Format Hardcover
Publication Date 05/30/15
ISBN 9781605987866
Trim Size / Pages 8.6 x 5.8 in / 272

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Lanterne Rouge

The Last Man in the Tour de France

Max Leonard

If you complete a bike race of over 3,000 miles in last place, overcoming mountain ranges and merciless weather, all while enduring physical and psychological agony, should you be branded the loser?  What if your loss helped a teammate win? What if others lacked the determination to finish? What if you were trying to come in last?

Froome, Wiggins, Mercks—we know the winners of the Tour de France, but Lanterne Rouge tells the forgotten, often inspirational and occasionally absurd stories of the last-placed rider. We learn of stage winners and former yellow jerseys who tasted life at the other end of the bunch; the breakaway leader who stopped for a bottle of wine and then took a wrong turn; the doper whose drug cocktail accidentally slowed him down and the rider who was recognized as the most combative despite finishing at the back.

Max Leonard flips the Tour de France on its head and examines what these stories tell us about ourselves, the 99% who don't win the trophy, and forces us to re-examine the meaning of success, failure and the very nature of sport.

Max Leonard is a writer and amateur cyclist.  He has written for Esquire, Monocle, Rouler, Daily Telegraph, Rapha and others and is the author of the City Cycling Europe guides.  He has never knowingly come first—or last—in anything.

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Endorsements & Reviews

“Writer and amateur cyclist Leonard challenges what it means to achieve greatness through the mythos of the sport's underdogs. There is much to learn from this book, which will prove amusing for cycling enthusiasts and interesting enough for sports buffs without a clue.” Kirkus Reviews
“In some sports, last place doesn't necessarily mean ignominy. Max Leonard's entertaining book is rich with stories. A lively and engaging book that offers a valuable lesson: A lanterne rouge may finish last, but at least he stayed in the race.” Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Don't be surprised if you fall in love with Max Leonard's book. A glorious celebration.” TheTour.co.uk
“A fascinating account that focuses on the many stories, both real and mythical, associated with what is termed Lanterne Rouge, or the cyclist who finishes in last place at the famed Tour de France bike race. Leonard’s captivating, thoroughly researched, and well-written book is replete with a meticulous index of terms and names.” Library Journal (starred review)
“Max Leonard demonstrates that perhaps the best way to understand the Tour de France—and, to an extent, cycling as a whole—is to approach it was most of us would on a bike: from well behind. The Last Man in the Tour de France is equal parts history, hagiography, love letter and existential rumination. It is also quite good, insomuch as it falls well within the wheel grooves of the similar sports books before it but then drafts behind them, like a skilled racer does, so that its heart-on-sleeve moments, which can become syrupy quagmires in lesser reads, hurtle by, driven by Leonard’s relatively lean prose and his obvious personal passion.” Paste Magazine
“An engaging, exhaustive survey of the last man in the Tour de France, a history, a collection of appealing anecdotes and a psychological consideration of winning and losing. An obvious choice for serious cycling fans, Leonard's study will also please general sports fans, history enthusiasts and those who root for the underdog.” Shelf Awareness
“Thoughtful, properly researched, and consistently entertaining.” Tim Moore, author of 'Gironimo!'
“A lively account. It’s not easy to come up with an original angle on Le Tour, but with this rear view Leonard has managed the feat in style.” Independent on Sunday
“A meticulously researched history chock-full of names and race information, featuring mini-profiles of several men who have been last-place finishers in the race and are called lanternes rouges.” The New York Times Book Review
“An elegant book. Surprising and illuminating.” The Herald
“This is a valuable book with some great stories. Deeply-researched and well-written, it’s an enjoyable read that shouldn’t be rushed.” The Inner Ring
“Thoughtful and witty.” Times Literary Supplement
“Leonard extracts the dignity that sometimes exists in sporting failure; this is not the world of Armstrong, Keane, or Pietersen and it is all the more appealing because of that.” The Observer
“This book does a great job of revealing some of the less well known stories from le Tour: well written, entertaining, and informative.” Richard Peploe, Road