Can any couple have achieved more combined sporting success at the highest level than Laura Trott and Jason Kenny? Will there ever be a better time for them to capitalise on their fame than after a perfect result at the Olympic Games, and then their wedding? The Inside Track gives us the story so far for our 'Olympic Golden couple', and is well-timed to benefit from the increase in book sales at Christmas.
Even before the couple got together they were both making sporting headlines; nowadays, they are as likely to feature on the front pages of a newspaper as the back and, as we reported here, they have been working hard to promote their book recently – probably spending more time with the mainstream press than the specialist cycling press.
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Trott was even invited to join John Hannah, Paul Hollywood, and Lord Mervyn King in giving tips for 'how to survive long-haul flying trips' in the travel section of the Telegraph recently: now that is a combination of people that you would never expect to see together! 'Don't use make up and apply moisturiser' is her advice.
Ignoring all the hype, is it actually a good book? This depends on two things: is it well written, and is there a good story to be told?
The book is a joint autobiography written in conjunction with Tom Fordyce, who has a good reputation as a sporting journalist. His day job is as the BBC's chief sports writer, but he has experience as a ghost writer for several athletes, including Geraint Thomas for his book 'The World of Cycling according to G'.
I think Fordyce has done a good job of combining their individual stories into 'an integrated narrative', but crucially the athletes' different characters still come through: he has not homogenised them.
As for the second point, the individual stories are certainly interesting, but it is the story of their life together that sets this book apart from most biographies. Joint biographies are rare, and here we get a fascinating insight into the everyday lives of elite athletes living and working together. Some of the stories, or at least some parts of the stories, have already been aired – particularly during the present promotional tour. As you would expect, the book provides a lot more detail and a lot more stories.
It appears that most of the time they are faced with the same mundane issues as the rest of us. 'There would be days when ordinary household tasks...would not happen, because a crucial race was coming and one of us couldn't afford to waste that energy,' says Kenny.
British Cycling has obviously featured heavily in their sporting careers, and I am always amazed (and reassured) at the level of planning and preparation BC applies to every aspect of competition. It seems nothing is left to chance.
At one point the female cyclists were encouraged to 'trial many different types of chamois. After testing out ten new designs, they then looked at the position the chamois sat in our racing skinsuits... It worked. In the six months before Rio, not a single rider had a saddle sore,' Trott says.
Every step of their sporting career is covered, both successes and failures, with some incredibly detailed first-person narrative of the most important races; this really conveys the thoughts and emotions an athlete will experience when competing at the highest level, and of course we also get to hear about it from the other side of the barrier as well if the couple are at the same event.
There is a frank discussion about the benefit of National Lottery funding, and the challenge of needing to perform at world championships to preserve that income, while knowing that 'the Olympics were how the wider world would see us, and how history would define our careers', according to Kenny.
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Both families have obviously rummaged around their photo albums to come up with some suitably embarrassing snaps of their childhoods and early years; once fame struck, it is the professional photo agencies providing most of the images, and many of those have been seen in the press already.
Both the book and the photos end with the wedding. The fact that they were to be married was well known, yet they still managed to keep the date a secret. 'Our strategy of fibbing in media interviews about the exact date for our wedding had paid off. There wasn't a rogue photographer in sight,' says a relieved Trott.
A note on pricing: the RRP for the hardback is £20, but it can be picked up for around £10 online. The electronic version is available for around £7.
Take a look at any of the recent interviews with this couple and you will have a good idea of what to expect from this book: more of the same! Either party could have produced a good solo biography, but putting both together makes for something a bit different and even more entertaining.
A well-timed and very readable joint biography from cycling's 'golden couple'
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Make and model: The Inside Track: Laura Trott and Jason Kenny
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From Michael O'Mara Books:
10 gold medals don't come easy... First comes the graft. Thousands of hours on the pedals, forever turning left, following that black line round, pushing your body harder than it is designed to go. Then comes the sacrifice. All familiar pleasures stripped away in search of perfection. Then the pain. Muscles burning, stomach churning, an ache in the bones. To pull all of this together to achieve an Olympic gold is impressive; to be part of a couple doing this in the same sport is rare; to do it ten times between you is unprecedented. Laura Trott and Jason Kenny, Britain's most successful female and male Olympians, invite us into their world, on to the boards of the velodrome and down the back straight of British pro cycling to give us the inside track on what it takes to become a champion. This is the story of the races that gripped a nation; one of sprints and pursuits, tactics, mind games, medals and trials; of being so tired you collapse by the side of the track, so out of form you can't finish a practice session; of what goes through the mind of an Olympian as they power towards the finish line; and of how a boy from Bolton and a girl from Cheshunt became the best in the world, while finding in each other the perfect partner.
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Title: The Inside Track
Author: Laura Trott & Jason Kenny
Publisher: Michael O'Mara Books
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A well written and entertaining read.
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
It's CAMPAG in Great Britain. Only bloody Yanks call it "Campy". Cease and desist. Pronto.
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