Inside the Postal Bus - Michael Barry (2005)

This is a book for bike racing fans, or at the very least for fans of the Tour de France. It is memoir of cyclist Michael Barry's year, 2004, with what was at the time quite possibly the best team in professional cycling - US Postal, led by Lance Armstrong. If none of those names - Tour de France, Barry, US Postal or Armstrong - mean anything to you, this is probably not your book.

I am not a big cycling fan, my interest pretty much starts and stops at the Tour de France, but I am interested enough in some of the nuts and bolts to find this book an engaging look at the business, with enough detail to fill in holes in my knowledge of the culture and sport. Having watched the Tour for a few years, a lot of the names of the riders were familiar, and the insights into the aspects that don't make it on to TV were occasionally fascinating.

Armstrong is almost completely absent from the book, which is kind of a relief actually; especially in the US coverage of Armstrong has been so thorough and all encompassing that it's nice to read about other riders for a change.

Barry is not a great writer, although to give him credit the book is not ghost written and the writing isn't bad. He does manage to convey quite a bit of his own character and love of cycling through the book. Barry emerges as quite a likable fellow, clearly one of the best riders in the world - you don't get onto a professional team or compete in the Olympics without that - but not one of the best riders in the world of professional cycling. Looking over his professional record, I see a few wins here and there, but quite a few decent placings. More telling, though, is how many superstars he has ridden in support of. Professional cycling is a team sport, and like most team sports, the superstars get the press but without the team they wouldn't get very far.

As a slice of life look into the world of professional cycling, the book is well worth checking out; it is however not likely to appeal to the general or casual reader.

Overall Grade: C+

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