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After football one of my favourite sports to watch as well as taking part in has to be cycling. Over the years it is becoming a lot more popular in Britain due to the success of the likes of Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. As a result I do tend to watch a lot of road cycling and in particular the Tour De France on TV and that is primarily where I’ve encountered ITV reporter Ned Boulting who has chronicled life behind the glamour of the lens in this book, How I Won The Yellow Jumper. Ned is one of the fixtures of ITV’s tour coverage and generally has the tough job of interviewing the riders and getting the biggest stories whenever he can.
Whilst Ned has become a regular on tour highlights over the years this book looks at the Tour’s since he was first moved from Football coverage to Cycling. Ned is the first to admit he didn’t have a clue about Cycling before he started on the Tour in 2003, in fact that is highlighted by the fact he called the famous leader’s yellow Jersey the yellow jumper on his first ever broadcast from the tour. Its little anecdotes and stories like this that make this book as enjoyable as it is.
He uses the book to reveal the true effort that goes into making the ITV 4 program from the hire cars they drive around France in to the joys of hotels and laundrettes that they end up vising on a daily basis as they cover the 3,600 Km’s that the race covers during the 3 weeks it is on. The tales are interesting, informative and for the most part quite funny as Ned gives an open and frank account of life on the tour and his co presenters and what they are really like when the cameras stop rolling.
It’s important to stress at this point however, that this is not an autobiography. There are brief references to Ned’s life before and after he started work on the Tour, this though is an account of the World’s greatest bike race and nothing else. He writes in an open manor that holds your interest even when he covers such dull aspects of the Tour such as rest days. It’s an account that doesn’t drag on but he manages to keep it fresh by using funny stories from previous Tours to highlight each aspect.
It is also quite interesting to see how Ned’s knowledge of the sport has changed since his first broadcast to the modern day. He reveals stories that are so cringe worthy and highlight his lack of knowledge in the early days that you can’t help but laugh. On the opposite side he also has some very insightful thoughts about riders, doping and the Tour in general that can only come with experiencing the race and being in that environment.
The book is written in exactly the same way that Ned presents on the TV with a slightly deadpan comedic twist to his tales that makes things funnier. It’s the way he makes his job sound so effortless that perhaps unmasks his greatest talent. He is that good at what he does that he makes it even the most trivial acts seem interesting whether it be interviewing Lance Armstrong or trying to navigate his way around Paris.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book is actually the insight Ned gives to the big name riders on the Tour. His quite frank and often uncomfortable exchanges with Lance Armstrong present a slightly different side to the 7 time winner and cancer survivor. Likewise his encounters with Mark Cavendish and David Millar only serve to enhance the respect I have for both riders. There is also a very frank chapter about doping and in particular Flloyd Landis and even Alberto Contador that highlight how much Ned’s knowledge of the sport has enhanced.
Overall this is a must read for fans of Cycling and the Tour. It is one of only a few books that I’ve read that give a good insight into the Tour and what happens away from the glitz and glamour of the highlights and stage wins. It’s interesting to see how Ned has gained a passion for the sport as well as a great knowledge of how it works. As a fan I’ve enjoyed reading this book, however I do feel it is only a book that will appeal to fans of the sport. For the novice it will give some interesting insight, but I feel it is more a book for regular viewers of the tour as really only they will know the people Ned talks about and remember certain events that happen during the race. It is though a very enjoyable read with a lot of laughs and stories that entertains through its entire 336 pages.
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