Buy This Book: Blazing Saddles: The Cruel & Unusual History of the Tour de France

July will always find Gary and me one of two places: glued to the TV watching Tour de France coverage or in France, watching as many stages as we can catch in person. I first heard of le Tour 27 years ago when I met Gary, who was into bike racing in Bozeman, Montana and rode his bike an average of 40 miles/day. (Suppressing a sigh as I recall what that did for his backside...but I digress.) My first impression of this epic sporting event was a mix of horrified fascination and a non-competitor's cynicism. Over the years, it's grown to an avid love for the extraordinary history, humanity, and thrill of every stage. Howling, head-butting, bloodied bodies, beautiful girls, naked old men and costumed characters running alongside riders decked out and teched out in state of the art socks and ear pieces. The yearning, the road rash, the unforgiving climbs and breakneck descents through panoramic mountains and quaint old villages--we can't get enough.

But don't take my word for it. Check out Matt Rendell's Blazing Saddles: The Cruel & Unusual History of the Tour de France for a crash course on a whole lot of interesting stuff that happened way before Lance Armstrong brought the event to the attention of the mass audience in America. From the flap:
In this fascinating book, award-winning sports writer Matt Rendell covers every corner of "La Grande Boucle," from the eccentric couture of the first Tour winner (white blazer, black trousers, wool socks) to the earliest method of cheating (riding the train). "Blazing Saddles" recounts the famous rivalries and riders that contested the Tour, setting the score straight with complete records of every podium finisher. Rendell's vivid storytelling is complemented with more than 100 classic black-and-white photographs, portraying cycling's heroes and martyrs from Jacques Anquetil to Lance Armstrong.
Le Tour de France is covered live every morning on Versus. Since I was juggling travel and deadlines the first half of the month, I signed up for the Versus Tour Tracker that lets me watch stages on demand in HD on my computer and gives me moment-by-moment GPS updates on the breakaways and peleton while the race is in progress.


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