As the Tour de France is underway – as I write, they’re on the first rest day – I thought I’d catch up on a few cycling books, both new and ones I’ve been sitting on for a few weeks/months/years.
First up is One Way Ticket: Nine Lives on Two Wheels by Jonathan Vaughters.
Vaughters – or JV to many in cycling – is the former rider who went on to manage a team that began as Slipstream and today is callled EF Education First. The book is his entertainingly told life story, beginning as a kid in Colorado where he discovered cycling as a way to escape.
He takes us systematically through his life on two wheels, first in the US, and then in fits and starts, to Europe, where he found that cycling wasn’t quite what he expected.
I suspect that many will find the stories relating to doping as the most interesting. Initially being on a team that resisted doping – it was funded in part by the deeply religious Catholic group Opus Dei! – he inevitably succumbed when he realised that he was just not able to compete without them.
And of course, there’s the spectre of Lance Armstrong, his fellow American, and a man he had raced since his junior days. He would eventually ride on the same team as Armstrong for a bit, but he quickly left, not enjoying the atmosphere, and not being one of Armstrong’s ‘guys.’
Try as he might, he couldn’t quite leave doping behind, until finally he quit as a rider and began to get involved in running a team. That would become Slipstream, and would go through a number of changes, mergers and rebrandings until it nearly collapsed before re-emerging, phoenix-like, as EF Education First.
Aside from the Armstrong and doping stories, the business side of things is the other most interesting part of Vaughter’s story. The financial realities of running a team, and the ducking and diving team owners need to do on an almost permanent basis.