The tale of young Ned Boulting. Fresh-faced and innocent as he joins the ITV Tour de France coverage team in 2003. Transferred in from other, lesser, sports Ned is completely green in the ways of cycling – as the description of Gary Imlach quizzing him demonstrates. "They have teams? I didn't know that." But, being on that journey with Ned is part of the joy of this book. He knows he knows nothing, but he's going to have a crack at it anyway. And on the way he'll learn (hopefully in time so he doesn't completely mess it up).
While I didn't learn much about cycling as a sport, I learnt a lot about the behind the scenes action. Just how off the cuff some of those interviews are. Just how randomly some of the ideas are generated (Ned's suggestion to film a night camping out with the fans for example). And much, as both a journalist and a fan, he can be there every day and yet still seem part of a totally parallel organisation from the race itself. I don't think I ever imagined that the racers and the journalists were best friends, but the almost adversarial distinction between the two groups was a surprise. I'd always kinda assumed that the British journalists, at least, were more matey with the British riders than this tale suggests.
The book's chapters are a little all over the place. I don't think a single one stays in the same year for the whole chapter. But this allows Ned to bring us even more into his journey from complete beginner in 2003 through to a seasoned professional in 2010. However, as the book was written in 2011, nearly two years before I read it, time (and some of the cast) have moved on. Interestingly, especially given very recent events, are the three chapters devoted to one Lance Armstrong and Sherwen have taken.
As with the doping, a writer always risks getting caught out by things moving on after the book is written. In that case, the march of time hasn't made Ned look foolish. However, it was amusing to read him talk, with sadness, about Wiggins's Tour in 2010 as he totally failed to live up to Sky's expectation. Perhaps, he muses, Sky's plan will need to be about somebody other that Wiggins. Some younger, fresh, talent. Waiting to come through. Ahh, if only he could have had a rewrite in 2012!
Bookended with an only tenuously related tale of Ned waking up in Lewisham hospital after a cycling accident of his own after his first Tour de France. While not necessarily what readers are looking for in this memoir, it's inclusion is worthwhile for the punchline that it ends the book on alone. Overall it's a delightful story of somebody coming to both discover and love the sport of cycling, from the inside. It's hard not be charmed by the tale.
My 2012 edition came with an extra bonus of [b:How Cav Won the Green Jersey|13508198|How Cav Won the Green Jersey Short Dispatches from the 2011 Tour de France|Ned Boulting|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1330713341s/13508198.jpg|19060123]
tacked on the end. A much shorter tale of his attendance at the 2011 Tour de France, where after Cav pointed out how worthless the Green Jersey was because nobody ever remembers who won it, he went on to win it. Self-referentially, it includes an anecdote where Ned gives Cav a copy of this book [b:How I Won the Yellow Jumper|13154439|How I Won the Yellow Jumper Dispatches from the Tour de France|Ned Boulting|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1344371992s/13154439.jpg|16379845]
, and Cav asks him to sign it, as well as a terrible photograph of Cav holding the book and looking very shocked.