From last week's New York Times article "Tour de France Champion to Headline the Giro d’Italia:"
With its systemic corruption, fractious leadership, an entrenched code of silence and some of its members recently embroiled in a high-profile drug trial, professional cycling these days often seems to resemble organized crime more than sport...
Fitting, then, that the cycling world will gather in Naples on Saturday — not for Camorra-like clandestine meetings, but to start the Giro d’Italia, the three-week Grand Tour that signals the start of the sport’s high season.
Recent editions of the Giro have been short on star power, but organizers have managed to up the wattage considerably this year by attracting Bradley Wiggins, the defending Tour de France champion, to headline the 21-stage race that will span 3,405 kilometers, or 2,116 miles...
The Giro is often considered the most grueling of the Grand Tours, which also include the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. It is a physically demanding challenge that can be, at times, absurdly so. In 2009, the peloton staged a protest after a series of dangerous stages, including one where Spanish rider Pedro Horrillo ended up in a coma after a mountain crash.For a novel about bicycle racing, try The Rider by Tim Krabbé:
At the start of this chronicle of a single bike race, the author glances up from his gear to assess the crowd of spectators. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."
In immediate, living prose, Krabbé, a novelist as well as a cyclist, takes us with him, inch by inch, as he rides the hundred-and-thirty-seven-kilometre Tour de Mont Aigoual, a course through the mountains that is better known as one of the cruellest stages of the Tour de France.
He imagines an official collecting his clothes "after I've died in the race" recalls a champion cyclist who suffocated to death while climbing one particularly nasty hill; and insists that "being a good loser is a despicable evasion."
Along the way, he lays bare the athlete's peculiar mixture of arrogance and terror, viciousness and camaraderie, and the result is one of the more convincing love stories of recent memory.Another Tour de France novel is The Race by Dave Shields:
The white-knuckle pace of a bicycle race drives this novel about a young American's opportunity to compete in the Tour de France. Complex relationships with teammates, personal and professional obstacles, and a terrible disaster cause the young cyclist to redefine his limits.
An insider's perspective on the world of professional bicycle racing which reveals that the required tactics and skills create a culture in which pain is the ultimate currency and endurance is the most powerful force.