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

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The inspiring, heart-pumping true story of soldiers turned cyclists and the historic 1919 Tour de France that helped to restore a war-torn country and its people. On June 29, 1919, one day after the Treaty of Versailles brought about the end of World War I, nearly seventy cyclists embarked on the thirteenth Tour de France. From Paris, the war-weary men rode down the western The inspiring, heart-pumping true story of soldiers turned cyclists and the historic 1919 Tour de France that helped to restore a war-torn country and its people. On June 29, 1919, one day after the Treaty of Versailles brought about the end of World War I, nearly seventy cyclists embarked on the thirteenth Tour de France. From Paris, the war-weary men rode down the western coast on a race that would trace the country’s border, through seaside towns and mountains to the ghostly western front. Traversing a cratered postwar landscape, the cyclists faced near-impossible odds and the psychological scars of war. Most of the athletes had arrived straight from the front, where so many fellow countrymen had suffered or died. The cyclists’ perseverance and tolerance for pain would be tested in a grueling, monthlong competition. An inspiring true story of human endurance, Sprinting Through No Man’s Land explores how the cyclists united a country that had been torn apart by unprecedented desolation and tragedy. It shows how devastated countrymen and women can come together to celebrate the adventure of a lifetime and discover renewed fortitude, purpose, and national identity in the streets of their towns.


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The inspiring, heart-pumping true story of soldiers turned cyclists and the historic 1919 Tour de France that helped to restore a war-torn country and its people. On June 29, 1919, one day after the Treaty of Versailles brought about the end of World War I, nearly seventy cyclists embarked on the thirteenth Tour de France. From Paris, the war-weary men rode down the western The inspiring, heart-pumping true story of soldiers turned cyclists and the historic 1919 Tour de France that helped to restore a war-torn country and its people. On June 29, 1919, one day after the Treaty of Versailles brought about the end of World War I, nearly seventy cyclists embarked on the thirteenth Tour de France. From Paris, the war-weary men rode down the western coast on a race that would trace the country’s border, through seaside towns and mountains to the ghostly western front. Traversing a cratered postwar landscape, the cyclists faced near-impossible odds and the psychological scars of war. Most of the athletes had arrived straight from the front, where so many fellow countrymen had suffered or died. The cyclists’ perseverance and tolerance for pain would be tested in a grueling, monthlong competition. An inspiring true story of human endurance, Sprinting Through No Man’s Land explores how the cyclists united a country that had been torn apart by unprecedented desolation and tragedy. It shows how devastated countrymen and women can come together to celebrate the adventure of a lifetime and discover renewed fortitude, purpose, and national identity in the streets of their towns.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey A.

    300 plus pages about a bike race? They pedaled. And pedaled. And yeah, they pedaled. Call me skeptical….initially. In his debut novel, Adin Dobkin takes the reader through what was arguably one of the most grueling Tour De France’ in history, with a storyline that leaves the reader on the edge of their seat, from the days when the fate of the race itself was yet to be determined, to its finale on the streets of Paris months later. With France still reeling from the ravages of the Great War, road 300 plus pages about a bike race? They pedaled. And pedaled. And yeah, they pedaled. Call me skeptical….initially. In his debut novel, Adin Dobkin takes the reader through what was arguably one of the most grueling Tour De France’ in history, with a storyline that leaves the reader on the edge of their seat, from the days when the fate of the race itself was yet to be determined, to its finale on the streets of Paris months later. With France still reeling from the ravages of the Great War, roadways pocked with the scars of Germany’s long assault, 67 riders began a Tour that would traverse the war-torn country, navigating between towns that were no longer, towns that had barely survived, and some that would take decades to regain some semblance of normalcy. In the best of times this weeks-long, arduous journey would have taxed the most steely of riders. In the end, only X (no spoilers) brave souls would get to the finish line. Dobkin introduces us to the many characters that made this event happen, and in particular, the cyclists who tortured themselves by participating in it. Dobkin puts us into the mind of Henri Desgrange, Editor of L’Auto, as he decides whether and ultimately how to pull off this feat. And of course there were the riders, many of whose self-confidence led them to believe that this was nothing more than a couple of weeks of single day events bundled together. Ultimately, it was maybe more about grit and determination, than pure athletic ability, that would determine who crossed the line first. Take my word for it, this book is not just for pedal heads, WWI buffs, or even non-fiction readers (include me in the “none of the above” groups). Dobkin vividly captures a place in time and the people (promoters, cyclists, etc.) who strove to provide relief to a country, if not the whole world, in the aftermath of a global disaster. With a prose that is concise and at the same time lush, a voice that draws one into the story, and a backdrop that feels eerily prescient on the eve of the 108th TdeF, Adin Dobkin gives us a remarkable story that will entertain the most demanding of readers.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    After the devastation of the Great War, a bicycle race was just what France needed to pick itself up. Journalist Adin Dobkin details the inspirational return of the Tour de France in “Sprinting Through No Man’s Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France.” Dobkin drops the reader straight into the action with thrilling descriptions of the French landscape and short biographies of the contenders. Click here to read the rest of my review in the Christian Science Monitor! After the devastation of the Great War, a bicycle race was just what France needed to pick itself up. Journalist Adin Dobkin details the inspirational return of the Tour de France in “Sprinting Through No Man’s Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France.” Dobkin drops the reader straight into the action with thrilling descriptions of the French landscape and short biographies of the contenders. Click here to read the rest of my review in the Christian Science Monitor!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    Who would have thought that a bicycle race could be so thrilling? Author Adin Dobkin takes readers on the ride of their lives in Sprinting Through No Man's Land. On June 29, 1919, nearly 70 cyclists — many former soldiers — participated in the thirteenth Tour de France cycling for a month through Paris and across the war-torn country. What descriptions! What heroic participants! What an inspiring reminder that the human spirit is incredibly resilient! A must-read for history buffs, cycling enthu Who would have thought that a bicycle race could be so thrilling? Author Adin Dobkin takes readers on the ride of their lives in Sprinting Through No Man's Land. On June 29, 1919, nearly 70 cyclists — many former soldiers — participated in the thirteenth Tour de France cycling for a month through Paris and across the war-torn country. What descriptions! What heroic participants! What an inspiring reminder that the human spirit is incredibly resilient! A must-read for history buffs, cycling enthusiasts, tour fans, and anyone who seeks hope during tragic times. 5 of 5 Stars Pub Date: July 1, 2021 #sprintingthroughnomansland #littleA #GoodreadsGiveaway Thanks to the author and Little A, from whom I won a copy via Goodreads in exchange for my honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Update: if you're not sure you want to read this book, try this article as a litmus test: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/14/ma... - not exactly analogous, but close enough. If this stuff interests you, well, read the book... Otherwise, um, maybe not. - - Waited anxiously for this, really enjoyed it, and was glad I had the opportunity to read it during July's annual Tour de France (TdF or le Tour) frenzy (completing it on le Tour's first rest day, after the first week of racing), but ... but ... I Update: if you're not sure you want to read this book, try this article as a litmus test: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/14/ma... - not exactly analogous, but close enough. If this stuff interests you, well, read the book... Otherwise, um, maybe not. - - Waited anxiously for this, really enjoyed it, and was glad I had the opportunity to read it during July's annual Tour de France (TdF or le Tour) frenzy (completing it on le Tour's first rest day, after the first week of racing), but ... but ... I wanted (or maybe I expected) more.... Let's be clear about what's going on here: this is an utterly fascinating story about a remarkable event populated by Herculean competitors painted against a complex, horrific background and played out over a hellacious (quasi-dystopian) landscape.... And it's all true. ... It's a lot to process. From a content and story standpoint, my heart wanted this to be a 5-star juggernaut, but, on a page-by-page basis, it just didn't work that way for me. Throughout, I waffled at the source of my frustration with the writing and tried to figure out why I so frequently had to re-read passages. Was it the paragraph length? sentence construction? lack of sub-headings? difficulty of keeping the competitors' names straight? (OK, OK, given the volume of photos, and the introductory cast list, my guts says that some effort to put faces with names would have made a huge difference, but I'm just guessing.) To be clear, the book is not poorly written, and much of the prose is elegant, and yet ... and yet... A word about audience: Part of me thinks the author tried to appeal to too broad an audience. For cyclists, TdF fans and history buffs, and cycling literature consumers, this is a must-read, but, in that context, it felt uneven. From a genre perspective, part of me would shelve it with Leonard's Lanterne Rouge, which was also worthwhile, but not transcendent. For history readers who are open to a cycling race-driven vignette, I didn't think it was as powerful as, for example, McConnon's Road to Valor (and, to be clear, that's WWII, not WWI); maybe more similar to Kranish's The World's Fastest Man (a recent retelling of Major Taylor's incredible saga). And, of course, because the players are no longer accessible, it's a completely different genre from the more familiar collection of far more recent and modern Hinault-LeMond-Fingon and Lance Armstrong-era books. Again, if, like me, you've read books by or about Armstrong, Barry, Bartali, Bruyneel Cavendish, Fingon, Hamilton, Hincapie, Landis, Lemond, Parkin, Sagan, and Taylor, you'll enjoy this. For others, my guess is it's worth a try.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Linda Galella

    I’m exhausted and might need a month off after experiencing the Tour de France from 1919... “Sprinting Through No Man’s Land”, by Adin Dobkin is far more than a book about a bike race. WW1 has only just ended and Europe is reeling from the effects. Towns, roads, cities, businesses - it’s all in some state of ruin but the people are rejuvenated, resilient and cheering for the men who engage in this gargantuan physical task. Dobkin introduces us to the key athletes; not only their biking biography I’m exhausted and might need a month off after experiencing the Tour de France from 1919... “Sprinting Through No Man’s Land”, by Adin Dobkin is far more than a book about a bike race. WW1 has only just ended and Europe is reeling from the effects. Towns, roads, cities, businesses - it’s all in some state of ruin but the people are rejuvenated, resilient and cheering for the men who engage in this gargantuan physical task. Dobkin introduces us to the key athletes; not only their biking biography but their military experiences, which play strongly throughout the book. Driving the entire event is the Editor-In-Chief of l’Auto, the sponsor and organizer of the race. There are additional interesting biographical sketches and historical interludes that are related to the stops and byways of the race that are very interesting. It’s those vignettes that include the only female characters, otherwise this story is all about the boys. Intensely descriptive prose that go far beyond atmospheric, you will feel every jarring cobblestone, slop of mud, twist of painful wet leather and be thankful it’s not your hemorrhoids on that bike! The pace of this race and the conditions under which it was conducted was brutal but the spirit of the countrymen as they rallied around these guys over the month long event was the stuff of great movies. Were this a film, it would be PG rated, for intensity only; not a foul word to be found nor an R rated interaction between consenting humans, hallelujah! Dobkin includes a Cast of Characters in the beginning that gives very brief bios. It includes all the players and might look overwhelming. Don’t worry. Not that many are key to the story and keeping track isn’t hard. In the back are his notes on Methodology and Sources. These two items are seriously interesting. In fact, I suggest reading the Methodology section prior to reading the bulk of the book but be sure to read the source notes as they are wonderful. From quiet determination to full fledged exhilaration, “Sprinting Through No Man’s Land” is sports, history and above all, a chance to celebrate the joy of victory📚

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve Blackburn

    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 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 First Reads are provided free to Amazon Prime members, with no obligation to review. The book is generally available July 1st.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Greg Kerr

    Well Documented Look at France in Early 20th Century This book is more than about the drama of the 1919 le Tour de France, because the Tour became a metaphorIcal extension of all that France had lived through leading up to the "race"; Survive today and live to fight tomorrow. It was interesting to understand the historical and political significance of what became the Western Front. What I found even more interesting is Zone Rouge. There are five side stories that add to the flavor of overall tal Well Documented Look at France in Early 20th Century This book is more than about the drama of the 1919 le Tour de France, because the Tour became a metaphorIcal extension of all that France had lived through leading up to the "race"; Survive today and live to fight tomorrow. It was interesting to understand the historical and political significance of what became the Western Front. What I found even more interesting is Zone Rouge. There are five side stories that add to the flavor of overall tale, though I'm not sure why Marguerita Ailbert was included. Knocked off a star for this inclusion. There is a similar type of story that gives some additional understanding to WW1 that I highly recommend: A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in t h e Cataclysm Of 1914-18.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paul Triller

    A French view of the aftermath of WW1 from quite an interesting perspective.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jack Graff

    As an avid road cyclist who loves watching The Tour de France, this title was a no brainer to decide on reading. Was expecting less about WWI and more about cycling. The Authors use of first names 80% of the time of the cyclists was irritating. The flow of this book to me was disjointed as well. It did amaze and shock as to the length of the TDF in 1919, the start times of 2:00 am, the barbarian rules e.g. no assistance at all, participants having to pay for food and lodging along the route, hor As an avid road cyclist who loves watching The Tour de France, this title was a no brainer to decide on reading. Was expecting less about WWI and more about cycling. The Authors use of first names 80% of the time of the cyclists was irritating. The flow of this book to me was disjointed as well. It did amaze and shock as to the length of the TDF in 1919, the start times of 2:00 am, the barbarian rules e.g. no assistance at all, participants having to pay for food and lodging along the route, horrific road conditions, etc. These were very tough individuals.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Hallahan

    This is an assiduously-researched book. Dobkin's ability to write in story fashion about a month-long event that took place a century ago amazes me. I have never followed the Tour de France, so I learned a lot about this phenomenon, both in 1919 and, a little bit, from my own research, in 2021. Sometimes the story was very interesting and engaging, such as when Henrí was leading and then dropped the race, and when (no spoilers) things happened to Eugéne. I am deeply impressed by the dedication, This is an assiduously-researched book. Dobkin's ability to write in story fashion about a month-long event that took place a century ago amazes me. I have never followed the Tour de France, so I learned a lot about this phenomenon, both in 1919 and, a little bit, from my own research, in 2021. Sometimes the story was very interesting and engaging, such as when Henrí was leading and then dropped the race, and when (no spoilers) things happened to Eugéne. I am deeply impressed by the dedication, the athleticism, the individual capability, and the sheer grit of the riders that finished the race. The writing, felt dry, though, and most of the book took work to read. There are a few mini-chapters about individuals not directly connected to the race. Maybe they represented particular spectators. I didn't figure out how they fit into the story. I'm not a war history buff, so while the WWI history impressed upon me the starkness of the landscape, the damaged condition of the roads, the interruption to the riders' training, and the economic challenges in terms of bicycle supplies, I didn't benefit a lot from that aspect of the book. I think people who love bike racing and the Tour de France and people who study war history will enjoy this book even more than I did.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    I couldn't invest more time in trying to follow this story. Some chapters I read were really interesting. But most of it was difficult to follow -- couldn't keep all the characters straight, some chapters seemed completely disjointed. I decided it was too much work. I couldn't invest more time in trying to follow this story. Some chapters I read were really interesting. But most of it was difficult to follow -- couldn't keep all the characters straight, some chapters seemed completely disjointed. I decided it was too much work.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Eric Chandler

    The Tour de France is one of the monuments of all sports, not just cycling. But since I used to race as a collegiate road cyclist, I have been a fan of the sport and this race ever since the 1980's. I got more of an education than I expected when I read Adin Dobkin's book about the 1919 edition. Yes, I learned about the very first use of the famous "maillot jaune" or yellow jersey. Yes, I followed the competition between the riders with interest. I thought I understood some of the deep past of t The Tour de France is one of the monuments of all sports, not just cycling. But since I used to race as a collegiate road cyclist, I have been a fan of the sport and this race ever since the 1980's. I got more of an education than I expected when I read Adin Dobkin's book about the 1919 edition. Yes, I learned about the very first use of the famous "maillot jaune" or yellow jersey. Yes, I followed the competition between the riders with interest. I thought I understood some of the deep past of the race, but I was wrong. This is a true detailed glimpse into the very origins of the sport. Dobkin gives you a seat at the newspaper meeting where one of the dudes spitballs, "Why don't we have a super long bike race that goes around the country?" If you ever rode bikes, or are just interested in it, this is an amazing book. This next part is strange to say, but here goes: the context Dobkin provides for this bike race is almost the star of the book. The Great War just ended several months before. Previous Tour winners couldn't compete in the 1919 Tour...because they died in combat. Whole regions of the country were obliterated and forever changed by the destruction. Regions that the riders pedaled through. The descriptions of the towns, the crowds, the cafes, the cratered fields, the ruined towns helped give an understanding to what just transpired only months before. It made the bike race seem almost like an expression of the resilience of the human spirit. More than "sport." At first, some chapters that provided some digressions into the cultural context were confusing to me. But now, the chapters on the 813th Pioneer Infantry Regiment, Alice Milliat, and Eugene Bullard make more sense to me. They highlighted parts of the race's surroundings that would otherwise be invisible. Dobkin raises the context of the land and the culture to an equal spot on the podium with the race itself. But my favorite part of the book has to do with the fact that I used to ride. The longest ride I ever did in training was a 90-miler, outside of Colorado Springs. In training, early in the season, snow squalls, sometimes rain. Several hours in the saddle. Harder than almost every race I ever did, and it was just training. The longest stage in the 2021 Tour de France this year was around 150 miles. One of the stages in the 1919 Tour de France? 480km or 300 miles. Absolutely brutal. On old steel bikes that were just behemoths. Imperious rules by the race organizers that didn't allow any help. Starting at 10 PM and riding until dinnertime the following day. Ridiculous. When the organizers added the mountains of the Pyrenees to the race in 1910, Dobkin relates how Octave Lapize felt about it. When he made it to the top of the mountain, he called the race timers, "Assassins." Lapize won the Tour in 1910. Earlier, Dobkin provided the context: Lapize died when his airplane crashed after a dogfight in 1917. Without this kind of context, the book would just be about a bike race, which would diminish the story. I try to imagine riding the same race with the same gear...and I just can't. They were superhuman. The context makes them seem even more so. Thanks to Adin Dobkin for writing a book about so much more than bikes. This small group of riders existed almost as a 1919 "cri de coeur" for the French people so soon after emerging from the destruction of war. The smallest group of finishers in Tour history, beaten down by attrition, a metaphor for the country itself, struggling, persevering, and finishing. Dobkin's book makes the translation of the name for a group of riders (a "peloton") seem even more understandable: a platoon.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leichnitz Leichnitz

    This book takes you back to 1919, as the title suggests. It does so wonderfully and artfully, with incredible detail and deft writing. Although the race is dramatic, and provides a structure and narrative tension, the race really becomes almost a metaphor for the terror and misery that the French were emerging from. And the hopes of the French, after emerging from the greatest trauma the world had (yet) experienced, were placed in these riders in charming and moving ways. Also, as someone who ha This book takes you back to 1919, as the title suggests. It does so wonderfully and artfully, with incredible detail and deft writing. Although the race is dramatic, and provides a structure and narrative tension, the race really becomes almost a metaphor for the terror and misery that the French were emerging from. And the hopes of the French, after emerging from the greatest trauma the world had (yet) experienced, were placed in these riders in charming and moving ways. Also, as someone who has casually followed the Tour de France from the comfort of my couch -- seeing the support vehicles, spare bikes, air chambers to sleep in, and teammates who block the wind for you -- the brutality of the 1919 tour has to be read about to be believed. It was less a race and more something that the riders were simply trying to survive.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bonnye Reed

    Amazon Prime gift for June 2021 received June 28, 2021 pub date July 1, 2021 Published by Little A

  15. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    As Simon Schama famously said, "[Historians] are doomed to be forever hailing someone who has just gone around the corner and out of earshot.” The best writers of what today is called "creative non-fiction" about the First World War never loose sight of this: Barbara Tuchman uses eyewitnesses to show us Von Kluck, leaning on a rifle as a prop while he fatefully (and to us, the reader, silently) decides to turn the German right wing away from Paris, Stephen O'Shea repeats the elementary school mn As Simon Schama famously said, "[Historians] are doomed to be forever hailing someone who has just gone around the corner and out of earshot.” The best writers of what today is called "creative non-fiction" about the First World War never loose sight of this: Barbara Tuchman uses eyewitnesses to show us Von Kluck, leaning on a rifle as a prop while he fatefully (and to us, the reader, silently) decides to turn the German right wing away from Paris, Stephen O'Shea repeats the elementary school mnemonic ("Austria was Hungary, so it took a piece of Turkey") of his father to kick off his own transversing of the remains of the Western Front, Shane MacGowan covers "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" in his own distinct voice. All are examples of non-historians (O'Shea calls himself an "accidental historian") being true to the historian's task: to thoughtfully make the hail, but understand the speaker will always be out of earshot. To his credit, Dobkin resists the temptation to recreate actual dialog, but in his notes on methodology, he states his goal of recreating perspectives of individual riders. In doing so he creates some lovely writing-- I'll be curious to read his next book-- but fails to interrogate the past, and, ultimately, his thesis is already given up in his title: after the calamity of the First World War, Henri Desgrange created a calamitous Tour de France. Whether we should celebrate the "Endurance" and "Rebirth" or condemn the "Tragedy" is never really answered. I am confident in this writer's ability to do so: I wish that, rather than a recreation of an ultimately unknowable perspective of the riders he had created his own argument about what he thinks OUR perspective should be.

  16. 5 out of 5

    James W.

    Disjointed Disappointment Undisciplined writing supposedly about the first post-WWI Tour de France, the author provided but a disjointed description of the race providing no detail on the nature of bicycles at the time, standings from stage to stage and similar matters one would have expected from a book of this nature. Frustratingingly the author regularly launched into chapters and sub chapters unrelated to the race and breaking any sense of the sequence of the race. He failed to even identify Disjointed Disappointment Undisciplined writing supposedly about the first post-WWI Tour de France, the author provided but a disjointed description of the race providing no detail on the nature of bicycles at the time, standings from stage to stage and similar matters one would have expected from a book of this nature. Frustratingingly the author regularly launched into chapters and sub chapters unrelated to the race and breaking any sense of the sequence of the race. He failed to even identify the stage by number much less provide a listing of the top five and later the entire group once the numbers dropped to 11 and time behind the leader at the end of the stage. The author also generally lapses into passive writing. Glad I didn’t pay to read this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    NotDumbBlonde

    Pretty good book. Very interesting in parts about the Tour de France, has random detours that have nothing to do with the race you have to push through. I purchased this book as one of my June selections on Kindle First, so got to read this one for free. It is still available for Prime members at a discounted rate and is available for free on Kindle Unlimited. Overall, I really liked the parts about the history of the race, what the competitors had endured in WWI, and learning more about the dyn Pretty good book. Very interesting in parts about the Tour de France, has random detours that have nothing to do with the race you have to push through. I purchased this book as one of my June selections on Kindle First, so got to read this one for free. It is still available for Prime members at a discounted rate and is available for free on Kindle Unlimited. Overall, I really liked the parts about the history of the race, what the competitors had endured in WWI, and learning more about the dynamics of a race in a country that was just coming out of a war unlike the world had ever seen before. This is the part of the story that fascinated me. I loved hearing about the individuals in the race and their personal stories. Dobkin gives a fair amount of detail about several of the competitors, including their history of racing, how they got into racing as a child, and what they did during WW1. Where Dobkin lost me and almost made me completely lose focus on the book is the random detours he takes in the story. You’ll be reading about the race and following along, really into what is happening with the competition and then out of nowhere, the next chapter is about something that has 0% to do with the Tour de France of 1919. For example, one chapter is about an ex-lover of Prince Edward VIII (the one who abdicated the throne later) and her letters from him during the war. I got so distracted at first with these chapters trying to figure out how they tied into the book and wondering if I missed saomething that it slowed down my progress on the book, which is partially why it took me so long to finish. If you have a Peloton or bike, these chapters made me feel like I was pedaling through mud or on super high resistance on my bike that goes nowhere, like these chapters. I also wish I felt that I knew each major competitor in the race a little better, as I felt I knew a little about a handful of them, but not enough to make me feel I was rooting for one man to win the race. Perhaps, that is a good thing though because you feel the race as a spectator would, hearing about every incident and struggle as it happens. The race itself in 1919 was crazy. I could not believe some of the things the riders had to deal with, like being penalized for giving water to another competitor. I don’t know if this still exists, but I imagine the mindset of these men was a little different having just come out of the war and I would think they probably felt a little more camaraderie with their fellow competitors than before. They all suffered in the war in some way as it affected everyone’s lives in that part of Europe. If Dobkin had to derail the story with random history of the time, I wish there was more about the terrain they were riding through after the war. I would like to hear more about what had just happened in some of the locales they rode through and the towns. Dobkin does provide some of this, but I think there is so much more he could have said about it, rather than telling us random facts I didn’t pick up this book to learn about. Overall, I am glad I read it. I often found myself telling people about the crazy facts I learned about the 1919 Tour de France and how different it was back then, which to me says the book was worth the read. I go into a history book with the expectation of learning something I accomplished that with this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matt Mansfield

    Long Tour with Diverting Side Trips As has been said many different ways, you can’t go back again. Intended or not, this thought seems to be the underlying takeaway from Adin Dobkin’s 2021 “Sprinting Through No Man’s Land” about the 1919 return of the Tour de France following the Great War. The work is a carefully researched history of the thirteenth version of the month-long bicycle race, its challenging route, including part of battlefields (Zone Rouge), and primarily the key racers after its fou Long Tour with Diverting Side Trips As has been said many different ways, you can’t go back again. Intended or not, this thought seems to be the underlying takeaway from Adin Dobkin’s 2021 “Sprinting Through No Man’s Land” about the 1919 return of the Tour de France following the Great War. The work is a carefully researched history of the thirteenth version of the month-long bicycle race, its challenging route, including part of battlefields (Zone Rouge), and primarily the key racers after its four-year hiatus. Not surprisingly, there are as many chapters as Tour legs plus a concluding one. The immediate story presents the origins of the race – seemingly as a publicity stunt created by Henri Desgrange, Editor in Chief of L’Auto – and its resurrection despite an exhausted country trying to find its way back to some form of normalcy. Within a year after the 1918 Armistice and its celebration the fearless editor called for entries into the national race and promises of cash and other prizes, en route and at its finale. As Dobkin relates, the notion of a national race under severe road conditions and a limited field of contenders may have seemed a bridge too far. Yet, the public needed diversion and embraced the contest, even in economically exhausted and depleted landscapes. Many responded (67), few finished (11). Despite initial personality dramas the story shapes into a contest between a French cyclist, Eugene Christophe, whom the public adopts and applauds, and his remaining ten competitors. Despite not winning – the winner would be a Belgian racer, Firmin Lambot - Christophe’s story becomes symbolic for the country in need of heroes embodying its survival spirit. Even with a well-paced, predictable narrative, the detail can be overwhelming and lengthy at times. And some elements such as the birth of the yellow jersey still used today to designate a leg winner get brief treatment. And the tour itself can be exhausting to follow through its varied environments. There are five real gems as side story counterpoints to the main narrative – small sketches of people tangential to the race but with their own diverse, exceptional lives you may not have heard of. Well worth the trip. There are also lovely photographs though better viewed on a Kindle Fire or hardcopy version. The deeper learning from this history is a familiar, even timely, one: much as we would like to return to the way “things used to be” and our heroes restored to glory, life moves on. And we must adapt.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Scott J Pearson

    The Tour de France is established each year as an endurance race that lasts for about an entire month and encompasses the entire range of French lands. In 1919, following the armistice ending World War One, the Tour resumed after a multi-year hiatus. It included areas in the northeast that were decimated from warfare. Many of the riders, too, had personally experienced the tumults of war. The French people needed something to boost morale as they began the long task of rebuilding. Dobkin combine The Tour de France is established each year as an endurance race that lasts for about an entire month and encompasses the entire range of French lands. In 1919, following the armistice ending World War One, the Tour resumed after a multi-year hiatus. It included areas in the northeast that were decimated from warfare. Many of the riders, too, had personally experienced the tumults of war. The French people needed something to boost morale as they began the long task of rebuilding. Dobkin combines all these tales together into a coherent and intriguing piece of literature. The course was particularly long and hard that year. The riders could not use vehicles to pace, additional bikes to replace, or even extra help in repairs. Only an astounding eleven riders completed the race out of the seventy-something who began the trek. The race, like the war, was a feat of attrition and endurance. By tying individual stories into the piece, Dobkin maintains human interest while reaching into their histories with the military. Photographs accompany each chapter to bring the scenery to the readers’ minds. It is difficult to tell a story of endurance without becoming repetitive, but by bringing in the cultural history of the war, Dobkin avoids that pitfall. In normal years, the Tour’s athletes, facing massive mountain climbs in the Pyrenees and the Alps, tend to inspire fans. After the embittering war, France needed the Tour to lead it into a new world. Sports, at its best, guides society into embracing its better self. Such is no different with this story. The 1919 Tour reminded France that it needed strategy, endurance, hope, and a bit of luck to rebuild. This book has appeal to fans of European history and of sports. It can educate readers of one group about the other group’s interests. I learned much about cycling and France through this work. Despite the male bias that comprised the characters of this tale, Dobkin even manages to tie women’s contributions into the narrative. Overall, the variety of themes and stories weave an interesting tapestry where none might have existed to the untrained eye.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Edwin

    This fairly entertaining book takes the reader along on the 1919 Tour de France, the first edition of that race held after a four-year hiatus during World War I. Dobkin's writing in this book is almost always clear and engaging. He picked an interesting topic, and he does a good job of keeping the narrative going in such a way that you get a feel for the exhaustion, frustration, and pain that the cyclists felt. Dobkin also effectively incorporated the emotions of sorrow and horror that the cycli This fairly entertaining book takes the reader along on the 1919 Tour de France, the first edition of that race held after a four-year hiatus during World War I. Dobkin's writing in this book is almost always clear and engaging. He picked an interesting topic, and he does a good job of keeping the narrative going in such a way that you get a feel for the exhaustion, frustration, and pain that the cyclists felt. Dobkin also effectively incorporated the emotions of sorrow and horror that the cyclists and the people of France felt as they picked up the pieces of their country following World War I. On the other hand, there were some cycling terms and phrases that he did not explain (General Classification, B Classification?). The book seemed to assume that readers would be familiar with various technical aspects of cycling and historical details of Western Europe in the early 1900s. Dobkin interupted the narrative of the race with several vignettes of non-cyclist men and women in France at the time, but these usually came across as disjointed and unconnected as most of these people did not have anything to do with the race, and at least one couldn't watch it because he was incarcerated at the time. I suppose that Dobkin added these to reinforce the feelings of the populace at the time of the race, but I don't believe that it was necessary. Also, I came across one historical misstatement: a minor character's father is said to "ha[ve] been killed in the Battle of Magenta during the Napoleonic Wars" (p. 217). Magenta was in 1859, well after the Napoleonic Wars ended. Though the French were led at Magenta by Napoleon III, the term "Napoleonic Wars" refers to the wars following the French Revolution, when Napoleon Bonaparte ruled France. Yes, this statement has little to do with the overall story, but it really annoys me when I read supposed historical facts which I know to be incorrect. Just a few minutes of research on the author's or editor's part would have prevented this little misstep.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Richard Propes

    Adin Dobkin's "Sprinting Through No Man's Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France" explores the world of the thirteenth Tour de France. It was an event that began on June 29, 1919, a mere day after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and an event that would remarkably journey through the postwar landscape of a nation shattered by war. Nearly seventy cyclists would begin the race including many who would join the start line practically right from their return from the Adin Dobkin's "Sprinting Through No Man's Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France" explores the world of the thirteenth Tour de France. It was an event that began on June 29, 1919, a mere day after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and an event that would remarkably journey through the postwar landscape of a nation shattered by war. Nearly seventy cyclists would begin the race including many who would join the start line practically right from their return from the front. Likely experiencing post-trauma before post-trauma was even recognized as a thing, these men faced nearly impossible odds in a Tour de France that was remarkably different from anything we see today. They were still wearing their psychological scars. Yet, they persisted. There is an undeniably strong market for a work such as "Sprinting Through No Man's Land," a work of tremendous historical value and precise yet poetic language. Dobkin writes with great passion and with such detail that it is relatively easy for a person like myself, mostly unfamiliar with any aspect of this source material, to become lost amidst the names, places, and events that unfold in the pages of the book. At times, I found myself fully engaged. Other times, I found myself distracted and losing interest. I contemplated discontinuing at one point, though the story itself is of such deep human interest that it's difficult to give up on the book even if I'd say it didn't quite resonate with me as deeply as I'd hoped. For others, I have no doubt the book will offer a deeply meaningful experience. I found myself most intrigued by the person of Henri Desgrange, editor of L'Auto, whose persistence helped to ensure the 1919 Tour de France would still occur. He seems irritating yet consummately charismatic. Overall, I would have to say I more appreciated "Sprinting Through No Man's Land" than truly was entertained by it. However, it offered me a glimpse into a world of which I knew nothing about and for that I am grateful.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I was prepared to really like this book. The reviews I read were exceptional and the topic fit well with the book I had just finished (The Tour de France: a Cultural History, 2008, Christopher S. Thompson). Unlike Thompson's work, which looked at the Tour in light of its place in French culture, Dobkin looked at the first Tour following the end of World War One. Unfortunately, I found the book wanting. It may have been the author's style. It may have been the way the race stages were, to me, kind I was prepared to really like this book. The reviews I read were exceptional and the topic fit well with the book I had just finished (The Tour de France: a Cultural History, 2008, Christopher S. Thompson). Unlike Thompson's work, which looked at the Tour in light of its place in French culture, Dobkin looked at the first Tour following the end of World War One. Unfortunately, I found the book wanting. It may have been the author's style. It may have been the way the race stages were, to me, kind of gone over lightly. It may have been the author's assumption that readers would already be familiar with World War One and how it was fought on the western front in France and Belgium. It certainly was the brief chapters relating the stories of individuals who had nothing to do with the Tour other than being in France in 1919. All of this worked against my enjoying the tale. Clearly, the author did a great deal of research. I can't help but think those short chapters unrelated to the Tour were a result of his finding interesting but unrelated things during his research. He states he drove and walked the 1919 Tour route as far as he was able. He clearly SAW the things in the landscape he writes about, and that to good effect. I wish he had spent a little more time describing what happened along the front during the War. Yes, he does intersperse the story with glimmers along the way but, for me, not effectively. This is undoubtedly a personal thing and will undoubtedly be seen differently by other readers. Even with those flaws it's a book worth reading if you are interested in filling in some of the history of the Tour. Now I need to read up on the French and Belgian front during World War One.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Karenbike Patterson

    The Tour De France started in 1903 but it was much shorter, less regulated, and more corrupt. One year after WWI the tour organizer Desgrange (who owned a sports newspaper and wanted to increase circulation) wanted to make it have more stages (15) and encircle France even though many towns in France had either been refitted for the war, damaged, or destroyed during the war, or had few hotels for the cyclists to stay. The rules were also draconian. Cyclists could only have one bike, had to make t The Tour De France started in 1903 but it was much shorter, less regulated, and more corrupt. One year after WWI the tour organizer Desgrange (who owned a sports newspaper and wanted to increase circulation) wanted to make it have more stages (15) and encircle France even though many towns in France had either been refitted for the war, damaged, or destroyed during the war, or had few hotels for the cyclists to stay. The rules were also draconian. Cyclists could only have one bike, had to make their own repairs, could not accept help from anyone, and had to pay their own way. They often cycled 15- 17 hours a day over damaged and unpaved roads. They started cycling in the dark. Few of them finished the race. The favorite, Eugene Christophe, a 34-year-old Parisian who severed in the war (as did many of the others) had little time to train. After some of the first stages to the west coast, he took the overall time lead and was given a yellow jersey to wear so he would stand out even in the mud and rain. Alas, in the second to last stage, after passing the zone rouge-a horrible area totally destroyed by the war, his bike broke and he had to weld it back together. He lost 2 hours and the TDF win to Firmin Lambot- a Belgium. An exciting book with several bios of random French people (not sure why they were included). The author made the tour informative not only about cycling, the geography and towns along the route, the extreme grueling nature of the race, and the terrible price France paid because of the war.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    This is a great re-telling of an event over 100 years old, melding the story of the first Tour after World War I with stories of the war's effects on the cyclists, the landscape, the citizens and the country. Dobkin has a wonderfully descriptive style that puts you into the action of the race, into the minds of the cyclists, into the devastated (and devastatingly beautiful) environs the racers faced. Side chapters highlight perspectives on the war & race from a range of cultural figures of the t This is a great re-telling of an event over 100 years old, melding the story of the first Tour after World War I with stories of the war's effects on the cyclists, the landscape, the citizens and the country. Dobkin has a wonderfully descriptive style that puts you into the action of the race, into the minds of the cyclists, into the devastated (and devastatingly beautiful) environs the racers faced. Side chapters highlight perspectives on the war & race from a range of cultural figures of the time. The story of the Tour itself is gripping and at times heartbreaking. Dobkin's prose makes you almost feel the fatigue, the emotional highs and lows of the riders, with just enough historical perspective into their lives to make them familiar. The stories of the war are also heartbreaking, but full of hope, as the resilience of the people in the far-reaching corners of the country, their homelands wracked by the stressors of war, shines through. They line the streets of their small towns, cheering for their favorite cyclists, barely recovered from the tumult their lives have recently come through. This was a special Tour for many reasons, and Dobkin has written a special book about it. His research was clearly deep, and his storytelling and creativity knit the sometimes disparate parts into a moving tapestry of a place and time not so far away. His book brings us closer to that piece of history in a way that we can feel the reality of it. Highly recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    James McHenry

    Very enjoyable read although sometimes heart-rending. The way that awful war destroyed the landscape and countryside, a constant reminder to the citizens of the awful cost and loss of life they went through. Having the Tour come back at this particular time and the courage of these men on the grueling race was a great example of Sports impacting real life. The trials of the race became a microcosm of the journey the whole of France had to endure and rise above. The riders courage and resilience Very enjoyable read although sometimes heart-rending. The way that awful war destroyed the landscape and countryside, a constant reminder to the citizens of the awful cost and loss of life they went through. Having the Tour come back at this particular time and the courage of these men on the grueling race was a great example of Sports impacting real life. The trials of the race became a microcosm of the journey the whole of France had to endure and rise above. The riders courage and resilience and refusal to quit spoke to everyone and I am sure was not lost on the riders themselves. The research and information were very good. The narrative describing the devastation was excellent. You could imagine yourself seeing it from the seat of those bikes. The overall flow was a little choppy at times. One thing was always referring to the riders and others by there first names was sometimes confusing, I had to backtrack to figure out whom he was talking about. It also seemed to jump around a lot without giving much explanation. Like the chapters about Edwards dalliance and the woman he "dallied" with and the chapter about the Jazz era and "the other" Eugene. I enjoyed both chapters very much once I figured out that they didn't have anything to do with the race:) Very good read! enjoy.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Adin Dobkin book is partly about cycling written by a military history expert who perhaps enjoys cycling. There not really solid character development about the cyclists. This is where the book doesn’t really know what it wants to be. The knowledge of military history and especially WWI is far greater than much understanding about what really went on in cycling. Yes there’s lots of “he pedaled hard and gritted his teeth” sports talk that could be gathered from any viewing of the Tour de France, Adin Dobkin book is partly about cycling written by a military history expert who perhaps enjoys cycling. There not really solid character development about the cyclists. This is where the book doesn’t really know what it wants to be. The knowledge of military history and especially WWI is far greater than much understanding about what really went on in cycling. Yes there’s lots of “he pedaled hard and gritted his teeth” sports talk that could be gathered from any viewing of the Tour de France, but these descriptions seem rather cliched in the book. There no excitement in the book really at all. That’s where it missed on any writing about a bicycle race, especially one as famed and historically significant. In a way perhaps I’m expecting too much , but when you compare this book to say , Chariots of Fire which was very much about sports post WWI it would only maybe make 2 stars. Because the author does understand so military history and regional nuances of each section of France and what occurrences there during WWI maybe 3 stars. If true book were evaluated as it’s billed as about a bicycle race, the air is out of the tire and the chain needs lubricant, there’s no speed or excitement in this historical prose and this cyclist reader tempted to abandon the books race at any stage.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Janell

    There's a lot to like in this book, especially the interesting details about how the 1919 Tour de France unfolded, the crazy long stages, and the draconian rules that the riders had to operate under. Given the fact that this took place when the Great War was barely over and Europe and its roads, not to mention its cyclists, were still in bad shape, it made a lot of sense to provide some background based on the war. I enjoyed it whenever it was relevant to the race or the cyclists. However, an en There's a lot to like in this book, especially the interesting details about how the 1919 Tour de France unfolded, the crazy long stages, and the draconian rules that the riders had to operate under. Given the fact that this took place when the Great War was barely over and Europe and its roads, not to mention its cyclists, were still in bad shape, it made a lot of sense to provide some background based on the war. I enjoyed it whenever it was relevant to the race or the cyclists. However, an entire chapter on the Prince of Wales' French mistress that had nothing to do with either? The book could really do without those digressions, even when well-researched and interesting, because they detracted from the flow of the story. The pictures of the devastated and bombed areas along the route were definitely interesting, but I really wish the author had also included pictures of the main characters - or at least of each rider that won a stage or became race leader, whenever it happened in the book, rather than just one picture of the cyclist who won at the end of the race. I was tempted to search for pictures online, but this is the story about a race, and I was afraid of inadvertently seeing spoilers, so didn't do so until after I finished reading the book. 2.5 stars, rounded up.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    Free Prime Reading | Well, this was a slog. | I was very interested in the story, I just really didn't care for how it was told. So many people introduced so quickly, with little to differentiate them, then sometimes they'd be referred to by first name, sometimes by last, nearly all French (or Belgian French) names, so that they ran together in my mind. One person would be mentioned once and then seem to disappear. Another would have gone so long unmentioned that when he popped back up by first Free Prime Reading | Well, this was a slog. | I was very interested in the story, I just really didn't care for how it was told. So many people introduced so quickly, with little to differentiate them, then sometimes they'd be referred to by first name, sometimes by last, nearly all French (or Belgian French) names, so that they ran together in my mind. One person would be mentioned once and then seem to disappear. Another would have gone so long unmentioned that when he popped back up by first name, I would have to use the kindle search function to find out who he was. Slow, slow, slow, you'd never know this was telling the tale of an exciting event, especially since we'd suddenly get chapters in a different font, telling basically unrelated stories, with no explanation of why they were there. The 813th Pioneers deserve more attention, but the fact that they were near the race and might have tried to glance out and see the riders go by does not justify adding the chapter. Thank god this was free.

  29. 4 out of 5

    E. Nicholas Mariani

    Man, this book had so much potential. A redemption story chronicling cyclists who overcame herculean obstacles to ride in the 1919 Tour de France mere months after World War I destroyed the world as they knew it? Yes, please! On the surface, seems like a story worthy of Ron Chernow or Doris Kearns Goodwin. It screams, "Seabiscuit, but with bikes!" Instead, what we're given is a flimsy, disjointed, superficial chronicle of events. There's no real human interest story anywhere in these pages. Just Man, this book had so much potential. A redemption story chronicling cyclists who overcame herculean obstacles to ride in the 1919 Tour de France mere months after World War I destroyed the world as they knew it? Yes, please! On the surface, seems like a story worthy of Ron Chernow or Doris Kearns Goodwin. It screams, "Seabiscuit, but with bikes!" Instead, what we're given is a flimsy, disjointed, superficial chronicle of events. There's no real human interest story anywhere in these pages. Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts. Oh, and an occasional detour into a few side stories that have nothing whatsoever to do with the main narrative. Honestly, I feel like I could've learned just as much about the 1919 Tour de France by reading various wikipedia entries and scrolling through archival photos on google. It's a real shame. I have no doubt somewhere in the backdrop of this rich and vibrant world lurks a special story rooted in real human emotion. It's too bad the author wasn't able to find it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Burgess

    An extensive history of the 1919 edition of the Tour de France, the first tour held after WWI, as told through the perspective of Desgranges, editor of “l’Auto” newspaper and founder of the Tour in the early 1900s. The participants had almost all served in the war in various capacities and for various countries; their individual stories of struggle, cold, tired, perseverance are a nod to the human spirit, especially Eugene. Desgranges imagined a tour covering the full borders of France, some of An extensive history of the 1919 edition of the Tour de France, the first tour held after WWI, as told through the perspective of Desgranges, editor of “l’Auto” newspaper and founder of the Tour in the early 1900s. The participants had almost all served in the war in various capacities and for various countries; their individual stories of struggle, cold, tired, perseverance are a nod to the human spirit, especially Eugene. Desgranges imagined a tour covering the full borders of France, some of which were added after the war, others “Zone Rouge,” where the ground was barely recognizable from the horrors and destruction of the war, fifteen stages through a moment in history, to revitalize the French, to bring together a severely country damaged. The detail of each stage of the race is amazing, yet I yearned for more of the broader history of that time, which wasn’t entirely what Dobkin was seeking. The interspersing of several chapters unrelated to the Tour was odd, no clear reason why they were included. Overall a good read but with the concerns described above.

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