Johnny Green | Push Yourself Just a Little Bit More: Backstage At the Tour De France

Like the best journalism, Green’s work is the product of a writer absolutely immersed in his subject.

 
As the eyes of the cycling world were set on Lance Armstrong while he pedaled his way through the Pyrenees toward another victory in the Tour de France, Johnny Green sat at the top of the mountain, listening while Sheryl Crow explained how professional cycling might just be the new rock ’n’ roll.
It was a notion that jibed well with the former Clash manager’s own perspective and one that helps frame his witty and irreverent backstage account of the Tour de France. Through Green’s spectacles, the worlds of cycling and music don’t look all that different. As a scholar of both, he’s able to weave the two together and spot connections no one else would likely consider, such as the link between his favorite rider, the flamboyant Italian sprinter Mario Cipollini, and another “exhibitionist extremist,” Iggy Pop. Like Pop, Cipollini “was there to explode like a Roman candle. His push was all or nothing. Never dutiful mediocrity.”

As Green’s other book, A Riot of Our Own, did for life on the road with the Clash, Push Yourself Just a Little Bit More seeks to capture the essence of the world’s biggest bicycle race. While many members of the press watched the race on huge screens tucked away in air-conditioned halls, Green was out on the road. He basked in the twin surges of wind and adrenaline as the riders raced up and down mountains and stormed through tiny villages across France. What he sought wasn’t a dutiful account of the race, which everyone knows Armstrong dominated. He was on a quest for the intangible forces at work that keep riders and fans alike motivated and moving for 23 days and some 2,200 miles each July.

Like the best journalism, Green’s work is the product of a writer absolutely immersed in his subject. And one with a keen eye and sharp razor-sharp wit, to boot. He may not be up to speed on the sport’s more technical aspects, but his quest comes closer than any other account to locating the heart of cycling’s grandest tour.

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