July 12, 2004
Review: The Race, by Dave Shields
Ben Barnes is an American pulling domestique duty on a Euro team in support of a legendary French champion. All of the action takes place over the course of two Tour de France stages, one an epic culminating in the climb up Alpe d'Huez, in this novel of the Tour.
Shields focuses on the mental game of cycling, and fills in details about Barnes' development as a rider, his rivals, and his life off the bike through the kind of mid-ride contemplation we all go through when the rhythm of the pedals takes over.
The Race also does a good job filling in the day-to-day details that make up life on the Tour, and introducing the tactics and strategy of the sport.
The pacing is so good I read it in one sitting.
My only complaint with the book is that it feels somewhat idealized; Barnes is a little too heroic, and the sport is presented at its most gladiatorial. For my money, I like the downer of Ralph Hurne's The Yellow Jersey a little better, but The Race is more focused on the sport than Hurne's book, which is more of a character study of a journeyman cyclist who, because of a doping scandal, winds up holding and fighting for the maillot jaune.
Like Tim Krabbe's The Rider (which I haven't read), much of the story unfolds during a single stage, illuminating the main character through his riding.
Amazon ratings for The Race are phenomenal -- all but two of 23 reviews are 5 stars, with the other 2 reviews awarding 4 stars.
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Thank you for helping to spread the word about my novel. It's hard work for a new author to get noticed, but it seems to be happening for me with this book. I just learned that it has been selected by Seattle Magazine as the Best Sports Novel of 2004. I'm also at work on a sequel. Hopefully, once that one is polished up, you will feel that the strengths you saw in the first book still exist, and that I've improved in the areas that you felt were weaker.
Posted by: Dave Shields at Dec 10, 2004 3:04:04 AM