prior to my shifting lock, stock and barrel over the sea to islay, i had a job that involved buying stuff on behalf of my employers. i was quite good at it, though after a few years at art college, it was hardly a creeer choice and to be quite blunt, i hated every minute of each working day. in that, i very much doubt i was alone, as the principal cause of this dissatisfaction was the fellow in charge whose management style was midway between attila the hun and the texas chainsaw massacre.
one of the chaps with whom i worked came in one day stating he'd heard on the radio that we spend 82% of our waking hours at work. "and", he continued, "if you don't enjoy it, what a total waste of time." (actually, he didn't use the word 'total'). it was hard to argue with such a sensibility, even though i'd no real thought of so doing. a few weeks later, he handed in his notice and moved onto pastures new. being slightly less volatile and with a mortgage to pay, it took me a lot longer to do the same thing. but here i am.
the law of averages would dictate that not all of us can have gainful employment. and those averages would also mitigate against every one of us enjoying each and every minute of toil. of course, the same law tautologically means that at least some of us will.
my current means of earning a living wasn't entirely by choice, but in truth i rather enjoy what i'm doing. the opportunity to earn a living by racing a bicycle is highly unlikely to be either a spur of the moment decision, nor is it likely to be something entered into because there was no other option. professional cyclists are there because they're able to combine a great love of riding their bicycles with an inherent ability to do so particularly quickly. at the risk of stating the obvious, not everybody was born to be a racing cyclist, let alone a tour de france champion.
sky's geraint thomas is seemingly enjoying almost every minute of his 82%, a fact that has had him collaborate with tom fordyce in creating 'the world of cycling according to g'. i have seen reference to this book as being thomas' autobiography, but while there are autobiographical notes throughout, strictly speaking this book is well outside of that particular genre. it is, however, an enjoyably self-effacing celebration of one man's love of his day job.
"No extra efforts, no need to look at our power meters. Three decent hills, then a drop down into Italy for a Parma ham and mozzarella piadina and the best coffee in the world."
the book also escapes the formality of an autobiography by not only rebuffing easy categorisation, but allowing the reader to dip in and out with scant regard for the more usual linear approach. Its almost 400 pages are subdivided into sections headed by titles such as Living It, Doing It, Feeling It, interspersed with other self-explanatory examples such as People, Places and The Rules. Those are subdivided into discrete sections, allowing even greater choices within those headings. thus, the chapter on people includes the likes of Brad, Dave B, Hoy, Froome and one or two others besides.
"Dave got chatting to (Sergio Henao) in broken English in the hotel reception. After a couple of minutes of small talk - journeys, weather, that sort of thing - Sergio decided to take it further. 'So, what do you do here? What your job?' Sir David took it well."
the problem with books that are ghost written is not knowing just who wrote what. i'd imagine that the contents are the result of detailed conversations between thomas and fordyce, but i'm rather hoping that it wasn't thomas who saw fit to mention his win at e3 harelbeke earlier this year quite so frequently. not unnaturally, it's the opening gambit in the Bossing It sub-section entitled Winning. and it is right and proper that thomas be immensely proud of that win, but i think it may have inveigled its way into the narrative just once or twice too often.
that, however, is a minor niggle, one that scarcely distracts from the unnervingly cheerful aspect of the whole book. thomas obviously revels in the role of professional cyclist, seemingly more than equal to the task of taking on the hardest of training, balanced against the plaudits of success.
"To those who believe that the life of a pro-cyclist is one long succession of thrilling sprint finishes, freebie £8,000 bikes and pecks on the cheeks from podium girls, let me tell you this: I once did a three-hour turbo session in my conservatory in Newton-le-Willows." that from the chapter entitled Boredom.
'the world of cycling according to g' is a welcome break from a never ending stream of autobiographies from the great and the good. though encapsulated as a personal view from inside the world tour, the book cheerfully straddles the line between being informative and entertaining, managing to be equally faithful to both. the world of cycling according to tom boonen or fabian cancellara would probably be two entirely different and far less entertaining books.
if one were to be cruel it would surely be justifiably possible to point the finger of light froth at the treatment of a sport that geraint's clothing sponsor likes to portray as pain and suffering in black and white. the inclusion of a chapter in which thomas posits his own rules of cycling would probably be the prosecution's principal evidence, no matter the occasional moments of humorous intent...
"There is no point in the cycling year at which ordering an ice cream while out on your bike becomes acceptable."
thomas, however mitigates such criticism with some excellent and pertinent observations on being an olympic medal winner and the whole olympian experience. he's also very good on brad, chris, cav and on the whole team sky experience. his observations on majorca, belgium, italy and the champs elysées from a cyclist's perspective are pretty much worth the price of admission alone.
"This is a bloke (Hoy) who packed his own espresso machine in his suitcase for the Beijing Olympics, because he couldn't stand the idea of getting all the way to the most important competition of his life and having to put up with substandard coffee."
according to geraint, the upper tier of the cycling world is one that we are all entitled to know more about and in a manner apparently free from any sense of ego. it's an easy read, packed in a format that will likely see it returned to far more often than any bona-fide cycling autobiography. if you thought you liked geraint thomas before, this will undoubtedly confirm it. if you were undecided (which i'd find hard to believe), read and join the fan club.
'the world of cycling according to g' is published today, 29 october by quercus.
wednesday 28 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................