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Best cycling books

Best cycling books
(Image credit: Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash)

Sometimes when riding just isn’t enough, and we love to immerse ourselves into the world of cycling for an extra hit. Whether you want to imagine yourself crossing the finish line in the final stage of the Tour de France, or read up on the politics and scandal of doping, there are plenty of cycling books to keep you going.

Here’s our pick of the best cycling books, to inspire your next race or escape for a bit of excitement in the saddle.

Colombian cycling

(Image credit: Amazon)

Colombia Es Pasión! (W&N) by Matt Rendell

The resurrection of Colombian cycling

Journalist Matt Rendell is the author of a number of books on cycling, and Colombian cycling, in particular, including 2002's Kings of the Mountains, about the nation of climbers, and his 2004 book, A Significant Other, about Victor Hugo Peña.

Here, with Colombia Es Pasión!, Rendell effectively updates the story, chronicling the more-recent resurrection of Colombian cycling, and the nation's riders' successes in Europe, in particular, with Nairo Quintana's victories at the 2014 Giro d'Italia and 2016 Vuelta a España, and Egan Bernal's somewhat surprising win at the Tour de France last year – a first for Colombia, tipping the riders' countrymen and women into full-on euphoria.


Tour de France

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The Yellow Jersey (Yellow Jersey) by Peter Cossins

Delving deep into the yellow jersey's history

It's been 101 years since the yellow jersey was first awarded to the leader of the famous French stage race. The maillot jaune celebrated its centenary last year, having first been introduced in 1919 to the then 16-year-old race to help roadside fans identify the rider leading the competition overall.

Former Procycling magazine editor Peter Cossins delves deep into the jersey's history to discover how what was once giggled at as nothing but an exuberant, canary-coloured garment became – and continues to be – such a revered symbol of cycling success.


Tour de France

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The End of the Road (Bloomsbury Sport) by Alasdair Fotheringham

Looking back at the almost catastrophic 1998 Tour de France

To understand today's hard-nosed stance against doping, you need to reach back to the almost catastrophic happenings of the 1998 Tour de France, when Festina soigneur Willy Voet was caught en route to the start of the race in Ireland that year with a carload of doping products bound for the team's riders.

It led Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc to admit later that it almost spelled the end of the Tour itself, although with his and successor Christian Prudhomme's help, the race has clawed its way back to its rightful place in the French public's hearts.

Regular Cyclingnews contributor Alasdair Fotheringham expertly tells the story of a truly memorable edition of the race – for bad and good – which saw crowd favourite Marco Pantani emerge as the winner from the remnants of that year's decimated Tour peloton.

Interviews

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The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling's Golden Generation (Gill Books) by Barry Ryan

The story of two of Ireland's biggest cycling stars

In The Ascent, Cyclingnews European editor Barry Ryan weaves together in-depth interviews with two of Ireland's – and the sport's – biggest cycling stars, Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche. Between them, country-boy Kelly and city-slicker Roche hoovered up just about everything worth winning in the sport, including Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia multiple times, seven Paris-Nice titles between 1982 and 1988, and the 1988 Vuelta a España for Kelly, and the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the road race World Championships for Roche during what was a particularly dizzying 1987.

Both riders' careers lasted well into the 1990s, and Kelly's pro career started in the late 1970s, but it was the 1980s that the Irish duo truly dominated, taking on the traditional dominance of riders from Spain, France and Italy – all expertly documented here by Ryan.


Tour de France

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Ventoux: Sacrifice and Suffering on the Giant of Provence (Simon & Schuster) by Jeremy Whittle

A brilliant telling of the mountain's story

Students of the Tour de France's epic climbs generally agree on the two greatest: the legendary Alpe d'Huez and the infamous Mont Ventoux. Much of the latter's notoriety stems from British rider Tom Simpson's death on the climb's southern flanks during the 1967 Tour.

But there are more, slightly less-dark strings to the Ventoux's bow, and the mountain's story is told brilliantly here by long-time cycling journalist and author Jeremy Whittle, who's more qualified than most on the subject, having spent more than his fair share of time in the surrounding area, living in the shadow of Le Géant de Provence.


Oldie but a goodie

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Rough Ride (Yellow Jersey) by Paul Kimmage

An extremely enjoyable account of life in the pro peloton

An oldie but goodie – and arguably the gateway to the glut of similarly well-written cycling literature that suddenly came, and continues to come, in the wake of this 1990 William Hill Sports Book of the Year winner – Paul Kimmage's tale of being a pro in the late 1980s is an essential read.

Now a respected journalist, the Irishman was vilified by a number of his former colleagues for having 'spat in the soup' with his revelations of doping in the peloton, but there's a lot more here besides that side of the book, which remains an extremely enjoyable and still-relevant account of life in the pro peloton.


Spring Classics

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The Ronde: Inside the Tour of Flanders, the World's Toughest Bike Race (Simon & Schuster) by Edward Pickering

A look into what is a sacred race for Belgian cycling fans

Procycling editor Edward Pickering's love for the Tour of Flanders shines throughout this book, which details what is a sacred race for Belgian cycling fans – akin to the FA Cup in the UK, or the Super Bowl in the US. 

Pickering explores the Ronde van Vlaanderen's history and appeal, and speaks to those who've experienced it first-hand in order to paint a full picture of one of the hardest one-day races on the cycling calendar.


Redemption story

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One Way Ticket: Nine Lives on Two Wheels (Quercus) by Jonathan Vaughters

The origins of American WorldTour team EF Pro Cycling

 

Jonathan Vaughters rode for the likes of US Postal and Crédit Agricole during a pro career that stretched from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, and then admitted in 2012 that he had doped for much of it.

In his final year as a rider, however, Vaughters sought to mitigate his own wrongdoings by starting a US-based junior team that has grown and blossomed into what is today American WorldTour team EF Pro Cycling, which in previous guises became somewhat of a safe haven for former dopers who had mended their ways. This is Vaughters' story.

Just for fun

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Richard Mitchelson's Grand Tour: A Two-Wheeled, Chain-Driven Interactive Artistic Adventure (Velodrome Publishing) by Richard Mitchelson

An activity book for that big kid in your life

Perfect for that big kid in your life (and if you don't think there is one, it's you), Richard Mitchelson has put together this big book of Grand-Tour-related fun, which perhaps has more appeal than ever given that the Giro d'Italia has already been postponed and the Tour de France could be next in line.

You'll no doubt know 'Rich Mitch' the illustrator, thanks to his cartoon portraits of various pro riders, past and present, who have found themselves immortalised on mugs and wallpaper, among other merchandise, and readers will find lots to keep them occupied in this wonderfully irreverent book full of activities, from drawing your own Tour de France route, to dot-to-dots, to designing jerseys.