Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: Racing Through The Dark

Well, it's not the end of the week, but I'm going with a book review anyway because I just finished this particular book and wanted to post some things about it while it is still fresh on my mind. That's how I roll.

The book is called Racing Through the Dark and it was written by David Millar, a cyclist on my favorite team, Garmin-Sharp. It is an auto-biography of sorts and is one of the most intriguing books I have read in a while. Actually, I feel like I have said that three times in a row as the last two books I reviewed were also interesting; but, this book goes to the head of the pack in my opinion. However, I am a lover of cycling and so you may not agree and that's okay, I'll still like you.

David Millar is one of the quirkiest, in your face cyclists out there. I have followed him on Twitter for a while now and basically everything the man says has me in stitches. I love his blunt honesty and is rather odd sense of humor. When I found out he had a book coming out, I immediately set forth looking for it. The book was released in the UK last year. Millar, born in Malta, is a Scot, and thus the first release of the book was in his homeland. It was published in other countries as well while I patiently waited for a US release date. Finally, June 26, 2012 came around and Racing Through the Dark was downloaded onto my Kindle and I started reading it that day. I was pulled in from page one.

Millar begins the book at the very beginning (his birth), a very good place to start (as they sing in the Sound of Music). He describes his childhood as a brat of the Royal Air Force and goes on to tell of his parents' divorce and how he came about living with his dad in Hong Kong. He describes how he became interested in cycling and made a decision to become a professional cyclist.

Millar became a professional cyclist in the 1990s and as you may or may not know in the 1990s cycling was tainted with athletes who used performance enhancing drugs to better their performance. Most of this involved what is known as blood-doping, which involves increasing the red-blood cell count to increase the oxygen in the blood which in turn helps you heal faster after training, etc. and as a result helps better the performance of the athlete. Hopefully I explained that in a general and yet accurate way. I wasn't really familiar with the blood-doping era of cycling as I was not a fan at that time. I became a fan after dating Tony which was in 2008 and when the sport had been cleaned up quite a bit. Sure, there are still some guys who I would assume use blood-doping tactic, but I think for the most part it is gone from the sport, or at least I like to think so. The Garmin-Sharp team is one that has a zero tolerance for blood-doping which is one of the reasons I like them so much; that, and they are an American team and their team manager is completely awesome.

So, in case you haven't figured it out by now, Millar was one of the athletes who succumbed to blood-doping tactics. At first and for years he raced clean, but the pressure finally became more than he could handle and the team he was with wasn't the cleanest team in the business and the pressure to perform became more than overwhelming and so Millar gave in to that pressure and began using EPO to increase his red blood cells. This went on for a year or more before he was caught by the French authorities and finally came clean about what he had been doing.

Millar's account is very honest and open and for me was very eye-opening. As mentioned, I was not a fan during this time and so it was interesting to read about the things that were going on during cycling's most tainted decade. Millar received a two-year ban for his crimes and then made a comeback to cycling with Garmin, at the time known as Slipstream. He is now an advocate against blood-doping and for keeping the sport clean.

I loved this book from beginning to end. His descriptions of races and cycling in the peloton made it feel as if I was riding a tandem bike with him and eavesdropping in on his conversations. It brought a fantastic perspective to this super-fan. He also describes throughout the book his relationship with his sister, Fran, which often reminded me of my own relationship with my troubled brother. This book made me laugh, and yes, made me cry and at the end of it all, I felt like Millar and I were great friends, or mates as he would be more likely to say.

If you are a cycling fan, then I think you will love this book and even if you are not, I still think it would be an interesting read. The ups and downs of Millar's life will have you turning the page with frenzied fanfare and have you wondering what in the world is going to happen next. Thankfully we know that in the end, it all turns out okay and the world is a better place because of that.

1 comment:

Erika said...

Sounds interesting, even though I know nothing about cycling :)
That cover kind of scared me a little bit - haha - intense!