THE SCIENCE OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE
BY JAMES WITT S, BLOOM S BURY ,.
Reading this fine book can be a bit disheartening, particularly if you’re partial to the romance of sport – some might say there’s too much science to the Tour de France. This tome actually talks about the technical and mechanical aspects of road cycling generally, and there’s much to talk about. Functionally, cyclists know themselves with machine-like accuracy, able to comprehend in numbers what a ride requires. Curiously, there’s a sharp distinction between the science of power meters and bike set-ups and the pharmacology of doping – indeed, the book casts the doping era as akin to alchemy compared to today’s scientific methods. But EPO and its ilk actually held back the progress of sports science in cycling, as the needle provided more benefit than any other device. Instead, the mantra on the Tour these days is the “marginal gains” of the science-driven Team Sky. We can only hope for cycling’s sake that this is the kind of science making a difference.