I received this book for Christmas (someone had obviously shown my blog to my Mum) and pretty much read it all on Christmas day in the lulls between cooking, eating and board games.
First of all, the book itself is simply gorgeous to look at and I was even surprised how much I enjoyed actually holding a hard-backed book in the days of the Kindle. The pictures in the book have been thoughtfully curated to compliment the stories, even sometimes being used as the main catalyst for the story (Gastone Nencini, winner of the Tour in 1961). The pictures perfectly evoke the spirit of the different eras and even the personalities of the Icons in question.
It seems apt that since Wiggins himself is embroiled in doping controversy as the book hit the shelves that he should further court controversy by including Lance Armstrong in his list of Icons. In fairness he does preface this particular chapter with “look away now if you’re easily offended” but it is clear that he still harbours a respect for the shamed cyclist. He sees Armstrong’s will to win with dubious ethics as encapsulating the “perfect winner” dreamed up by the father of the Tour de France, Henri Desgrange. I am not so sure and despite the passage of time, there is still real hatred among genuine cycling fans for the way Armstrong trampled on people’s hope and dreams to have the yellow jersey.
Wiggins does offer some interesting anecdotes about the man and some even come close to humanising this eternally controversial figure. This is where the book really comes to life, especially to those with more than a casual interest in cycling.
With the recent controversy over jiffy bags and British cycling fans having to re-evaluate the golden summer of 2012 it feels, in this book, that Wiggins has to a certain extent been let of the leash. He knows that he is no longer the darling of the sport and with that comes the freedom to speak his mind. We learn, in the section on Fabian Cancellara that after re-signing with Team Sky in 2012 Wiggins made it clear that he was “happy to work for Chris (Froome) the following year” and that he wanted to be at the Tour de France without the pressure to win. Although Wiggins felt like he had earned that, “Chris really didn’t want me there. That was his prerogative”.
In the same chapter he opens up on his relationship with the Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford, “not someone I would call a friend”.
There are little gems of insight like this throughout the book and this is where it is elevated above a standard biography on iconic riders. The usual suspects are all there from Eddy Merckx to Jacques Anquetil as well as some more left field choices such as Phil Edwards and Felice Gimondi but it really feels that Wiggins tries his best to give a new angle to bring to life the riders. We know they are all champions but Wiggins makes them also human.
For all Wiggins’ flaws, he is a real student of the sport and is in a unique position to compare himself to these icons. Sometimes he knows he falls short but it is Wiggins’ self-awareness that makes this an excellent read for any cycling fan.
It has been lovingly compiled and looks great on the book shelf. As I already said, the pictures themselves are enough reason to thumb through the pages.