If you are an English cycling fan, you will undoubtedly have heard of Geraint Thomas. He’s the skinny Welshman with the dark hair who valiantly fought for Chris Froome in this year’s Tour, even looking like he was in the running for a podium place himself at one point. He’s the guy the journalists and TV camera love, the guy with the jokey quips as he cools down after a day of extreme racing, even able to make jokes after hitting a lamppost head-first. He is so, so much more funny and interesting than the world’s most boring man, Richie Porte (Froome’s number 2 in the 2013 Tour) and even than “Froomey” himself.
So I was really looking forward to reading his autobiography, “The World of Cycling According to G”. Well, not really an autobiography as it was ghostwritten – you can’t be a fantastic cyclist AND a brilliant writer after all. Ultimately it lived up to my expectations – funny and enjoyable without being fantastic.
Firstly, there’s actually very little about G himself in there. Numerous chapters are dedicated to other cyclists or other members of the team – Froome, Wiggins, Cavendish… Or the team director, the physios, the drivers, the “swannies”. It is pretty interesting, not least because it’s nice to have a kind of voyuerish take on what cyclists like Cavendish are actually like in person, but it’s slightly disjointed.
That continues throughout the whole book in fact, the disjointed-ness. Individual chapters are great but there is nothing that really hangs it all together. Maybe a great book for commuting, reading one chapter on the tube a day?
Having said all that, it is a fantastic insight into not only the life of a Sky cyclist but also a gold medal track cyclist and I loved the chapters on the London Olympics and track cycling. It brought back those wonderful days to me – days that leave me with this huge sense of pride in being British, in looking st these wonderful athletes and knowing they were wonderful and Britain was wonderful and how fantastic were the London Olympics? I can’t get enough of reading about it.
You could tot up all those Olympic golds, from Athens onwards – or, should you want to save energy, add up the few events Britain didn’t win gold in, because it’ll be quicker.
On the other end of the post-Olympics glory is the Sky training camp in Tenerife – week-long sessions in starvation and pushing the body to the limit up some of the steepest climbs possible, with the wonderful celebration of a glass of wine and a steak on G’s birthday, which falls during the camps.
There is no shying away from the sheer pain that biking can bring – a fractured pelvis, a ruptured spleen, having to be lifted onto the bike as you can’t raise your leg high enough but still finishing the stage. The pain of being at the very back of a Tour race, just trying to hold on and finish within the cut-off, the top guys even braking around corners that you are struggling to get up. The exhaustion at the end of the day and the frustration at slight changes in schedule that might mean five minutes less precious sleep.
Or there are the releases of energy, often involving unfortunate-looking food being thrown around hotel rooms. Ketchup? Old, brown bananas? Tales of the off-season, cyclists at weddings getting drunk under the table, bad dancing, letting their hair down.
And it’s funny, including several paragraphs that had me laughing out loud on a New York subway:
People say you can’t beat the sound of supporters shouting your name. These people are not called Geraint. Can it be so hard to get someone’s name right when asking for an autograph? I’ve had so many pronunciations. Jer-ain’t. Grrr-ant. Grey-nant. A chap I used to bump into regularly in Manchester just called me Gareth…At least they were having a go. Some people won’t even attempt it… At least I’m not the Seychelles 800-metre runner Gaylord Silly. Or German alpine skier Fanny Chmelar.
Cue childish giggles and begging my little sister, Jilly, to marry a man with the surname Silly….
He also sets out a few of his tips for climbing, for descending, and G’s version of the Velominati rules including such gems as “don’t wear white shorts” – because you’ll be naked if it rains. But there are no detailed technical or bike maintenance sections, no detailed descriptions of particular training sessions or nutritional plans. Although he does emphasise the importance of nutrition not only in Brad’s Tour de France win but also in Sky’s general dominance.
So this is a book for… Well who is it for? I would say the dedicated cycle fan, except I suspect they would want more precise details and nerdy chat about derailleurs and tyre pressures and other things that I’m not really sure about. Perhaps your armchair cyclist? Ultimately, I enjoyed it, and if you want an easy, gossipy read about the life of a pro cyclist I would recommend it.