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Chased by Pandas: My life in the mysterious world of cycling

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Dan is unashamed when it comes to exposing these dark feelings, his weaknesses and how he tried to deal with them, his attitude exemplifying Mark Twain’s quote: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear”.

The book came as a 2022 Christmas present from my son, very fitting and of special interest for me, I used to follow Dan as a rider through the racing season. That was 2003 (if you’re one of those people who forever bangs on and on and on about 1989 – the year, not the Taylor Swift album – I’ll bet that makes you feel really old) and Martin was still British, not yet Irish (the following year, 2004, he came the British U18 national road race champion). There are of course more constructive ways use one’s time than to read road cyclists’ autobiographies, but I dare say – even before I’ve read the book myself – that STS would be positively surprised if he bought (or loaned) the book and wasted a couple of hours of his time by reading it!You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. Even though I think I can safely say that I’ve got a rational mind, I ended up developing an almost mystical rapport with the bike. Written with his long-time friend and best-selling author Pierre Carrey, this is the story of a rider who never sought to conform to modern cycling’s norms and someone who, in many ways, embodies an age in cycling which has long since disappeared.

The locals hang them to dry and on the outsides of their houses in the town of Espelette, which they’re named for and where the time trial was due to finish. To reprise an old theme Dan Martin’s win in the 2013 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège was huge for him and his team.

Very rarely in sports do regular mortals who are undoubtedly athletic get to race against these hyper talented youngsters (and get our hats handed to us! His time at Quick-Step seems the best, one small anecdote goes a long way to explaining the “wolfpack” mentality: at the December training camp everyone sits down for dinner together, riders, mechanics, soigneurs all mixing. Curiously, while Chased by Pandas paints Martin’s story in pretty pastels, Carrey’s 2017 article was a more nuanced study in light and shadow.

Dan Martin piques your curiosity and draws you in to keep reading with a refreshing deep descriptions of being at the business end of the breakaway. You look at Martin, though, and there’s no hint he’s a gourmand, there’s no hint he’s ever eaten a square meal in his whole life. With its descriptions of the profound boredom that oozed from Monaco, or the Tourmalet’s telluric faults and anarchic curves (“like a piece of spaghetti through pesto”), Chased by Pandas is definitely one of the better written chamois memoirs – even if it is another of those chamoirs where the subject’s voice is often lost behind that of the ghost – but at heart it is as light and as trivial as most of the others.Operación Puerto itself is mentioned once, in passing, Martin noting that the man whose shadow he seemed to become, Alejandro Valverde, had been “implicated in the Operation Puerto doping affair”. His time at UAE explains how much the team might have had more money but it was still the Lampre team underneath: an old fashioned squadra where things get off to a bad start with a clumsy bike fitting before he even pulls on the jersey. The modern chamois memoir, though, is more an exercise in PR and image management than it is an exploration of a sport forever telling us to ignore what goes on in the shadows and just enjoy the spectacle. the most rational hypothesis was that there was an oily residue on the road at that point and the dampness in the air had made it slippery.

Known as one of the sport's last romantics, Dan has won stages on all of the Grand Tours and has triumphed at numerous one-day classics.The most interesting aspect is Martin and his approach the sport and there are often moments in the book where you wish for more, as if you could pause the autobiography and ask for more opinion but hopefully there’s a second career ahead for this. Born in 1986 in Birmingham to an Irish mother and an English father, Dan Martin is the nephew of Irish cycling legend Stephen Roche.

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