During my jolly hols I read, Jean Bobet’s ‘Tomorrow We Ride…’ and Stephen Roche’s ‘Born to Ride’ in that order.
Jean, often remembered as the brother of the great post war French cycle champion Lousion Bobet, was a great rider in his own right, winning the World Student Cycling Championships in 1949 and commendable positions in numerous major races for a decade following. A self-proclaimed lover of Ernest Hemingway’s work, Bobet eventually turned his back on racing and pursued his true dream and became a writer.
Stephen Roche, an Irish champion hailing from the 1980s, famously tucked the Tour, The Giro and World Championships under his belt in 1987 – a wondrous achievement he shared with legendary Eddy Mercyx.
Admittedly when it comes to major successes you could argue Bobet and Roche are in a different class and they did of course ride in different eras. But regardless of wins and regardless of time, some things will always ring true – the hell of Ventoux, the pressures of endorsement, the complex relationship between riders and the Directeur Sportif, the curse of injury and of course the joy of finding of true form on the bike.
Bobet’s tale captures the imagination, so seductive is his eloquent exploration of what is it was to be cyclist in the 1950s, we found ourselves dreaming with him, turning the pages desperate to know what happens next. He is both careful and considered as he dissects the relationships around him. Throughout the book he philosophises and reflects. This is much more than a book about cycling, it as an insight into what it is to love as a brother.
Roche’s offering is straight forward. With Roche we are presented with a quick thinking and hungry strategist. He talks us through his races with a meticulous attention to technical details, the gear ratios he opted for, the bike setup, the routines. He painstakingly recalls those crucial milliseconds of thought before his legendary attacks. Roche allows us a glimpse into the mind of a powerful and determined winner; he is at times boastful, but deservedly so. It is painful to read about his demise towards the end of his career, albeit the natural order of things, you do have empathy.
The honest truth is I admire Roche’s tenacity, but I don’t particularly warm to him. You can’t help but wonder how and why the relationships throughout his life crumble and fall like decayed dominos. Roche has all the trophies and all the medals, yet for me Bobet reveals himself to be a true winner, because in him we find a man that identifies with something more than a desire to be a champion, and when the races finish you need that.
I bought my books from Condor Cycles.