First off apologies to Bill McGann of McGann Publishing for not reviewing Tourmen - The Men Who Made The Tour de France earlier than this. Bill kindly sent me a copy of the book back in August and it has taken me this long to write the review. Yes I know, terrible! But hey, better late than never.
There are plenty of books on the market focused on bike racing and particularly the most famous of races the Tour de France. What differentiates this book from the others is the knowledge that the author Les Woodland brings. Woodland has been writing about cycling since the mid-sixties and this is his 25th book. There are not many who can claim to be better qualified than Woodland to write about the men who started the Tour de France, and those who run it now.
That is essentially what this book is all about, the people and organisations who made the Tour what it is today. Broken down into six parts with multiple chapters in each Woodland takes us back to a time before the Tour had been conceived. He describes it's conception and evolution through the decades up to the present day. Along the way topics such as organisation, riders rights, war, sponsorship, teams, technology, language and doping are discussed in relation to the development of the biggest bike race in the World.
What really makes the book particularly interesting for me though is the depth to which Woodland describes the many tales, some obscure and previously unheard of to my knowledge, of those people involved in the Tour's history. Woodland delivers these tales in his own fascinating and humorous style and it is this ingredient that most appeals. An example of this is the not so humorous but nevertheless fascinating tale of Henri Pélissier and his tragic end. The number of tales interwoven within the books pages are too many to mention here but they really shine a light on many almost forgotten events, events that helped shape the Tour.
In fact I have only one small grievance, the book feels like it flows less smoothly towards the end. Specifically the switch in choice of subject matter in the final few chapters varies more greatly. Maybe Woodland was just trying to fit as much as he could into the last few pages. That said the content is no less interesting and entertaining to what is an exceptional read and one that at this time of the year I would certainly recommend as a perfect stocking filler gift!
Tourmen - The Men Who Made The Tour De France is published by McGann Publishing and available worldwide.