Book Reviews

Mountain Kings: Agony and Euphoria on the Peaks of the Tour De France by Giles Belbin

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List Price: £16.95

 

Paperback: 256 Pages.

Published: 15 May 2013 by Punk Publishing Ltd

Edition: 1st Edition

ISBN: 1906889597

EAN: 9781906889593

The Tour de France is one of the world's most renowned and best-loved sporting events, and its challenging climbs are the stuff of pure legend. In Mountain Kings, author and cycling journalist Giles Belbin gets up close and personal to the Tour's most iconic peaks and the indomitable heroes who've powered their way up them. Belbin has selected and cycled 25 of these classic mountain climbs to give a compelling and personalised account, reflecting upon the legendary tales from the Tour, its history and the heroes that have made France's famous road race such an enduring and popular sporting event. Mountain Kings features profiles on the most influential and memorable climbers of the Tour, plus background on the event's creation, its history and highlights. Featuring all the must-know stats for each climb alongside breathtaking photography and evocative descriptions of the ride, this book forms a stunning celebration of the Tour's relationship with the majestic mountains of this historic road race, to capture the imagination of every Tour fan.

Reviews

3.0 Stars3.0 Stars3.0 Stars  by Anne

A mixed bag

I have had some difficulty in assessing who the target audience for this book is, I feel that it is a little unfocussed in its presentation of material and a bit confused in its aims.

The book is divided into short chapters each talking about a famous climb on the Tour de France. Some details are given about each one ; how steep it gets, how many times it has been climbed in the history of the Tour, etc. There is also an odd gradient profile diagram for each one which told me nothing. The narrative in each chapter is made up of small chunks - some is about the author's experience in cycling up the climb and some tells the story of dramatic moments on that climb. The author's bit is chatty and tells us about what he saw and experienced on the day on which he made the climb. This is fine for people who like informal travel books but it is a bit monotonous should you read this a lot of this book in one go as it mostly consists of telling you how steep it was and how difficult it was to ride up it. The other snippets about each individual climb and its dramatic moments are interesting although if you have read a lot about the Tour you will know about most of these moments already. I was surprised too that there were no pictures of the great historical moments that the author

describes. This book is full of photos but the ones of the climbs do all seem to have been taken by the author when he visited and are distinctly average (they are also infuriatingly not labelled so if you see an interesting looking building you have no idea what it is unless the author has referenced it in the text). Scattered around the pages are also larger print quotations from the text for no reason that I can understand as if you read the page you will read these words in context - I am not sure why we need them twice. Interspersed with the chapters on the climbs are individual chapters about great names in the sport who have had an ability to climb mountains. This is a two page potted biography of each and thus doesn't go into very much detail and is obviously gleaned from secondary sources. What he does include is curious - how many siblings they have, for instance but nothing much about marriages in most cases. I couldn't see any order for the placing of these biographies, it is certainly not chronological.

This is a full book with lots of pictures and some facts. It is not a travel commentary in the true sense because there isn't enough of it and it is mixed with a lot of text. It would appeal to an avid Tour fan who is interested in the iconic climbs of the race but there isn't a lot about them and what there is is mixed up with the travel elements. The biographies of the riders are nice to have in one place but there would be nothing new there for a fan. If you were relatively new to the Tour though I would question whether you would want to read a book solely about mountains rather than a good introduction to the history of the event of which there are plenty.

I have been an armchair fan of the Tour for many years and I found this book entertaining enough but I wanted more depth and focus. I can't see that I will pick it up often in the future.

 
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