Wednesday, 12 November 2014
BOOK REVIEW - CLIMBS AND PUNISHMENT
I was amazed to learn that, although one of the main voices in cycling in the UK, Felix had yet to turn pedals in anger prior to this adventure. This fact makes his feat, riding from Barcelona to Rome via Hannibal's Alpine route, all the more astonishing.
Add to it the fact that his "rest" days were used to climb Alpe d'Huez twice in the same day, Ventoux (only once though) and various detours from the planned route, and you have a truly outstanding story.
While other cycling books tend to be sensationalist with various doping tell-all blubber, this one is a refreshing account of a non-pro like any of us, albeit a lot taller than most of us.
We've all spent countless hours recounting tales of pain and elation at conquering mean climbs, embarrassing mishaps and legendary bad weather days, and this is the core of this tale.
Using the route taken by Hannibal and following his footsteps, or rather hoofsteps, on his march to Rome, Felix and the rest of the gang ride 2,800km through the Pyrenees, Ventoux (just for fun), the Alps, half of Italy down the Apennine spine, through Tuscany with his Chianti region.
Lowe is very erudite and witty, his sense of humour is used to portray his companions but also to show his own aloofness and inexperience as he only had less than a year to prepare for this trip.
There are tales of Hannibal and his army of elephants, tales of cycling, current and vintage, and plenty of wine choices to complement mouthwatering culinary masterpieces.
If you love cycling and history this book is certainly the best combination. Beware, the author does not hold back when writing about problems of the bowels or trying to hide his private parts from semitransparent lycra shorts. But he did write stadia as a plural for stadium, that alone deserves a 10/10.