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French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour De France


French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour De France

In Tim Moore's third book he continues to stake his claim to a
place on the short list of smart, irreverent and very funny travel
writers. Moore is in excellent company; the closest comparisons I
can think of are Mark Twain, especially in INNOCENTS ABROAD, and
Bill Bryson, with THE LOST CONTINENT: Travels in Small Town America
and A WALK IN THE WOODS: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian

In FRENCH REVOLUTIONS, Moore recounts his experiences bicycling the
route of the 2000 Tour de France. At age 36, he allowed himself six
weeks to cover the 2,256 mile course (minus a couple of shortcuts),
which the Tour racers would pedal over three weeks later that
summer. As might be expected of a good travel book, even a comical
one, FRENCH REVOLUTIONS provides historical and factual information
about the Tour and about champions such as Eddie Merckx, Bernard
Hinault, and Lance Armstrong. Moore obviously respects the athletic
accomplishments of those heroes but he is also fascinated by the
exploits of less well-known characters. These include cyclists Tom
Simpson, who died during the 1967 Tour of heart failure caused by
ephedrine found in both his pocket and his liver (Simpson's last
words were, "Put me back on the bloody bike"); Maurice Garin, who
was disqualified after finishing first in 1904 because "he had
employed the unimaginative but devastatingly effective measure of
forgoing his bicycle in favour of a railway carriage during some of
the longer stages;" and Pierre Brambilla, who dropped out of the
scorching-hot 1948 Tour in agony, buried his bike in his garden,
and never raced again.

In addition to sharing oddball Tour trivia (which, as a casual
reader I found pretty interesting), Moore takes advantage of every
opportunity to make fun of himself and the French. Beginning on
Page One with a description of his own very modest biking
background --- "I find that my cycling memories are imbued less
with a nostalgic sepia glow than a stark fluorescent glare of fear
and failure" --- Moore hilariously recounts his trials and
misadventures pedaling through heat and snow, battling mountains
and traffic, within the limits of his painfully unathletic
physiology. A typical bit of slapstick involves Moore's attempts to
emulate Tour cyclists who, rather than stop to pee in the bushes,
have mastered the art of "widdling on the wing." Moore also
comically spears Tour organizers, promoters, sponsors, and travel
offices; for example, in the town of Limoges, "the over-staffed and
under-customered tourist office seemed profoundly sceptical of the
concept of buildings with bedrooms and restaurants that tourists
could stay in."

My only reservation in recommending FRENCH REVOLUTIONS to an
American audience is that Moore, a writer for British
Esquire and Vanity Fair, seems to be very
British. I found many of his references to television shows, films,
products, and the like to be a bit mystifying. Aside from that,
though, this is a funny and enjoyable light read.

Reviewed by Michael J. Dooris ( on January 22, 2011

French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour De France
by Tim Moore

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2003
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 0312316127
  • ISBN-13: 9780312316129