Higher Calling: Cycling's Obsession with Mountains

Higher Calling: Cycling's Obsession with Mountains

by Max Leonard


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Guaranteed to appeal to all lovers of cycling, the author of Lanterne Rouge explores the glorious—and painful—allure of cycling up mountain peaks.

Written with verve and enthusiasm, A Higher Calling explores why mountains have such a magnetic appeal to cyclists the world over. But Max Leonard, himself an accomplished amateur cyclist, does not forget the pain, the glory, the sweat, and the tears that go into these grueling climbs. After all, cycling up a mountain is hard. So hard that, to many, it can seem absurd. But for others, climbing a mountain gracefully (and beating your competitors up the slope) represents the pinnacle of cycling achievement. It is where legends are forged.

Many books tell you where the mountains are, or how long and how high. None of them ask why. Why are mountain ranges professional cycling’s Coliseum? Why do amateurs also make pilgrimages to these high, remote roads? Why are the roads even there in the first place to lure us on to these obsession inducing climbs? Just why are mountains so enthralling?

“This is real cycling, where the glory is and where dreams come true,” according to Bradley Wiggins. Mountains are where cycling's greatest heroes have made their names. Every amateur rider wishes they could climb better, too. Are all these people addicted to the pain? To the achievement? Or to the allure of the peaks? Some spend their weekends and holidays cycling up mountains from start to finish. But how does a rider push themselves beyond their limits to get up a 10% gradient on pedal power alone? What is happening when they do?

A Higher Calling explores the central place of mountains in the folklore of road cycling. Blending adventure and travel writing with the rich narrative of racing, Max Leonard takes the reader from the battles that created the Alpine roads to the shepherds tending their flocks on the peaks, and to a Grand Tour climax on the “highest road in Europe.” And he tells stories of courage and sacrifice, war and love, obsession and even elephants, along the way.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681776187
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 01/02/2018
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Max Leonard is a writer and amateur cyclist. He has written for Esquire, Monocle, Rouler, Daily Telegraph, Rapha and others and is the author of the City Cycling Europe guides. He has never knowingly come first—or last—in anything.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Ain't no mountain

High enough 1

1 Setting the stage 13

2 Hors catégorie 41

3 Control, and losing it 63

4 The Kings of the Mountains 88

5 How KoMs conquered the world 127

6 The climb is not the thing 159

7 How the Alps were won 182

8 Getting high 217

9 Counting sheep 245

10 II Giro 273

Epilogue: Time passes 289

Glossary 301

Acknowledgements 303

Further reading 305

List of illustrations 307

Index 311

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