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The Rider Paperback – June 12, 2003
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From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
"Its 148 pages will flash by in a blur of reckless, high-speed pleasure." The Independent (UK)
"The Rider is a great read a great ride. Krabbé's half-day race, delivered kilometer by kilometer onto the page, shows the sport for what it is: painful, exhilarating, tactical, relational, fast, slow, dangerous, consuming, prone to mechanical failure, heroic, futile. The race and the book about the race becomes a raining and cold history of the rider's life. But to say that the race is the metaphor for the life is to miss the point. The race is everything. It obliterates whatever isn't racing. Life is the metaphor for the race; --Donald Antrim
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Top Customer Reviews
In this short book about a 150 km long race, Tim Krabbé also travels back in his mind, recalling legends of bike racing as well as his own dreams of sporting success in Holland. These include some wonderful absurdist episodes, including a brief "Little ABC of Road Racing" where he fantasizes about riding with Merckx and Anquetil and the other greats in a series of bizarre circumstances. And all through this one is conscious of the race going on, the change of scenery and weather and how the cyclist must constantly monitor his situation-now trying to make up for his downhill lack of skills, now attacking as the others weaken, now preparing for a sprint. One is struck by the fundamental cruelty of the sport, how one must endure pain and inflict it as well.
Anyone who has ridden fairly seriously will love this book, as will those who admire strong, clean writing. The author has brilliantly portrayed a concentrated moment. This is a world of intense focus and narrow but exhilarating boundaries.
To date, I have read nothing that captures the real essence of that experience nearly as well as Tim Krabbé's The Rider, which was originally published in 1978 in Amsterdam and which appeared in English only in 2002. Like a racing bike that has been relieved off all excess weight and trimmed of anything that could increase resistance against the wind, The Rider is prose in its most basic and stripped down form. There is hardly a wasted or misplaced word here: the writing is crisp, powerful, efficient, and compelling.
The little book weighs in at just 148 pages, just a little more than one for each of the 137 kilometers of the Tour de Mont Aigoual, by all rights a nondescript semi-pro bicycle race through the rolling mountains of Cévennes, in south central France. It may not sound like much, but Mr. Krabbé breathes life into it by describing perfectly what goes on inside a racer's head: everything from relevant glimpses at strategy -- in addition to being a strong rider and an even better writer, Mr. Krabbé may be best known as a chess champion, and his eye for tactics and detail shows -- to interesting thoughts about his own athletic career, about philosophy, fantasy, his competitors, and fascinating memories from cycling history.Read more ›
The stripped-down prose style (common to all Krabbé's work), works especially well in the context of a race where the long distances can lead to almost a trance-like state. The mind wanders all over the place, and that is captured brilliantly in the rider's musings-for example, one part describes how he tries to invent words to keep himself amused during long, boring training rides. At the same time, the race itself is very tense, and Krabbé does quite well at describing the various tactical gambits employed along the way. The main competitors emerge as distinct figures-allies and foes in both a psychological and physical sense (I especially liked the unknown in the blue Cycles Goff jersey). Interwoven with it all are tidbits of cycling history, which are intermittently interesting to the non-racer.
It's not a reach to call this a masterpiece of sports literature. The story does a remarkable job at conveying the tension and flow of a race to the outsider. At the same time, the insights into the psychology of the athlete are so acute as to be universally recognizable across cultures and sports.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Like this scenario of bike racing and the preparation that goes into it.Published 14 days ago by Dennis Fernandez
This was a really enjoyable read, and I can see why it's a classic. I'm not sure if non-cyclists would get as much out of it, though.Published 6 months ago by ThermionicScott
If you are looking for a great present or stocking stuffer for a loved one, that has the cycling addiction:), this is the book for you. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Rupert Collins
Written in the seventies but still captures the thoughts, emotions and tactics that are still relevant today.Published 8 months ago by Wayne williscroft
This is a must read for cycling enthusiasts; although written in the 70's, it is totally relevant today.Published 9 months ago by Charlie Wilson
Epic read for the cycling race enthusiast. It makes a nice gift to inspire others to cycle tour, or to learn the ropes of cycling as a healthy sport and recreation.Published 9 months ago by Cycleagain