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Sprinting Through No Man's Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France

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3.49  ·  Rating details ·  2,380 ratings  ·  261 reviews
The inspiring, heart-pumping true story of soldiers turned cyclists and the historic 1919 Tour de France that helped to restore a war-torn country and its people.

On June 29, 1919, one day after the Treaty of Versailles brought about the end of World War I, nearly seventy cyclists embarked on the thirteenth Tour de France. From Paris, the war-weary men rode down the western
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Hardcover, 316 pages
Published July 1st 2021 by Little A
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Average rating 3.49  · 
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 ·  2,380 ratings  ·  261 reviews


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JD
Sep 26, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sport
As a huge Tour de France fan, this book was one I was really looking forward to reading, yet it was a huge disappointment. The 1919 edition of the Tour was one that was forced to help uplift the country after the horrors of World War 1 and was in the end a big success despite shortages of all kind (especially tires), lack of training for the cyclist as many of them were still serving and poor roads after the war. Of the 67 who started, only 11 finished this grueling race, and the winner was dete ...more
Jeffrey A.
May 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
300 plus pages about a bike race? They pedaled. And pedaled. And yeah, they pedaled. Call me skeptical….initially.

In his debut novel, Adin Dobkin takes the reader through what was arguably one of the most grueling Tour De France’ in history, with a storyline that leaves the reader on the edge of their seat, from the days when the fate of the race itself was yet to be determined, to its finale on the streets of Paris months later.

With France still reeling from the ravages of the Great War, road
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Olive Fellows (abookolive)
After the devastation of the Great War, a bicycle race was just what France needed to pick itself up. Journalist Adin Dobkin details the inspirational return of the Tour de France in “Sprinting Through No Man’s Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France.” Dobkin drops the reader straight into the action with thrilling descriptions of the French landscape and short biographies of the contenders.

Click here to read the rest of my review in the Christian Science Monitor!
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Literary Redhead
Who would have thought that a bicycle race could be so thrilling? Author Adin Dobkin takes readers on the ride of their lives in Sprinting Through No Man's Land. On June 29, 1919, nearly 70 cyclists — many former soldiers — participated in the thirteenth Tour de France cycling for a month through Paris and across the war-torn country. What descriptions! What heroic participants! What an inspiring reminder that the human spirit is incredibly resilient! A must-read for history buffs, cycling enthu ...more
Steve
Jul 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Update: if you're not sure you want to read this book, try this article as a litmus test:
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/14/ma... - not exactly analogous, but close enough. If this stuff interests you, well, read the book... Otherwise, um, maybe not.

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Waited anxiously for this, really enjoyed it, and was glad I had the opportunity to read it during July's annual Tour de France (TdF or le Tour) frenzy (completing it on le Tour's first rest day, after the first week of racing), but ... but ... I
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Linda Galella
Jun 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m exhausted and might need a month off after experiencing the Tour de France from 1919...

“Sprinting Through No Man’s Land”, by Adin Dobkin is far more than a book about a bike race. WW1 has only just ended and Europe is reeling from the effects. Towns, roads, cities, businesses - it’s all in some state of ruin but the people are rejuvenated, resilient and cheering for the men who engage in this gargantuan physical task.

Dobkin introduces us to the key athletes; not only their biking biography
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Steve's Book Stuff
Sprinting Through No Man's Land by Adin Dobkin is an excellent story, unevenly told.

Dobkin's topic is the Tour de France of 1919. The Great War - World War I - had only been over for seven months. Many of the participants, and the race organizer, had all served during the war, leaving little time to train or prepare. Organizers scrambled to find a route around France that would enable the race to go on, even though the course would inevitably take riders through war ravaged areas. Further, lack
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Jack Graff
As an avid road cyclist who loves watching The Tour de France, this title was a no brainer to decide on reading. Was expecting less about WWI and more about cycling. The Authors use of first names 80% of the time of the cyclists was irritating. The flow of this book to me was disjointed as well. It did amaze and shock as to the length of the TDF in 1919, the start times of 2:00 am, the barbarian rules e.g. no assistance at all, participants having to pay for food and lodging along the route, hor ...more
Greg Kerr
Jun 19, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well Documented Look at France in Early 20th Century

This book is more than about the drama of the 1919 le Tour de France, because the Tour became a metaphorIcal extension of all that France had lived through leading up to the "race"; Survive today and live to fight tomorrow.

It was interesting to understand the historical and political significance of what became the Western Front. What I found even more interesting is Zone Rouge. There are five side stories that add to the flavor of overall tal
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Paul Triller
Jun 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
A French view of the aftermath of WW1 from quite an interesting perspective.
Kimberly Hallahan
This is an assiduously-researched book. Dobkin's ability to write in story fashion about a month-long event that took place a century ago amazes me. I have never followed the Tour de France, so I learned a lot about this phenomenon, both in 1919 and, a little bit, from my own research, in 2021. Sometimes the story was very interesting and engaging, such as when Henrí was leading and then dropped the race, and when (no spoilers) things happened to Eugéne. I am deeply impressed by the dedication, ...more
Dana
The subject matter is fascinating, the writing is not. Much like the riders making their way through the course, this was a long, tough, slow slog to get through.

As others have pointed out, the book is horribly disjointed. There are chapters that have absolutely nothing to do with the 1919 Tour de France, such as a jailed French politician, and the mistress of the Prince of Wales. There are chapters told from one cyclist's point of view, making you think that they are going to be one of the mai
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Denise Sullivan
I couldn't invest more time in trying to follow this story. Some chapters I read were really interesting. But most of it was difficult to follow -- couldn't keep all the characters straight, some chapters seemed completely disjointed. I decided it was too much work. ...more
Eric Chandler
Aug 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Tour de France is one of the monuments of all sports, not just cycling. But since I used to race as a collegiate road cyclist, I have been a fan of the sport and this race ever since the 1980's. I got more of an education than I expected when I read Adin Dobkin's book about the 1919 edition. Yes, I learned about the very first use of the famous "maillot jaune" or yellow jersey. Yes, I followed the competition between the riders with interest. I thought I understood some of the deep past of t ...more
Andrea Kepple
Mar 13, 2022 rated it really liked it
Sprinting Through No Man's Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France, tells the story of the 1919 Tour de France.

The 1919 Tour de France was the first held post WWI, it ran along France's borders which meant it had to pass through part of the ground that was contested in WWI. France had not recovered from WWI so there was the obstacles of tackling roads that had not been maintained and roads that had been in the middle of battlefields. The racers travel through parts of Fr
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Leichnitz Leichnitz
Jun 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book takes you back to 1919, as the title suggests. It does so wonderfully and artfully, with incredible detail and deft writing. Although the race is dramatic, and provides a structure and narrative tension, the race really becomes almost a metaphor for the terror and misery that the French were emerging from. And the hopes of the French, after emerging from the greatest trauma the world had (yet) experienced, were placed in these riders in charming and moving ways.

Also, as someone who ha
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James Welch
Jan 13, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book, particularly if you are a cyclist or fan of the Tour de France. I am both of these things, as well as a Soldier, so I found this book especially interesting. This book not only tells the story of the 1919 Tour de France, it gives the reader a peek into French life in the aftermath of World War I. The participants in the Tour were, for the most part, recent veterans of the war. The author does a wonderful job digging into the experiences of the top riders and describ ...more
Jay
Oct 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
I wasn't really sold for most of this book, something just wasn't sitting quite right with me. A good amount of time was spent describing how cycling works and motivating the excitement behind the race which I think I didn't need since I'm already a cycling fan. Maybe the cycling scenes were just a bit long and boring at the start, I might have preferred more history and a bit quicker run-down of the action.

I was really gripped by the last quarter of the book maybe once the characters in the rac
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Karen Barbieri
Feb 27, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This book may not be for all readers but perfect for me. The author detailed the Tour post WWI in detailed by not only giving the reader a vivid description of what a rider goes through he also provided a vivid description of the landscape after the war. He also provided the reader with a European history lesson.
LaDawn
Feb 21, 2022 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
For history buffs

Gotta love history and bicycling to get through this one. There was much more country and war history than I was prepared for.
Bonnye Reed
Jun 28, 2021 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Amazon Prime gift for June 2021
received June 28, 2021
pub date July 1, 2021
Published by Little A
Paul
Jun 21, 2021 rated it it was ok
As Simon Schama famously said, "[Historians] are doomed to be forever hailing someone who has just gone around the corner and out of earshot.” The best writers of what today is called "creative non-fiction" about the First World War never loose sight of this: Barbara Tuchman uses eyewitnesses to show us Von Kluck, leaning on a rifle as a prop while he fatefully (and to us, the reader, silently) decides to turn the German right wing away from Paris, Stephen O'Shea repeats the elementary school mn ...more
Nanci
Oct 16, 2021 rated it liked it
This book was similar to it's topic. Just like cycling I found myself struggling uphill with it in parts, coasting along reading easily in parts, and racing downhill in some of the exciting parts. In some of it the landscaping was boring and repetitive and in other parts the landscaping was well defined and descriptive. I find this a hard book to rate due to all the ups and downs of the story. It seemed like the author wanted it to be all things instead of narrowing down the scope of the book so ...more
DT
Oct 11, 2021 rated it it was ok
I hate that I didn't like this book more, because the concept is right up my alley. Bringing back the Tour de France after World War I, then having the race come to its resolution while the dwindling number of riders traversed the destruction of the war's main battle sites? Sign me up! But the book, while exhaustively researched, suffers from a couple of problems. First, the author's command of the facts didn't extend to the creation of colorful or memorable "characters." He has an index of ride ...more
Mark
I was prepared to really like this book. The reviews I read were exceptional and the topic fit well with the book I had just finished (The Tour de France: a Cultural History, 2008, Christopher S. Thompson). Unlike Thompson's work, which looked at the Tour in light of its place in French culture, Dobkin looked at the first Tour following the end of World War One.

Unfortunately, I found the book wanting. It may have been the author's style. It may have been the way the race stages were, to me, kind
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Daniel Visé
Nov 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
This originally appeared in the Washington Independent Review of Books.

A few weeks ago, a book about bicycle racing, of all things, soared to the top of the Amazon bestseller list. That is a remarkable feat. As anyone familiar with the sports-history book charts will tell you, tomes about professional cycling don’t generally sell in large numbers to American readers.

Amazon is betting big on Sprinting Through No Man’s Land, a work of narrative nonfiction recounting the miserable slog that was the
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Robyn
Jun 13, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, kindle
Free Prime Reading | Well, this was a slog. | I was very interested in the story, I just really didn't care for how it was told. So many people introduced so quickly, with little to differentiate them, then sometimes they'd be referred to by first name, sometimes by last, nearly all French (or Belgian French) names, so that they ran together in my mind. One person would be mentioned once and then seem to disappear. Another would have gone so long unmentioned that when he popped back up by first ...more
E. Nicholas Mariani
Jul 09, 2021 rated it it was ok
Man, this book had so much potential. A redemption story chronicling cyclists who overcame herculean obstacles to ride in the 1919 Tour de France mere months after World War I destroyed the world as they knew it? Yes, please! On the surface, seems like a story worthy of Ron Chernow or Doris Kearns Goodwin. It screams, "Seabiscuit, but with bikes!" Instead, what we're given is a flimsy, disjointed, superficial chronicle of events. There's no real human interest story anywhere in these pages. Just ...more
Sherrie
Jul 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
***I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway***

It took a little while to really get into this book, but having a bunch of flights this week gave me a chance to really dig in and get to know the racers, the organizers, and other characters. Every few chapters, the story steps away from the race to highlight someone completely unrelated. At first this was jarring, but it really helped to make it clear what the world was like in 1919 France. It was chaotic. There was relief that the war was over, but
...more
James W.
Jun 13, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Disjointed Disappointment

Undisciplined writing supposedly about the first post-WWI Tour de France, the author provided but a disjointed description of the race providing no detail on the nature of bicycles at the time, standings from stage to stage and similar matters one would have expected from a book of this nature. Frustratingingly the author regularly launched into chapters and sub chapters unrelated to the race and breaking any sense of the sequence of the race. He failed to even identify
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Adin Dobkin is the author of Sprinting Through No Man's Land and These Bones Can Speak. His reporting and essays have been featured in the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, and Catapult, among others. He received his MFA from Columbia University. ...more

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