A passionate tribute to the art of bicycle racing: A true classic by one of Holland’s best-loved writers
Tim Krabbé’s De renner is to Dutch literature what Paris-Roubaix is to bicycle road-racing: a royal classic. It’s a ride to the sun, and a ride to Zen – the definitive abc of sports, an encyclopedia, a literary masterpiece, an adventure novel and bicycling odyssey all rolled into one. Perhaps the most surprising thing about De renner is that it covers only 129 pages, yet cries out to be read again and again.
The book seems to have nine lives, nine breaths to catch, and the mechanism behind this little miracle never becomes completely clear to the reader: each word sparkles and fascinates, seems to have been whispered in the writer’s ear by Fausto Coppi in his deepest pain, Bernard Hinault in his deepest strain, by Moser, Anquetil and Merckx flying over the cobblestones on the heels of sweet victory.
At the age of twenty-nine Tim Krabbé was converted to bicycle racing; six years later he wrote this pocket bible of the sport, and has had a horde of followers ever since. That’s probably because his prose is so completely natural. Here too, the master’s hand is seen: this is the fruit of hard labour by a professional author who leaves nothing to chance. Check the toe-clips one last time, the brakes, bidon in place? Or should I throw it away (saves a good 200 grams!)?
After reading De renner, one knows once and for all what it means to suffer for a cause, knows how the mind leads, and misleads, the body. The reader is drawn into a fascinating description of the world of the will. Krabbé makes an extremely good case for the tenet that pure willpower can create the illusion of flight. With enchantingly simple means, he unveils the magic of the sport: thinking that your legs are a silent motor, a source of free power. In that sense, the book is an ode to life as well, the inexhaustible source of energy from which all things come. En passant, the breathtaking decor of the French countryside unfolds as well, for the reader truly finds himself in the midst of a real bicycle race. The winner is one Reilhan from N?mes, but the real winner, of course, is none other than Tim Krabbé.