Wednesday 17 January 2018

Excuses not part of Boardman's cycling memoirs

Dean Goodison - book review

Chris Boardman - Triumphs and Turbulence
Chris Boardman - Triumphs and Turbulence

There has been a succession of cycling books released in the last year or so, some good, some dull. Most of them are heavily focused on road racing, and in particular, the Tour de France.

Another big similarity between them is the undercurrent of performance enhancing drugs that sullies the achievements within. Yet, the latest is a bit different.

Chris Boardman is a lone wolf when it comes to artificial enhancers. He is one of the only competitors of his era that has kept his reputation as a clean rider.

Alasdair Fotheringham talks about it in his recent publication, 'The End of the Road', and it's backed up by several cyclists of those years.

Maybe a bitter man might lace his autobiography with hard luck stories and let the anger and frustration of competing against a group of drugged-up riders ruin his own story.

But Boardman's publication, 'Triumphs and Turbulence', does little more than hint about the uphill challenge he faced. He doesn't make excuses, despite being entitled to.

It's part of the reason why this book is, by and large, an interesting read, but there are several others. Firstly, the author steers clear of the blow-by-blow accounts of his greatest achievements. Indeed, the Olympic gold medal-winning performance at Barcelona '92 is given a mere chapter.

The most in-depth analysis that Boardman gives about his cycling is on the 'race against the clock', rather than his competitors. His several attempts at breaking the furthest distance travelled in an hour, on the velodrome, are given plenty of emphasis, coming as they do at different stages of his career.

Yet, what Boardman gets across, that many sportspersons fail to do when writing an autobiography, is that he is more than a cyclist. He's not defined by what he has done on two wheels, as he has a big family and plenty of interests outside the sport.

Indeed, approximately half the book is given up to his career on the track. The reader learns about Boardman's formative years, growing up on The Wirral, the early interests, the school struggles and the slow-burning love affair with cycling.

More than the final third of the publication deal with the years after Boardman's retirement. He moved into broadcasting, and the stories from that time carry some interest, but much of the section is about the strides he, and his team, made in research and development for Great Britian's Olympic cycling team.

It does get quite technical at times and that might turn some off, but if you have an interest in that type of thing, several of the chapters are fantastic. It does make the reader wonder how successful the Great Britain cycling team would have been at the last few Olympics without the strides being made off the track.

While steering away from the drugs angle altogether - it's hardly even mentioned - Boardman does discuss his team's run-ins with the U.C.I. with regards the set up of bikes and equipment. Some of the stories leave the reader wondering where the sport would be today if they were as forward about fighting the P.E.D. problem.

Who will buy this book? Well, the casual cycling fan will certainly enjoy it as it's often light and breezy. As well as that, the real afficionado will surely have great interest in the technical aspects of the sport discussed in the latter stages of the book.

For the general sports fan it's another of those cycling books. Out of them all maybe this has the best mix of light-hearted stories, the drama of winning and losing, but still is able to give the reader a strong insight into the sport on the road and the track.

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