A feast of luscious moments

2012-08-01 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

The Greatest Race

Mike Powell

Wild Dog Press

THE meditative rhythms and searing surges of the Tour de France are a hypnotic highlight of the year for cycling fans and millions of armchair dreamers.

Its sheer duration ensures that it insinuates itself into the very fabric of life, and so, once it is over for another year, it is as though lustre and desire have been bleached out of existence overnight. This year, the withdrawal symptoms have been eased by the Olympics, but only just.

William James said there were as many personalities in the tour as there are stars in the universe. The philosopher Roland Barthes compared it to the Odyssey, a human ordeal that challenged not only the limits of the body but of the earth too, as cyclists who conquer the Pyrenees and the Alps break free from gravity and physical limits to dominate the universe.

Trying to contain the hyperboles of the tour in a frozen photographic frame is Mike Powell’s challenging task, but his years of experience contribute to a feast of luscious moments. The most powerful moments of any tour are ephemeral, ineffable, and besides it plays itself out in minute detail on television for the entire three weeks of its duration. But once it’s all over, the hankering for the next year starts, and Powell’s book of photographs is a comforting companion for the wait, covering all aspects of the race, from the bicycles to the spectators to the sweeping, soaring scenery.

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