Rob Hayles: My Life on a Bike

£16.99 available from www.randomhouse.co.uk

A great autobiography and a history lesson on the early days of the British Cycling Academy

This book has been on my desk for a while, I read a bit then get caught up in other things but, I’m always glad to get back to it. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much from this book, that is not to say Rob himself hasn’t done much, far from it. I just thought it wouldn’t contain what it does. It might be an autobiography and was written with the assistance of Lionel Birnie, who himself is a very good sports writer but, it also tells another story.

The book charts Rob’s fantastically varied career, starting from his childhood days moving up the ranks in professional cycling under the tutelage of his father Killer Kowalski, who for the older readers will know as a British Wrestler and I have to admit that I’m impressed that Rob’s dad has an interest in track cycling. What an awesome dad!

It would be fair to say throughout his career Rob has had plenty of ups and downs, in national championships, on the track for the Olympics and road racing for Cofidis – pretty heady times which he handled pretty well even at times he admits it wasn’t so. Rob is roughly the same age as me and I’ve always admired his racing ability but when he was racing I never really saw his character and until he started to appear on TV after his retirement for racing, so the book was an eye opener to how he was. It seems Rob was a fairly decent bloke and accepting of so many things and others.

The bit the really drew me to the book, and again this isn’t a detriment to Rob as he was the one caught up in it all and shaping it too, was the back story which is the emergence of British Cycling. When I started getting into cycling it was a backwater sport in England and our few heroes of the sport were far and few between. I kind of liked that era! What happened to Rob was the start of the British Cycling academy we have today that has brought so much talent out that the younger generations getting in to the sport today have a choice of British heroes to chose from! When I was at school it was just Robert Millar, who was claimed by [and rightly so] Scottish first and foremost.

What Rob achieved in that time is pretty impressive and unlike some of his peers he managed to keep his head above the water when he went pro, although at Pro-Tour level things didn’t last long! But I think that was a favour in disguise. The youth of today should be looking to riders like Rob, like my [and Rob's] generation looked up to the likes of Robert Millar, Stephen Roche and Sean Kelly.

So whilst the book is an autobiography it is also a piece of cycling history being told. A crucial part of British cycling and the next generation that came out of it. Also those involved and how they got there to a lesser extent. I’m glad someone like Rob has told the story and while he did well he doesn’t have the aloofness that befits some other riders and the story is more humbling. If I was Rob I would be bloody proud of what he has done!

Verdict

A great book that should be read if you want a better understanding of how Britian started to become a dominating force in cycling. It is well written and has a nice easy pace (a bit like Rob himself?). Thoroughly recommend this book to anyone of any age really. A dam good story of a British lad who loved racing bicycles.

Rating

Review date: 17 November 2013

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