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Book People

Tour de France cyclist. Credit: Tico_24

All the Bikes We Cannot See

A record number of injuries and disqualifications in this year’s Tour de France is being blamed on addictions to contemporary fiction.

While riders at the Tour de France must negotiate tricky roundabouts, maintain tight formations at high speeds, and keep an eye on rival riders, there is still plenty of downtime over the three-week race that covers 3,360 kilometers, or almost 2,100 miles.

To alleviate the potential for boredom, sympathetic tour organizers have for the first time permitted cyclists to bring reading material with them out on the course. The rule change has only increased the drama in this year’s race.

In a tactical blunder, talented American Tejay van Garderen opted to read Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman on a downhill section of the Pyrenees. “Atticus said what!?!” he yelled before tumbling into a ravine.

Two riders from Australia’s Orica GreenEDGE team got into a fistfight over a coveted review copy of Jonathan Franzen’s Purity. Luckily, there were only minor injuries as they were both wearing helmets.

Just in over race radio: “Romain Bardet hit with a five-minute penalty for overdue books.” Podium hopes: dashed.

Richie Porte, a longtime domestique, or “helper,” has one job: to sacrifice himself for Team Sky leader Chris Froome. But speculation arose that Porte was unhappy in his role when he was spotted reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Hunch Over, a sequel to Lean In written for ambitious cyclists.

Tour officials were forced to ban the works of bleak Romanian philosopher E.M. Ciorian after they caused the Europcar squad to drop out, citing existential despair.

Press: “How does it feel to be in the yellow jersey?” Chris Froome: “There’s a lot of riding left to go, but I’ve got a great team behind me and I’m just taking it one stroke at a time. If I could just say a word about Renata Adler’s Speedboat though. I mean wow, what an intense reading experience. God bless NYRB Classics, who I heard might sponsor a team next year. And how about Joshua Cohen’s Book of Numbers? I’ve heard some grumbling from you guys about him naming his two protagonists Joshua Cohen, but I think that’s just a kneejerk reaction to certain metafictional strategies. At any rate, I’m planning on pushing through to the end of that doorstopper, then treating myself to a nice beach read for the ride into Paris. Sorry, what was the question again?”

Competition was fierce for the King of the Knausgaard jersey, awarded to the rider who at Tour’s end had made the most progress through the Norwegian’s multi-volume epic.

Bitter rivals Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador staged an epic battle up the Col du Tourmalet to determine who would pick the next selection for their book club. (Contador, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, over Nibali, Grey.)

“I kept losing my place in my book riding over those stupid bumps.” Nairo Quintana, after being disqualified for taking a detour around the cobblestone sections of Stage 4 to focus on The Girl on the Train.

Two riders in a promising breakaway, Peter Sagan and Warren Barguil, squandered their chance at a stage victory when they began bickering instead of working together. Sagan didn’t mind the Frenchman drafting off him, but drew the line at Barguil reading over his shoulder.

Tour officials were forced to ban the works of bleak Romanian philosopher E.M. Ciorian, author of On the Heights of Bitterness and The Trouble with Being Born, after they caused the whole Europcar squad to drop out, citing existential despair.

One rider, who asked not to be named, gushed about finally having time to catch up on Lance Armstrong’s memoirs.

Matt Seidel is a staff writer for The Millions. His articles can be found here. More by Matt Seidel