brag about the life of a sports reporter. But mostly I enjoyed it.
My main problem with the book is that he seemed to assume that I, the reader, would have a similar level of knowledge to him. I suppose this is fair in a book aimed at the fans. I imagine his face and name are known to a lot of people. But I thought it was a little strange given (a) that he knew nothing about the TdF when he started and (b) his job is to communicate.
For example, it was cute to find that he comes from Bedford which Is where I live. But he talks about Stanley Street and Tavistock Street as though the whole world will know what he is talking about. Again, he regularly talks about the peloton ; this is something to do with the how the cyclists group together on the race, I think, but he never explains it and I don't really know what it is. A classic statement is "No Bastille Day! No Richard Virenque!" I know what Bastille Day is but I have no idea who Richard Virenque is. Time and again I was left in the dark; I think by the end I realised how little I cared.
His lack of explanation is all the more ironic when I think of the things I know (Wiggins winning and Armstrong doping) that he doesn't at the time of writing. So there is a curious, unsettling mismatch between what he knows and what I know.
The classic example is when he laughs at himself for saying in his very first TdF commentary that a certain rider has "kissed goodbye to his chance of winning the yellow jumper." He recalls this moment with shame. It took me another fifty pages before I realised what his mistake had been: apparently maillot jaune should be translated as yellow jersey.
At which point I realised that I didn't really care. I'm just not a fan.
Mildly amusing. June 2013; 376 pages