Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Book Review: The Rider, by Tim Krabbé

An utterly engrossing book, "The Rider" by Tim Krabbé is a first-person account of a competitor in a French amateur cycling race. Kilometer by kilometer, the author describes, economically, but with plausible feeling, the range of emotions he goes through. It is clear that he rides for the love of cycling, but his writing reveals the mental calculations, often not very flattering, that go through the mind of a rider. A chess player, he is out on the road playing a form of chess with his opponents, considering their weaknesses, weighing their histories, examining his own position on the board, so to speak.

In this short book about a 150 km long race, Tim Krabbé also travels back in his mind, recalling legends of bike racing as well as his own dreams of sporting success in Holland. These include some wonderful absurdist episodes, including a brief "Little ABC of Road Racing" where he fantasizes about riding with Merckx and Anquetil and the other greats in a series of bizarre circumstances. And all through this one is conscious of the race going on, the change of scenery and weather and how the cyclist must constantly monitor his situation-now trying to make up for his downhill lack of skills, now attacking as the others weaken, now preparing for a sprint. One is struck by the fundamental cruelty of the sport, how one must endure pain and inflict it as well.

Anyone who has ridden fairly seriously will love this book, as will those who admire strong, clean writing. The author has brilliantly portrayed a concentrated moment. This is a world of intense focus and narrow but exhilarating boundaries.

2 comments:

The Historian said...

A very good review on an even better blog. Congratulations!

Sprocketboy said...

Thank you very much. There number of cycling books that rank as true literature can, I suspect, be counted on the fingers of one thumb! It is fun to share this book with friends.