You already know that I'm a Tour de France fan. I would probably have to be with Rick as a partner! But what you might not know is that Rick's son is named Greg and that (in part) an influence behind that name was cyclist Greg Lemond, who won his first of three Tours in 1986.
Lemond was the first American to do so, and he did it by beating five-time winner Bernard Hinault of France, who was known as "The Badger."
"Slaying the Badger" chronicles this 1986 Tour de France, the two who competed for it, their rivalry and the careers that led to it. It's a great book for those who love cycling or are just fascinated by the Tour.
Richard Moore is a compelling interviewer and writer who relies heavily on interviews with both Lemond and Hinault, their teammates and others who worked with them. He paints a picture of remarkably different personalities from different backgrounds who are teammates -- and rivals.
Here's something about the Tour de France that you may or may not know -- and it holds true today.
When you are on a team, there is the leader, the "patron," and that is the person that the team sets up to be the GC or grand champion. Teams have climbers and sprinters and those known as "domestiques" who help their guy to win and keep him fed and watered on the long rides.
Now, there may well be other riders on the team who are as capable of winning the GC as the team leader is. Take a look at last year's winner Bradley Wiggins and this year's leader (as I write this), Chris Froome. Froome may well have won last year -- but he was told to hold back, to help Wiggins.
The same situation happened with Lemond and Hinault in 1985 -- and it didn't sit well with Lemond. He was told by Hinault and their team manager, Bernard Tapie, "Next year you will win."
But Hinault liked winning. Others had won five tours as well. Did Hinault want a sixth, record-breaking win more than fulfilling his promise to Lemond?
Moore pulls together a captivating story with lots of behind-the-scenes drama. He tells it well, and one can't help but learn a good deal about this sport by reading about these two champions.
"Slaying the Badger" will not be for everyone, of course. But if you find bicycle racing and the Tour fascinating -- or for that matter, if you appreciate the mechanics and mischief behind any sport, you may well enjoy this well written book.
This post is part of Paris In July, a series of blog posts across the net sponsored by Tamara of Thyme for Tea and Karen of Bookbath. Please link to their sites for other Paris (and France)-related posts.
This post is also cross-posted on my book blog, Chopsticks and String, which is primarily reviews of books.