Review of Chris Froome – The Climb.
Last week I received a copy of Chris Froome – The Climb for my birthday, and have spent the past two weeks reading it. I have enjoyed the book, and have read at quite a quick pace. It is an unusual and quite intriguing cycling story. Gangly Kenyan born Brit learns to ride mountain bike with local Kenyan cyclists and despite multiple crashes, having to impersonate officials and coping with tropical diseases, manages to work his way into the European pro cycling scene.
Even if it stopped there, it would be quite an interesting story – a triumph of will and determination over adversity and an unlikely background for a pro cyclist. Of course, it doesn’t stop at just getting into a pro team, Froome has gone on to win the Tour de France twice, Olympic bronze and has come very close in the Vuelta twice. If all that wasn’t enough drama for a wannabe cyclist, Froome was fated to be the first winner of the Tour de France, since the very public expose of the greatest doping scandals in cycling (if not sport).
There was a time when cyclists were heroes, and any awkward questions were swept under the carpet. But, post-Lance – and anyone who has the temerity to win a race, is subject to the latent suspicion and, at times, hostility of those who are fed up with the unending doping scandals that have blighted the sport in recent decades. What might have been celebrated as a romantic story – “The guy who went from the African bush to the Champs Elysees podium” – has – to an extent – been overshadowed by questions of where did this guy come from? If he was this talented, why wasn’t he winning bigger and earlier?
A strong theme in the book is that Chris gets to tell his side of the story. How he started, how he became a better cyclist, how he missed out, why race performances often didn’t match training data. A cynic might say, it is a long attempt at self-justification, but I didn’t feel that. Everyone tells their story in a way to portray themselves in the best light. Especially given the sub-plots circulating around pro cycling, I wouldn’t have expected anything else.
In many ways the early chapters are amongst the strongest in the book. It is just a very different life – brought up feeding pet rabbits to your pet python, the only white boy training with Kenyan locals and learning to ply his trade on a mountain bike bought from a supermarket. This is boys own stuff, and makes the Otley CC Sunday run through Yorkshire Dales look like a walk in the park. Continue Reading →