While 101 Damnations is not a particularly original title, this is the only chance that anyone will ever have to use it for a book about the Tour de France, which you will remember started its 101st edition in Britain.
Until recently I would have written something along the lines of Ned Boulting being best known to a cycling audience for his work on ITV4's coverage of the Tour of France, but with this latest addition to his published material he has strengthened his claim to be equally as well known as an author. It is however his work for the TV coverage that provides most of the material that features in his books.
There are many different parties involved in le Tour, and there are so many stories to be told, but few have the same journalistic role as Boulting. With race coverage and commentary already taken care of, Boulting and the team have to seek out other material such as interviews, explanations of tactics, history lessons, and so on, and that is why he can entertain us with such a wide range of anecdotes.
In an interview with Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, we get the wonderful story about Verity's first approach to the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), the ultimate owners of le Tour: he just writes an e-mail.
"Dear Monsieur Amaury, I'd like to do the Grand Départ in Yorkshire at your earliest convenience. Please let me know your thoughts."
While it worked out eventually, the subsequent negotiations were far from easy. "They'd literally never heard of Yorkshire."
The soon-to-be-retired rider David Millar made a welcome appearance in the TV coverage for the British stages. On screen we hear a bit about why he had not been selected to ride in his last ever Tour de France and his views about it; in the book we read so much more about this and more. When the team were walking up the steep (and now famous) Jenkin Road, Millar complains, "I'm not designed for this. My legs can't do this." That's an experience that many cyclists will be able to sympathise with.
Chris Boardman is another part of the ITV team, often seen riding a bike along part of the route, such as the finish straight. You may never have wondered how the camera was operated during such action, but here we learn that a Segway is often used – and how other broadcasters copied the idea. Not surprisingly Boardman features in quite a lot of the stories, and there is even a chapter about the experience of filming with him.
One thing that any broadcaster has to consider is how to pronounce a name. The dilemma here is whether to use what you know is the correct pronunciation, or to use the anglicised version that the public expect and so will recognise – or even both. Heinrich Haussler, Thomas Voekler, and Jens Voigt are all discussed, and in a typically self-deprecating style Boulting admits how the latter once started off as Voyt in one broadcast, but later in the stage had become Focht.
Boulting starts and finishes 101 Damnations by considering whether he actually enjoys the event, with its three weeks of intense and relentless pressure. Not surprisingly it is a love/hate relationship, and while he may not always enjoy it, he misses it and can't wait to get back.
This is a worthy successor to Ned Boulting's other books; entertaining, informative, and often funny.
Entertaining stories about the 101st Tour from a unique perspective
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Make and model: Yellow Jersey Press 101 Damnations by Ned Boulting
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