I spoke to Scottish author Richard Moore in 2012, before he appearing in Aberfeldy, two nights before the Etape Caledonia sportive, Scotland’s biggest cycling event. He discussed his book Slaying the Badger, which covers the careers of Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault, focusing on the 1986 Tour de France, where they went head-to-head as teammates.
Hi Richard, you’re appearing at the Watermill bookshop in Aberfeldy, on the eve of the Etape Caledonia, what are you planning to speak about?
I’m mainly going to speak about — and maybe read a bit from — Slaying the Badger. However, I will also talk about Sky’s the Limit. It’s about to come out in paperback with a couple of new chapters on last season… and a bit of looking ahead to how the whole Cavendish / Wiggins thing might work out. Or not.
[Update: 2012 went well for Wiggins at Sky, as we now know, but not so well for Cavendish. Wiggins won the Dauphine, Tour, and Olympic time trial. Although Cav won three tour stages, including the final one on the Champs Elysees, he was frustrated in coming nowhere near challenging for the green jersey. Sky putting full backing behind Wiggin’s GC campaign left the sprinter freelancing for sprint wins, and he later fell well short in the Olympic road race as the British team were overpowered in a gruelling contest.]
Do you get to come back up to Scotland much these days?
Not that often. I thought I’d be up more, but things get in the way.
And are you riding the Etape on the Saturday? (if not, what’s your excuse?!)
I wanted to, but was advised not to. I had a hip replacement last October, and although the new hip feels brilliant, and is totally pain-free, I’ve been warned not to overdo it. Next year.
OK, that’s a pretty good excuse. At least you still ride a bit – but getting out on the bike must be ad-hoc with the travelling needed for journalism?
The hip has been more of a problem the last few years. When I first started covering the Tour de France I went running as often as possible, but my hip injury put paid to that. My running days are behind me now, sadly. Cycling is more difficult when you’re away. You need a bike.
Are there any new books in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
I’ve got a non-cycling book coming out in early June – The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final. It was a race that made a deep impression on me, and lots of other people, too. And the positive drugs test that followed gave me an early understanding of this issue — not to mention a taste for drugs scandals! I’m also working on a Tour de France book for next year’s 100th Tour.
[update: Richard’ Moore’s Etape was published in 2013 and features chapters focusing on a single rider and stage from throughout the Tour de France’s history.]
What are your immediate plans for the next few months- building up to covering the Tour. Will you be over there for the full three weeks?
Yes, I’ll be there for the full three weeks — can’t wait. It’s Wiggo’s to lose, right!?
Slaying the Badger is out in the US now- obviously with the Lemond story, there should be good interest there. I take it a US version was always in the plan?
I hoped it would be published in the US but it wasn’t guaranteed – thankfully VeloPress bought the US rights and it came out on May 1. They’re doing a great job with it, too.
I guess France is more difficult with translation required. I’m good at French myself but not up to that standard! Could you ever see a release across the channel?
That would be great. Slaying the Badger is also being translated into Danish and Dutch… there’s a bit of interest from Spain as well. But nothing from France as yet.
Now that the book has been out for a little while, have you had any feedback from the protagonists about how they were portrayed?
You’ll have to read the new Afterword… it’s in the paperback edition. But I’ll save you the expense. I got a lovely email from LeMond’s wife, Kathy. And, when I gave Hinault a copy at the Tour last year, he grunted a “merci.”