The Vanishing Cyclist

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Matt Seaton's haunting memoir, The Escape Artist, charts the physical and emotional consequences of his obsession with cycling, and his struggle with his wife's death from cancer. He has recently gone back to a bit of racing, now as a veteran. At the last count he had six bikes, including a beautiful blue titanium Colnago. Nothing better is ever likely to be written on the subjective experience of cycle-racing. This compendious scrapbook of bike lore is a resource I return to again and again.

David Perry is the perfect bicycle enthusiast - a former professional racer but with a metropolitan 'alternative' sensibility. Whether you are hunting for references to movies which feature cycling or are merely browsing, Bike Cult is, for all its idiosyncracies and slightly makeshift feel, about the best encyclopaedia there is. Where else would you learn not only about French surrealist Alfred Jarry's absinthe-inspired cycling fantasies but also about the astonishing mathematical complexity of the physics of balancing on a bicycle?

An indispensable companion.

Video of SI Stopping Cyclist in TN goes Viral

Jim McGurn is an institution in his own right. Few others have done so much to foster the culture of cycling, through entrepreneurialism, publishing and writing. His history of cycling is, for my money, the best in a crowded field. Originally published by John Murray and handsomely and imaginatively illustrated, On Your Bicycle is an elegant and perceptive social history of cycling. Read this and you will realise that merely to swing your leg over the crossbar is to participate in a noble tradition, and that, as Iris Murdoch once observed, the bicycle is the most civilised form of transport known to man.

Now a renowned sports writer, Kimmage first paid his dues as a professional cyclist. His career overlapped with two other, more famous sons of Irish cycling, Stephen Roche and Sean Kelly. Kimmage worked as a domestique - which can be literally translated as servant - one of the workhorses of the team. That alone gives his account of a pitiless sport that chews riders up and spits them out some of its gritty touch, but what made Kimmage's portrait of the professional peloton famous was his frankness about doping.

Compelling stuff.

Book Review - The Lost Cyclist - By David V. Herlihy - The New York Times

The Guardian's own cycling correspondent, William Fotheringham, is one of several prolific cycling writers, and I could nominate any one of a number of his books. This biography of Simpson, arguably the most talented cyclist Britain has ever produced, stands out as exemplary, not least because of the difficulty and sensitivity of the subject. Simpson's death from heat exhaustion, exacerbated by amphetamine misuse, on Mont Ventoux during the Tour de France was a deeply traumatic event for a generation of fans - a tragedy that has subsequently become shrouded in denial and sentiment.

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Fotheringham navigates his way through this miasma with tact, rigour and intelligence. It centres on the theory that Hamilton is one of twins, but that his twin died in utero, and before he or she did so, Hamilton received a small number of 'foreign' stem cells, producing subtly different red blood cells.

1. The Rider by Tim Krabbé

These, say scientists who are defending the American, could explain the discovery of two types of blood in his system. The 'vanishing twin' is one cause of a condition where a person has two types of blood, which is known as chimerism. It was brought to Hamilton's attention by Dr David Housman, a professor of molecular biology at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, who read about the case in the sports pages and offered to testify on Hamilton's behalf.

I don't think the explanation they give for the blood test is the only possible explanation",' Housman, who was quoted by Hamilton's defence at a US Arbitration panel hearing, told the New York Times. Scientists are divided over how common chimerism actually is. Researchers such as Dr Ann Reed of the Mayo Clinic, who has published several studies of the phenomenon, claim that it may affect up to 70 per cent of the population and could be the cause of phenomena such as donor bone marrow that apparently matches a recipient but is rejected.

Housman has rubbished the scientific credibility of the International Olympic Committee's test for blood doping, claiming that the testimony of Dr Ross Brown, a haematologist from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, 'is riddled with factual errors and inconsistencies'.

Matt Seaton's top 10 books about cycling

Brown has examined 20, blood samples and not one showed signs of chimerism. Housman added that what made the issue of identifying chimerism doubly fraught was that it could effectively turn on and off the production of foreign blood cells. Hamilton's defence has already been thrown out by a US arbitration panel and other facts will count against him. In June , he received a formal warning from the International Cycling Union that random blood tests 'showed signs of manipulation'. Most telling, however, is the fact that the test for traces of foreign blood cells has been in clinical use for a decade.

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