Book Reviews

Shadows on the Road: Life at the Heart of the Peloton, from US Postal to Team Sky by Michael Barry

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List Price: £17.99

 

Hardcover: 272 Pages.

Published: 01 May 2014 by Faber & Faber

Edition: Main

ISBN: 0571297714

EAN: 9780571297719

In 2012, veteran cyclist Michael Barry announced his retirement from the sport. Weeks later he testified against his former team mate Lance Armstrong, as part of the USADA investigation.In a stunning piece of writing, Barry explores the dreams and passion of a young, idealistic cycling fan from Toronto, what it was like to go on to ride as a teammate alongside such giants of the sport as Lance Armstrong, Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, and how those dreams were compromised early on in his career by a sport in crisis.

But it is also the story of his eleven years riding clean, before and after his time in the notorious US Postal Team. What was it like to head for Europe at such a young age, and what was it like to escape the environment of doping, to try and start again, all the time aware that past actions may one day catch up with him?

Reviews

3.0 Stars3.0 Stars3.0 Stars  by Anne

Mixed feelings - not sure what the book was trying to achieve

Some of this book is excellent. The author conveys well the passion that he has for cycling and gives us a flavour of the pressures and the atmosphere of life in the peloton as a "domestique". I thought that the writing throughout the book was excellent and that the bits when he concentrates on his emotions about cycling and his feelings about the life conveyed to me, as an enthusiastic observer, what drives people like him to devote themselves to the sport.

Where the book came unstuck for me was in the way in which he is very vague about the facts. Michael Barry mentions a number of teams that he rode for in this book but because his story is curiously nonlinear and often devoid of dates I didn't get an idea of how long he rode for which team or even in what order they came. I also didn't always follow who his fellow riders were in each team. This shouldn't matter if what the author is doing is to convey his impressions about the cycling life but he then spends some time talking about the doping situation in US Postal when he rode alongside Lance Armstrong and explains how he came to take performance enhancing drugs himself - all sorts of details are absent here including how long he took them, who provided them, who else took them with him, what exactly he took, how they made him feel, etc. etc. I can understand that he may not be in a position to share some of this but he doesn't explain that this is the case.

I am not sure why this book was written. If it is to explain why he felt driven to dope and ask forgiveness then it is partially successful - certainly his writing conveys repentance. If it is to be another revelation of what happened during those dark years in cycling then it needed a lot more detail as there is nothing new here. If it is to give us a glimpse into the

cycling world and what cycling meant to him then it is more successful. I didn't learn any more about the doping scandal after reading this book and nor did I get a factual overview of Michael Barry's career but I did get a feel for his life as a professional cyclist - sadly that was not enough to make this book totally successful. I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley.

 
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