Written by Chris Froome (and David Walsh), Viking
Reviewed by: William
The success of any biographical work lies to a great extent on how interesting and/or dramatic that person’s life has been. With Froome there is plenty of good material – his childhood in Africa, making his way through the junior ranks of world cycling via Africa (a trailblazer in this European dominated sport) in at times a rather comical way. His nickname of ‘Crash’ Froome seems most apposite and the book is filled with amusing crashes and various incidents of endearing ineptitude.
One of these incidents (at the Tour of Egypt) starts out amusingly but then turns into life and death and demonstrates the reality of cycling outside of the gilded cage of professional cycling we see on television.
Further drama comes from serious illness and then we get into the meat of the book which is how Froome turned from being an occasionally talented but frequently disappointing cyclist into the world’s best. Unfortunately its not entirely clear how this happened – there does not appear to be any quick answer to how Froome turned from domestique into Grand Tour winner other than he finally managed to go into a race free of injury, properly trained and managed to avoid crashing.
Of course the cynic might mention drugs and the book does touch upon this dark chapter in cycling though it appears that Froome by avoiding the traditional routes into cycling managed to avoid this part of the sport. We get some insights into Froome’s first Tour de France where several team mates where thrown out for doping and we get occasional morsels on this topic but the lance Armstrong ‘affair’ is not really addressed.
Indeed this tale seems to lack a villain – Lance could have been that but all we are given is Bradley Wiggins. Hammered by David Millar in his excellent book, we get a similar view of a selfish, socially awkward and rather petulant individual rather than the jovial bon viveur that we see on our screens. Indeed it is the chapters on the 2012 Tour de France which are far more interesting for all that they reveal about the relationship between Froome and Wiggins.
For me, the most interesting passages relate to 2012 Tour de France. Your memory often cheats and I have often said that Wiggins would have beaten Froome in 2012 in a fair fight and vice versa in 2013, mainly because of the nature of the routes. However I forgot about the 1 ½ minutes Froome lost early on due to a puncture and Sky’s omission is providing support to their ‘plan B’ rider (i.e. designating someone to give Froome their spare wheel). This 1 ½ minutes plus the various moments when Froome appears stronger than Wiggins on the climbs poses a tantalising ‘what if’. This and some of the other passages about the internal goings on at Team Sky also provide insights and explanations into the dismal 2014 Tour de France for Team Sky. They appear to get tunnel vision and focus solely on ‘Plan A’ and can not easily contemplate shifting from that.
The insights into how Wiggins is in private when compared to his public persona are also interesting.
Now to conclude – despite the above, this is quite a light book – it is a celebration of Froome’s remarkable story rather than for example David Millar’s Racing Through the Dark which is a dark tale of redemption and is more about how the whole sport of cycling was damaged. This is a wholly more positive work and is written in a bright, breezy and accessible style. I would therefore recommend it for both the casual and committed cycling fan.
Next up…My Time by Bradley Wiggins – let’s hear his side of the story…