They perfectly set the tone for the book itself: laconic, filled with diary-like, banal observations, but then subtly exploding into terse kernels of truth, pathos, and caustic humor. The Rider, which did not appear in English until , has become a touchstone in cycling, passed like samizdat among a clandestine tribe. What makes The Rider so great—beyond the immediate dramatic arc of its sporting narrative—is the way it captures, at such short length, the entirety of the cycling experience. The harder you work, the smaller it gets. There are the brief asides that perfectly illuminate the oft-perverse dynamics of the sport; e. And, lastly, the Nietzschean fulminations about the soft underbelly of modern life.
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Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses; people have become woolly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken a one-hour bicycle ride.
Instead of expressing their gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lady with few friends these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms, she rewards passionately. Every single word has significance and nothing is wasted. The book is only pages and went by in a flash. It took me two sessions to read four if you count the naps on the couch I had in-between each.
I loved every minute of that 6hrs. Nearly every paragraph contains innuendos and significance that could only be penned by a seasoned bike rider who has a deep understanding of the sport. Here are just a few to give you a taste of what this book is about: Page 9 After one kilometer, a minuscule rider with a lack rag-mop attacks: Despuech.
This race lasts kilometers. Despuech is crazy. Always attack as late as you can, but before the others do. Page 19 Bicycle racing is a sport of patience. Lebusque will stay out in front for kilometers. Where would we be without Lebusque? Page 20 Every once in a while someone along the road lets us know how far behind we are.
Page 32 The crowd falls for it every time. How often have I seen people clapping and cheering for a rider who, having been lapped six times, pushes on bravely? Page 41 Kilometer So what if I attack right here? Then my chances would be reduced. Page 53 Fourty-three nineteen. My gear lever feels like a scab on a wound. During our reconnaissance ride I was using forty-three twenty here. My twenty was still as clean as a whistle. Shifting is a kind of painkiller, and therefore the same as giving up.
After all, if I wanted to kill my pain, why not choose the most effective method? Road racing is all about generating pain. Pate 60 I look at a girl in the crowd. She know Hinault fell into a ravine, but not the names of the classics he won. What gives her the right to raise her voice? I hate her. Page 65 My whole life had only one goal: making that last wheel, here, now. I was wasted. I coughed and slobbered. A few hysterical kicks on the thirteen, then clenched power of a mortal struggle.
I was there. I was sitting on that last wheel. I was in the lead group. Page 69 Road racing imitates life, the way it would be without the corruptive influence of civilization.
To help him to his feet. I road racing, you kick him to death. Page That I always choose the Bedoin side [of Mt Ventoux ] is not because of Simposon, but because that time trial began there as well. That way I can compare my times with those of the champions. Charly Gaul came in first at 1 hour, 2 minutes and 9 seconds, which is still the record. He was taken from the summit to his hotel in an ambulance…With my best time, I would have been the last of the non-eliminated riders.
When I got back to Bedoin it turned out that I had descended from the Ventoux a full three minutes faster than Gaul had climbed it.
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Essential Reading | The Rider by Tim Krabbé
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