Full of adventure, mishaps and audacious attempts at cheating, the first Tour de France in 1903 was a colourful affair. Its riders included characters like Maurice Garin, an Italian-born Frenchman, said to have been swapped for a round of cheese by his parents in order to smuggle him into France to clean chimneys as a teenager, Hippolyte Aucouturier with his trademark handlebar moustache, and amateurs like Jean Dargassies, a blacksmith who had never raced before.
Dreamed up to revive struggling newspaper L'Auto, cyclists of the time were wary of this 'heroic' race on roads more suited to hooves than wheels, riding hefty fixed-gear bikes for three full weeks. 'With a few francs you could win 3,000', the paper declared in desperation, eventually attracting a field comprising a handful of the era's professional racers and, among other hopefuls, a butcher, painter and decorator, and a circus acrobat.
Would this ramshackle pack of cyclists draw crowds to throng France's rutted roads and cheer the first Tour heroes? Surprisingly it did, and, all thanks to a marketing ruse, cycling would never be the same again. Peter Cossins takes us through the inaugural Tour de France, painting a nuanced portrait of France in the early 1900s, to see where the greatest sporting event of all began.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR
Bert Trautmann is a football legend. He is famed as the Manchester City goalkeeper who broke his neck in the 1956 FA Cup final and played on. But his early life was no less extraordinary. He grew up in Nazi Germany, where first he was indoctrinated by the Hitler Youth, before fighting in World War Two in France and on the Eastern Front.
In 1945 he was captured and sent to a British POW camp where, for the first time, he understood that there could be a better way of life. He embraced England as his new home and before long became an English football hero.
'A remarkable story, well worth reading' The Times
'A gripping story of an unlikely redemption through football' Sunday Times
'This poignant book is a tribute to the depth of both Clay's research and her compassion' Independent