With all the Tour de France's history come many excellent books to sink into. Here are some of our favorites.
The Tour de France has been around for over a century, with the first edition taking place in July 1903. The race has been run nearly every year since, pausing only for the two world wars.
The Tour was created by an enterprising French journalist who wanted to sell more newspapers. Henri Desgrange surely had no idea his little bicycle race would evolve into the world's largest annual sporting event, today watched by millions along the roadside and hundreds of millions more on TV.
With all the history come many excellent books to sink into. Here are our favorites — some new, some old, all worth reading.
An exquisite history of the first Tour de France.
"Having portrayed the race's itinerary 'from Paris to the blue waters of the Mediterranean, from Marseille to Bordeaux via pink-tinted and dreaming towns sleeping in the sun ... ' Desgrange revealed his two greatest hopes for the race: no less than the revitalization of French manhood and vitality, and the introduction of high-level sport to French provinces hitherto almost totally ignored by it."
Elie Wiesel praised this detailed history for offering "a moving example of moral courage."
"At the age of 24, he stuns the world by winning the Tour de France and becomes an international sports icon. But Mussolini’s Fascists try to hijack his victory for propaganda purposes, derailing Bartali’s career, and as the Nazis occupy Italy, Bartali undertakes secret and dangerous activities to help those being targeted.
"He shelters a family of Jews in an apartment he financed with his cycling winnings and is able to smuggle counterfeit identity documents hidden in his bicycle past Fascist and Nazi checkpoints because the soldiers recognize him as a national hero in training."
American Joe Parkin pursued a dream to race in Europe. This is his "brutally frank memoir."
"I saw my first pro kermis race during my first week in Belgium, and it felt like trying to escape a hall of mirrors but not being able to read the exit signs. Everything was larger than life and more grotesque than I had imagined. But kermis racing was not all about the drugs. If the grand tours are like classical music, kermis racing is punk rock, Belgian-style."
An intriguing book about a tragic figure. Eddy Merckx is the greatest cyclist of all time, and Merckx called Luis Ocaña his "most dangerous rival."
"He came across as a hero out of a Scott Fitzgerald novel, with that self-destructive, slightly crazy edge to him."
"Epic" is a word that diehard cyclists love to hate, but if one climb truly deserves the adjective, it's Mont Ventoux. This book is a deep dive into the epicest! of all the Tour climbs.
"They're all scared. Everybody's afraid. It gets so quiet you can hear a fly buzzing through the peloton." —Eddy Merckx
A game-changing exposé, this is one Irish cyclist turned journalist's story about his experiences with widespread doping in pro cycling and the Tour de France.
"The law of silence: it exists not only in the Mafia but also in the peloton. Those who break the law, who talk to the press about the dope problems in the sport are despised. They are branded as having 'craché dans la soupe', they have 'spat in the soup'.
"In writing this book I have broken the law of silence. I have spat in the soup and a lot of people with resent me for it."
World War I would see more than 16 million troops and civilians die.
Many of the riders in the 1914 Tour did not return from the war, and three previous winners of the race were among those killed in action.
"Both the archduke and Sophie were dead within half an hour. Another member of the traveling party, Count Harrach, said that the archduke's last words were, "Sophie, Sophie! Don't die! Live for our children!"
"As the couple lay dying, the Tour de France continued toward Le Havre."
If you read only one book about Lance Armstrong and his corrupting power, read this unputdownable insider account of the sport's darkest figure in his brightest hour.
"One day I'm a normal person with a normal life," he said. "The next I'm standing on a street corner in Madrid with a secret phone and a hole in my arm and I'm bleeding all over, hoping I don't get arrested. It was completely crazy. But it seemed like the only way at the time."
A collection of inspiring philosophical ruminations about the pedaling life.
"The bicycle is a thing of beauty, a potent antidote to the world's ills, an eternal E-ticket ride."
Channel your inner cycling-design geek with this wonderful journey through 200 or so of the most iconic racing jerseys ever to grace the peloton.
Insightful commentary complements each of the colorful pictures.
Everything you ever wanted to know about the world of road cycling in 101 fun and contemporary infographics.
Warning: This beautifully illustrated, colorful guide is tough to put down.
Bike Snob NYC is probably the best read bike blogger on earth. In this humorous guide to bikes and bicycling, he helps readers get the most out of cycling so they can get out and ride.
Looking for a collection of amazing recipes that will fuel your amazing cycling adventures? Get a copy of this authoritative guide from one of the sport's top nutritionists.
The must-read practical guide to what to eat — on and off the bike — for any cyclist looking for a training and performance advantage.
Should you store your bike in the living room? What is a good place to hide your new wheels from your partner? How do you become a MAMIL?
This smart, humorous take on all things cycling is a sheer delight.
Ever asked yourself, How should I explain my shaved legs to girls? This is the book for you.
A hilarious and often LOL book-length Q&A with a former pro who keeps it real.
Ever dream of riding a tiny-wheeled, two-geared East German shopping bike 6,000 miles across the old Iron Curtain? Me neither. But Tim Moore did, and he did it.
A delight of a book that is hilariously written. A genuine page-turner.
The best book ever written about bike racing, period.
"Every once in a while someone along the road lets us know how far behind we are. A man shouts: 'Faster!' He probably thinks bicycle racing is about going fast."