This was a fun read – especially while we were spending a couple weeks following this year’s Tour de France. With a bit of bus travel and more than a few hours waiting for the peloton during our trip, we knew that we would have some time to dig into a few good books. Slaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de France fit the bill for me. This was a fantastic read that sucked me in from the first pages (yeck!). It is a fascinating reporting on the 1986 Tour de France which was the first Tour that featured a team from the States and ended with the first winner from the States, Greg LeMond. It was also the last Tour for Bernard Hinault – a hugely popular French cycling legend who today is still very influential and prominent in French cycling.
The story line revolves around the inter-team fireworks between the two leaders Hinault and LeMond and their agreement that frustrated both but also set the context for one of the most entertaining races in its history. Ultimately, the outcome solidified Hinault’s French popularity and position as a bit of a folk hero and LeMond as the first winner of the race from the USA and also a pivotal player in increasing salaries and the free market model in professional cycling.
It’s a story of characters – from the leaders, the managers, the owners and even the Tour’s officials. All involved seem to have been a bit off balanced at best. It’s a fast, enlightening and fun read. Though, it is very much an “inside baseball” story that may be difficult for a casual fan, if you follow cycling or are intrigued by this race, it is a good one to pick up.
And if you want to know why you shouldn’t have your favorite Mexican food delivered from California to France the night before an important ride, definitely check this one out (or at least review the Amazon Kindle sample which will give you that answer)