meticulously researched history chock-full of names and race information, featuring mini-profiles of several men who have been last-place finishers in the race and are called lanternes rouges.
The New York Times Book Review
Don't be surprised if you fall in love with Max Leonard's book. A glorious celebration.
An elegant book. Surprising and illuminating.
Leonard extracts the dignity that sometimes exists in sporting failure; this is not the world of Armstrong, Keane, or Pietersen and it is all the more appealing because of that.
Thoughtful, properly researched, and consistently entertaining.
Max Leonard demonstrates that perhaps the best way to understand the Tour de Franceand, to an extent, cycling as a wholeis to approach it was most of us would on a bike: from well behind.
The Last Man in the Tour de France is equal parts history, hagiography, love letter and existential rumination. It is also quite good, insomuch as it falls well within the wheel grooves of the similar sports books before it but then drafts behind them, like a skilled racer does, so that its heart-on-sleeve moments, which can become syrupy quagmires in lesser reads, hurtle by, driven by Leonard’s relatively lean prose and his obvious personal passion.
This book does a great job of revealing some of the less well known stories from le Tour: well written, entertaining, and informative.
An engaging, exhaustive survey of the last man in the Tour de France, a history, a collection of appealing anecdotes and a psychological consideration of winning and losing. An obvious choice for serious cycling fans, Leonard's study will also please general sports fans, history enthusiasts and those who root for the underdog.
A lively account. It’s not easy to come up with an original angle on Le Tour, but with this rear view Leonard has managed the feat in style.
In some sports, last place doesn't necessarily mean ignominy. Max Leonard's entertaining book is rich with stories. A lively and engaging book that offers a valuable lesson: A lanterne rouge may finish last, but at least he stayed in the race.
This is a valuable book with some great stories. Deeply-researched and well-written, it’s an enjoyable read that shouldn’t be rushed.
With all of the emphasis in competitive sporting events to finish first, this work comes as a pleasant surprise. Leonard (City Cycling), a journalist and avid amateur cyclist, writes a fascinating account that focuses on the many stories, both real and mythical, associated with what is termed Lanterne Rouge, or the cyclist who finishes in last place at the famed Tour de France bike race. Leonard diligently details the adventures and mishaps of riders in a race so physically demanding that it can be compared to running a marathon every day for three weeks. Few riders would relish placing last, but Leonard proves there is more to the story, as such riders can achieve a vastly different prestige or acclaim, and one not necessarily of negative connotation. Readers will especially enjoy the chapter about Algerian rider Abdel-Kader Zaaf, in which the author presents differing accounts of what actually took place during the 1950 and 1951 Tour de France and allows readers to render their own judgements. VERDICT Leonard's captivating, thoroughly researched, and well-written book is replete with a meticulous index of terms and names. For all libraries.—John N. Jax, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., La Crosse
In a race as grueling as the Tour de France, where do we draw the line between winning and losing? Writer and amateur cyclist Leonard challenges what it means to achieve greatness through the mythos of the sport's underdogs. The author provides little information about the competitors we recognize as champions of the sport, instead populating the narrative with a strange sort of idol worship. He resists the urge to discuss at length the exploits of well-known Tour de France personalities like Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Lance Armstrong; Leonard focuses on the tragicomic, unofficially recognized heel of the century-old competition, the lanterne rouge, the last rider to finish the race. Instead of Fausto Coppi and Hugo Koblet, the spotlight is on beautiful "losers" like Abdel-Kader Zaaf (among the first Algerians to compete in the race) and Tony Hoar. Leonard waxes philosophical between chapters titled like Jungian archetypes of Tour lore—e.g., "The Survivor," "The Rebel," "The Debutant," "The Maverick," "The Fall Guy." In each of these chapters, the author highlights an episode (or episodes) in the unsung history of the lanterne rouge, filling the pages with romantic significance. The pace of his prose, like the Tour itself, can be a little fast and treacherous. For those new to the sport and its figures, there may be a lot of catching up to do. But there is much to learn from this book, which will prove amusing for cycling enthusiasts and interesting enough for sports buffs without a clue. "Being lanterne rouge is about so many other things than being last it is barely about being last at all," writes Leonard. "It's about…doing what you can do to the best of your abilities and not giving up." Indeed, it's nice to know that there is a place in history for those whose great achievement is seeing it through to the end.
“A fascinating account that focuses on the many stories, both real and mythical, associated with what is termed Lanterne Rouge, or the cyclist who finishes in last place at the famed Tour de France bike race. Captivating.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Thoughtful, properly researched, and consistently entertaining.”—Tim Moore, author of Gironimo!
“Thoughtful and witty.”—The Times Literary Supplement
“Leonard extracts the dignity that sometimes exists in sporting failure; this is not the world of Armstrong, Keane, or Pietersen and it is all the more appealing because of that.”—The Observer (London)