…The helicopter is hanging above our heads. A woman with a child waves up to the family watching at home. Motorcycles tear past, sirens wailing. And here they come, the riders. Like a vast chameleon the peloton continually changes shape and colour. Four hundred tyres sing to us. Music for a Sunday afternoon.Here they come. Here they are. There they go. It’s all over, consigned to the past once more. We can still see the mud-spattered backside of a straggler, sitting crooked on his bike after a fall. The skin of his elbow has been grazed raw, the dirt of the Tour ground into the wound. But he must go on. The Tour waits for no man…Wilfried de Jong is a star of Dutch sports writing and broadcasting. In this award-winning collection of cycling tales, his comic, melancholic, existential charm unlocks a sport that involves so much pain, punishment, isolation and a high probability of failure. Whether he is describing being ejected from Paris-Roubaix, a terminal incident with a bird while out riding, painting the drama that unfolds in forgotten café as they wait for the Tour to pass, or explaining why he is standing stark naked on Belgian cobbles with a tyre in his hand in the morning mist, he always uncovers the true soul of cycling – why we do it, why we watch it, why we hate it, why we love it – stripped bare.