Review: Sprinting Through No Man's Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France

Sprinting Through No Man's Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France
by Adin Dobkin

Sprinting Through No Man's Land by Adin Dobkin is an excellent story, unevenly told.

Dobkin's topic is the Tour de France of 1919. The Great War - World War I - had only been over for seven months. Many of the participants, and the race organizer, had all served during the war, leaving little time to train or prepare. Organizers scrambled to find a route around France that would enable the race to go on, even though the course would inevitably take riders through war ravaged areas. Further, lack of conversion of industry from a war footing back to peace time production meant that bike tubes and tires were in short supply, leaving riders to supply their own. Given the wartime damage to the roads they traveled this was a serious issue. Because of these factors, 67 racers started the race, but only 11 finished.

I think Dobkin did a pretty good job providing the war context around which the race happened and balancing that with the race events themselves. The story moves quickly through the first few chapters, and then again as the race continues. Unfortunately Dobkin chose to insert five chapters of material unrelated to the race at intervals in the book. To the extent that they offer additional context around France and World War I these chapters work, but they disrupted the flow of the story and made the overall book seem more disjointed than it needed to be.

I give Sprinting Through No Man's Land 3 Stars ⭐⭐⭐ - I liked this book. Anyone who is a fan of endurance sports, and the Tour de France in particular, would like it too, as would those interested in the history of the Great War. However, I recommend if you pick this book up, that you read the numbered chapters straight through, and then, if you want more context, go back and read the five named chapters. I think that will make for a better reading experience, and frankly I wish I'd done it that way.

Note: This review is for Amazon Prime First Reads early access ebook. These early edition books are provided free to Amazon Prime members, with no obligation to review. The book is published by Amazon Publishing's imprint Little A, and is generally available July 1st.

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