Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Every so often on my blog I share with you cycling-theme books I've read and thought you might enjoy dipping into yourself. Well, I recently located a real treasure. So much so, that if someone told me I had to get rid of all my books — even the non-bicycle ones — and I could only keep one from my entire collection, this would be the one left on my shelves at home.
I'm gladly telling you about this wonderful book, knowing full well that you will have trouble finding a copy. Its English translation was published by Rapha, a high-end — and some would say hoity-toity — cycling clothing company in London, which keeps claiming it is going to reissue it, but hasn't yet. Not wanting to wait, I luckily came across their original edition by way of a web search, purchasing it through a library support group in Tucson, Arizona. Let's just say, I could have bought two really nice bike tires for what I paid for it. But, turns out, I'm thankful that I did.
The book is titled "Kings of Pain ... Masters and Convicts of the Road." Within its pages is French cycling journalist Philippe Brunel's collection of images and stories from the glory days of professional cycling. He recalls the giants of the sport — Bartali, Coppi, Anquetil, Gimondi, Merckx, Hinault, Fignon, Indurain and others — but what is truly captivating about the book is Brunel's delivery in describing the intimate lives of these men. The words and photographs, which are all black and white, have nothing to do with the interworking of bikes and the strategies of racing, but instead dwell on the personal aspects and upbringing of these cyclists and what drove them to suffer in attempting to reach their ultimate goals. The historical context and the public's thirst for the grand sport of cycling also are brilliantly conveyed in the 160-page book.
If you are into the personalities behind the sport itself and are drawn to photographs that are indeed "worth a 1,000 words," you would find "Kings of Pain" absolutely fascinating and truly a treasure. As I said earlier, the problem is finding it. You will just have to visit me in Maine if you want to check out the book ... over a cup of tea. Stay safe and healthy.