We Were Young and Carefree - Laurent Fignon

This is one of those books I've read many times - the way Fignon describes the life and the competition of a Tour de France winner is exciting and captivating. He describes it with boldness and vivid colors, big emotions. How he describes what he'll write about gives a good idea of the tenor of his autobiography:

"What follows is my personal story, but it also describes a wider world, a lost world which created complete men rather than just sportsmen: in me, the man has always had the upper hand against the sportsman. The lust for excitement, tempests and battles has always been there. It springs from the tiniest inkling of an idea. It looks wide-eyed out at the world. I always wanted to grab life in both hands. Otherwise, what's the point in being on this earth? Is it pride when you prefer the surge of living things to slavish complacency? Is it vanity when you want to surprise yourself again and again? Is it a crime to have a competitive soul and a gambler's blood?
Cycling is a living, breathing art. Those cyclists who forget that are halfway to becoming sloths. Isn't it better to gamble on victory than to secure a comfortable defeat? I didn't want life to be somewhere else, some other time. I wanted life to be full, every instant of it, beginning again every day, I wanted it to be complete, and loaded with surprises."

His career spanned an exciting period of cycling - a little after the big success of Bernard Hinault, alongside Greg LeMonde, and ended with the exploits of Miguel Indurain. He was also 2 time winner of the Tour de France, and famously lost the 1989 Tour de France by 8 seconds on the final time trial stage to Greg LeMonde. Greg LeMonde used aero bars that gave an increased advantage to Hinault who rode the time trial "Merckx style." 

His retirement in 1993 also marked the period of time that doping started to become more sophisticated and gave more of a boost than the more simplistic "doping" of the past, with EPO, human growth hormone and blood transfusions.

As I said, I've read this book many times so I'd of course recommend it to anyone who likes a lively account of an exciting period of cycling at the highest levels.