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The Rider Paperback – June 12, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

At the start of this chronicle of a single bike race, the author glances up from his gear to assess the crowd of spectators. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me." In immediate, living prose, Krabbé, a novelist as well as a cyclist, takes us with him, inch by inch, as he rides the hundred-and-thirty-seven-kilometre Tour de Mont Aigoual, a course through the mountains that is better known as one of the cruellest stages of the Tour de France. He imagines an official collecting his clothes "after I've died in the race" recalls a champion cyclist who suffocated to death while climbing one particularly nasty hill; and insists that "being a good loser is a despicable evasion." Along the way, he lays bare the athlete's peculiar mixture of arrogance and terror, viciousness and camaraderie, and the result is one of the more convincing love stories of recent memory.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker


<div>"The Rider a beautiful brute, as hard and fast as a thin wheel in a concrete road." The Observer (UK)

"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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 4 edition (June 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582342903
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582342900
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Reissner on February 21, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An utterly engrossing book, "The Rider" by Tim Krabbé is a first-person account of a competitor in a French amateur cycling race. Kilometer by kilometer, the author describes, economically, but with plausible feeling, the range of emotions he goes through. It is clear that he rides for the love of cycling, but his writing reveals the mental calculations, often not very flattering, that go through the mind of a rider. A chess player, he is out on the road playing a form of chess with his opponents, considering their weaknesses, weighing their histories, examining his own position on the board, so to speak.
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.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Lyman on April 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
Cycling holds a unique niche in the world of sports. It is a delicate balance between rider and machine, between strength and tactics, between the individual and the team, between man and the elements. Anyone who has ever ridden seriously knows that almost any serious ride is an epic journey, an endless series of choices and possibilities, of suffering and pleasure.
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.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 17, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not a cyclist by any stretch of the imagination, and am only a moderate fan of the sport in general. But Krabbé's novella, originally published in the Netherlands 25 years ago, has got to best one of the best fictional treatments of any sport. The book follows an competitive amateur rider through a half-day, 150 kilometer race over the very real Mont Aigoual in France. Krabbé is himself an avid amateur cyclist, and his ability to capture both the mental and physical aspects of the sport is uncanny. Although I've never raced a bike, I did run cross-country competitively, and many of the elements carry over-mainly the twin battle each individual faces with their brain and their body (There's one excellent moment when the rider wills his bike to get a flat so he can withdraw with honor.).
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.
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