le Tour de France Reading List

The Tour de France is underway, which I know mostly because The Husband is suddenly not asking to go out for bike rides at 6 in the morning – he’s glued to the television at 5am instead. Which means more time for reading for me!  Ok, to be accurate, more sleeping-in time for me, because neither 5am nor 6am should even exist (I am not exactly a morning person), but then followed by more reading time!

So, whether you are a road cycling addict like my husband (and myself to a lesser extent), or you have one in the family – one who is going need something to get them through their Tour de France withdrawal come the end of July – here are some of our favourite cycling and Tour de France books!

tourdefranceTour de France: The Inside Story. Making the World’s Greatest Bicycle Race, by Les Woodland (on order @ NVCL)

For those relatively new to the Tour (like me, despite the husband’s best efforts to indoctrinate me), this title is a great overview of the its history, starting with its beginnings in 1903 as a promotional stunt to help save a floundering newspaper business, and following its evolution through the century up to present-day as it becomes the most-watched cycling event of the year.

lanterneLanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France, by Max Leonard
(on order @ NVCL)

Of course the winners of the Tour get all the fame and glory, but what about the guys who come in last? This new title chronicles the stories of those last-place finishers, some of which inspirational, with the riders’ perseverance and dedication later resulting in victories and podium places. But others are others are more on the irreverent side – like the one that stopped to sample some local wine, or the one whose doping cocktail not doing quite what they intended…

domestiqueDomestique, by Charly Wegelius

Not technically about the Tour de France but still a must-read for pro-cycling fans, this is a great behind-the-scenes book from the point of view of one of the unsung heroes of cycling – the Domestiques – whose job is to support their team leaders during the race, pushing themselves to the limit for someone else’s win. Wegelius was a pro-cyclist and domestique for 11 years, and his insights into that world are fascinating. This title was also the inaugural winner of the SweetSpot Cycling Book of the Year award in 2013.

riderevolutionRide the Revolution, by Suze Clemitson (on order @ NVCL)

While it’s great that La Course is now an annual event, and awesome to hear that a group of 7 women plan to ride the entire Tour de France route a day ahead of the men this year, there’s still no real women’s equivalent to the Tour de France. This inspirational title explores the world of women in cycling, telling the stories of those working as support staff on the men’s teams, journalists, and those pro-cyclists themselves working to bring mainstream exposure to their sport.

secretraceThe Secret Race, by Tyler Hamilton

And (sadly) what would any list about the Tour de France be without a couple titles on doping? Tyler Hamilton was a pro-cyclist on Lance Armstrong’s team, and this was the explosive book that finally exposed the truth about Armstrong, and the doping culture so pervasive in the cycling world at that time.


endoftheroadThe End of the Road: The Festina Affair and the Tour that Almost Wrecked Cycling, by Alasdair Fotheringham (on order @ NVCL)

Before the Armstrong bombshell, the cycling world was rocked by another, equally (if not more) damaging, doping scandal. This one was at the 1998 Tour, and began when a support staff member of the Festina team was stopped at the France-Belgium border and customs officials found a large cache of steroids, EPO, and other doping products in the team car.  The scandal quickly escalated, resulting in multiple police raids, arrests, and even rider strikes/sit-downs, and then later culminated in several trials, arrests, and bans from pro-cycling. This title offers a new, in-depth look at what became known as the Festina Affair, and its long-term consequences on the cycling world.

I hate to end on a buzzkill, so I’ll finish up this list with some lighter fare:

frenchrevFrench Revolutions, by Tim Moore

I’ve recommended Tim Moore’s hilarious 2014 book Gironimo before, and this is one of his earlier titles on a similar theme.  Long before he set out to to ride the infamous 1914 Giro d’Italia route on a wooden bike he built himself, he decided he was going to ride the 2000 Tour de France route ahead of the race, just to see if he could finish it. At this point in time he hadn’t been on a bike since he was a child. So of course, because it’s the Tour de France, he quickly resorts to cheating and doping, as well as drinking as much wine as he can fit in his water bottle. It has a decent amount of historical information on the Tour de France mixed in with Moore’s usual shenanigans, so it’s a great combination of funny and informative.

What are your must-read Tour de France and/or cycling books? (seriously, I’m going to need as many titles as I can to get the husband through until the next big race!)

Happy reading!




  1. Not Tour related, but some of my favourite cycling books: Need for the Bike by Paul Fournel, Ten Points by Bill Strickland, Jim Malusa’s Into Thick Air, Pro Cycling on $10 a Day by Phil Gaimon, Team 7-Eleven by Geoff Drake, Richard Moore’s Slaying the Badger, A Dog in a Hat by Joe Parkin, Robert Penn’s It’s All about the Bike, The Rider by Tim Krabbe, and don’t forget the original look at life as a domestique: Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride. A more thoughtful than usual look at le Tour can be found in “We Were Young and Carefree” two time winner Laurent Fignon’s memoir written shortly before his death by cancer in 2010.

  2. Between you and Ron, that’s my summer reading sorted, and more. I’ll start with Ride the Revolution and French Revolutions….seem to have picked up on a theme there?
    Thanks for all the recommendations.

  3. You’re welcome – I’m glad you liked it! My summer reading’s now jam packed too 🙂

  4. I forgot a recently published book that’s a must read for anyone that’s followed pro cycling over the last 20 years: Shut up Legs? My Wild Ride on and off the Bike by Jens Voigt. There’s more to Voigt than the average professional athlete: he notes wistfully that he’d be a bookseller if he could, and while he reads commercial fiction when he has “bike brain” post Tour stage, Gunter Grass is his favorite author. The book is full of Jensisms — besides being noted for his frequent breakaways, Jensie was always the well loved clown of the peloton.

  5. Yes! We have that one on order right now, and I’m really looking forward to reading it. We’ve also got “The World of Cycling According to G” by Thomas Geraint on order… and Bradley Wiggins’ new book “My Hour” is coming out in September. So at this rate I think I’ll be done my summer reading list sometime next fall 😉

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