We Be­gin Our As­cent

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - BOOKS & FILMS - writ­ten by Joe Mungo Reed pub­lished by Si­mon and Schus­ter re­viewed by Matthew Pioro

What leads a cy­clist to dope? Tyler Hamil­ton’s Thes ecretr ace and Thomas Dekker’s Thedes­cent are fairly suc­cess­ful works of non­fic­tion that tan­gle with that ques­tion. In English writer Joe Mungo Reed’s work of fic­tion, We­be­gi­nouras­cent, dop­ing creeps into the story. In a way, Reed’s book de­tails how a pro cy­clist turns to cheat­ing with more sub­tlety and nu­ance than for­mer rid­ers like Hamil­ton and Dekker.

While pro cy­cling and the Tour de France fea­ture promi­nently in the book, it’s about more than those top­ics. Sol is a suc­cess­ful do­mes­tique, but one whose am­bi­tions have lim­its. His wife Liz is a driven ge­neti­cist and strug­gling to make a sci­en­tific break­through. They’re both high-achiev­ers, yet also an av­er­age cou­ple with a young son try­ing to make their lives work.

Reed’s por­trayal of pro­fes­sional cy­cling is quite good. He cap­tures the com­pli­cated dy­nam­ics of the team sport and the pain and suf­fer­ing that hap­pens out on the road. He does have some turns of phrase that are cu­ri­ous. In one sen­tence, he refers to a di­recteur sportif and a race ref­eree. It seems odd that he would use “race ref­eree” i nstead of “com­mis­saire,” es­pe­cially since he didn’t opt for “sport­ing di­rec­tor” or “coach.” These are just mi­nor dis­trac­tions from the oth­er­wise well-con­structed world.

So what leads Sol to dope? His amoral di­rec­tor, Rafael, does have a role in it, as does the rider’s own de­sire to con­trib­ute to the team. Liz, too, helps her hus­band make the de­ci­sion. As with any good work of fic­tion, their de­ci­sions seem in­evitable. You’ll likely find your­self sym­pa­thetic with their choices, re­gard­less of how de­struc­tive they are.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.