Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review: "chasing the chimney sweep"


Since I don't have any current training exploits to write about, and there is no new beer brewing in the LBK to discuss, I thought I'd use this space to do a quick review of a book that I just finished called "Chasing the Chimney Sweep" (ISBN-13: 978-0143020349). I selected this book back in June in anticipation of the upcoming Tour de France.  Written by Selwyn Parker, it consists of paralleling stories about bicycling and France.  The story recounts the author's (and his companions) modern day attempt to trace (by bicycle) the route of the original Tour de France, which was organized in 1903 by L'Auto, a struggling newspaper that created the event as a publicity stunt aimed at increasing circulation.  Throughout these travels, Mr. Parker intertwines key events from the race with his own experiences riding around France during one of the hottest summers on record. 
The 6 stages of the first Tour de France
Since I had the opportunity to read this as the 2012 race was unfolding, it provided an interesting contrast between vintage and modern cycling.  For example, the original racers rode heavy, fixed gear bicycles (compare that with carbon framed, electronic shifting cycles of today).  The original race  consisted of six stages that averaged 400km each (almost 250 miles) and racers would often travel through the night.  They weren't allowed to receive any outside support, so if they had a mechanical, it was up to them to fix it (although there were a few ways around this).  During the 2012 tour, the longest stage was Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne / Annonay DavĂ©zieux (Stage 12) which came in at 226 kilometers (about 140 miles).  If you've watched a modern race, you also know the unprecedented level of support that riders get in the Tour's modern incarnation.
Maurice Garin, winner of the 1903 Tour
Although this book is packed with many details about the original race, it is really more a chronicle of the Author's adventures with his wife and friends during a month-long route through France.  Selwyn Parker shares his idyllic vision of touring the French countryside by bicycle, and the imperfect, and sometimes miserable reality of traveling by bicycle.  Although there are portions of the book where his seemingly endless quest for room/board, and a good cup of coffee become a little redundant, his honest accounting of the experience makes for a more interesting story overall.  This book is not a page-turner in the sense that you are dying to know what happens next, but it is an easy to read book that you can fall in and out of over the course of  a few weeks.  
If you have an interest in bicycles, travel, and the Tour de France you will probably enjoy reading this book.  However, if you are the type of reader who needs more plot, character, and more historical details, this might not be your first choice for a read.  
Bradley Wiggins, 2012 Winner

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