From Santander to Santander
Brieven uit het peloton
Letters from the peloton
From Santander to Santander is a unique document about a leading sport during an age when that sport began to shed its innocence. It is brilliantly written; the reader will never forget the pain a racing cyclist suffers, thanks to Winnen’s gift for metaphor, and it is so transparently honest that you tend to forget how unusual such frankness is. The cycling world keeps silent like no other about what really happens in it. The media, too, prefer heroic feats, living legends and the romantic side of the riders’ grit to the truth. There is none of that in Peter Winnen’s book.
His ‘insider accounts’, as he calls them, tell cycling fans what they have always wanted to know: what goes on inside a racing cyclist’s head as he labours up a mountain; how the human body is able to put up with such improbable exertions; what the secret (or miracle?) is of being in top form; what view racing cyclists take of their retinue (medical attendants, team managers, media, sponsors); how they regard their rivals; and what the unwritten laws are under which they race thousands of kilometres each year in one another’s company.
Winnen takes his readers so much into his confidence that cycle racing will never be the same for them again. They will find it more exciting than before, even though they now know about things they would rather wish away. During his year as a top racing cyclist, Winnen saw the practice of drug-taking spread – ultimately one of the main reasons why he stopped being a racing cyclist in 1991. Within a few years the traditional ‘conditioning’ of cycle racers, became an increasingly widespread practice, and drugs a ‘necessary evil’. Winnen is one of the few initiates in the peloton to have spoken out.
From a youthful dream to the height of success within ten years – looking back now, Winnen is still astonished about his cycling career, in which a climb of seven kilometres made him world-famous, an eight-and-a-half minute gain in time doubled his income, and a three-millimetre lower saddle prevented his having to cut his career prematurely short. The smallest detail matters more than the biggest word – and this is precisely the spirit in which From Santander to Santander is written.