Thursday, 22 May 2008

Breakaway, Samuel Abt (1985)

Random House 0-394-54679-2 178pp $16.95

Sameul Abt is a long-time follower of the Tour de France and the continential racing scene, mostly in his capacity as deputy editor of the International Herald Tribune. His books are year-long pieces of reportage that tell the tale of the great French race through dozens of individual narratives – of mechanics, riders, managers, sponsors and reporters. This book takes as its subject the 1984 tour – the year that Laurent Fignon got one over on Bernard Hinault. It was also Robert Millar’s best ever tour – he came forth in the general classification and won the King of the Mountains. Abt is a brilliant journalist, with a fine ear for a story and an ability to pluck out telling details. There are really no books to touch his for evoking the glamour, oddity and daily grind of a great cycling tour. Indeed, the value of his books increases as time goes by, as they allow the reader to reimmerse themselves – or immerse themselves, in may cases, in a bygone age.

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