Coffee Stop

REVIEW: Mountain High by Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding, by Sven Thiele

Wednesday 02 November 2011

Original review taken from

The venue for the launch was at Look Mum No Hands!, a brilliant café bar established in May 2010 by passionate cyclists Lewin, Matt and Sam. It has become an enormous success as a café stop and a venue for book, team and product launches. It is located close to the emerging technology Silicon Valley of East London as described by the pink newspaper, The Financial Times.

Book Cover (Image © Future Publishing)

I say this for a reason. In the media in general there is nothing but economic/social/moral doom and gloom. Isn’t it brilliant that in our sport there are success stories, like the regeneration around Old Street, the creation of new thriving businesses like Look Mum No Hands?

The cycling sector that is expanding against all odds is now joined by a series of literary successes such as David Millar’s Racing Through the Dark and Slaying the Badger by Richard Moore and many more. The fact that David Millar's book was in the bestseller list for several weeks shows how much the perception of our sport has changed and entered mainstream consciousness. Long may this trend continue.

Col d'Aubisque, France, 1709m

Enough on economics – so the venue is cool, a predominance of fixies and retro bikes and of course several of the guests rode to the launch by bike. Not least of all Richard Hallett of RoadCyclingUK fame, who arrived in style on his three speed Roberts. Once inside, out of the hustle bustle of Old Street, a very relaxed convivial group of cycling’s media peloton were cruising along with a positive buzz in the air. One notable “team” within the morphing peloton was the original Procycling (magazine) team headed up by Jeremy Whittle (MC for the evening) with “domestiques” Pete CossinsPaul GodfreyEllis Bacon and James Poole who were joined later by the “team manager” of old, Steven Hunter.

Richard Hallett’s 3 Speed Roberts bike

Monte Grappa, Italy, 1740m

So the book, written by Daniel Friebe who is one of Britain’s leading cycling journalists, in short is a pre-requisite for any cyclists library – whether a climber or not.  Trying to decide on 50 European climbs to focus on must have been difficult. The climbs covered range from theKoppenberg (Tour of Flanders, Belgium) at 78m to the Pico de Veleta (Spain) at 3,384m. In between covering the likes of  Alpe d’Huez, Col du Galibier, Mont Ventoux, Passo dello Stelvio and Passo Fedaia. With Box Hill being the London 2012 Road Race climb, (rightly or wrongly) it should have perhaps gotten a special mention!

Col du Tourmalet, France, 2115m

The format of the book lends itself to either looking at the amazing photographs by Pete Goding which show the sheer awesomeness of the mountains (without riders) or reading about the climbs in whatever order you wish. Each climb has an interesting review of history, features, fact file and anecdotes. Alpe d’Huez, which many of us may think of as an iconic Tour de France climb, was a slow puncture when first used in 1952.

Alpe D’Huez, France, 1803m 

It was even pronounced a failure by the Tour’s mouthpiece L’Equipe. So poor was the feedback that the race did not return until 1976. Hard to comprehend when the images that we associate with it are a sea of fans, parting ahead of the riders with bright orange Heineken imbibing Dutch fans on hairpin 7 (Bugno). You also learn that Coppi did the climb in 45min22s - whilst Pantani managed 37min35s - with some intriguing writing on what was perceived to be physiologically possible.

All of this accompanied by some of the most amazing photography by Goding. I would suggest, having heard some of the stories of Goding’s trip around Europe, that this become a Bill Bryson style book!

Ordino-Arcalis, Andorra, 2223m

I could relay many more interesting stories that I have read, “climbing” the various cols, with espresso in one hand, thumbing the pages with the other in the late autumn sunshine. My strategy would be to get your hands on this book for the winter when its almost impossible to get out to train, but possibly to replace the espresso with a glass of red wine, whilst pondering what sportives and climbs to incorporate into your programme for 2012. Not only will you be motivated for the New Year but you will somehow feel that you know the climbs intimately even before you get there.

Sample images from the Alpe D’Huez fact box

About Daniel Friebe
At 30, a youthful veteran covering 10 Tour de France’s. For five years, Daniel was features editor of Pro Cycling magazine, before becoming European Editor in 2010. In 2008, he collaborated with superstar Mark Cavendish on the best selling book “Boy Racer – My Journey to Tour de France Record-breaker”.

About Peter Goding
Peter is a formidable force in professional cycling photography, shooting some of the most influential personalities in the sport, and capturing awe-inspiring scenery for travel and sports features in journals worldwide. He has supplied images through agencies and via individual commissions to a wide range of national newspapers. Currently Pete shoots the Tour de France for the British sports arm of Thomson Reuters. You can visit his website here.

Title: Mountain High. Europe’s 50 greatest cycle climbs.
By: Daniel Friebe and photography by Pete Goding. All photographic images © Pete Goding unless otherwise stated.
Stores: Amazon 
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Quercus Publishing Plc (27 Oct 2011)
Language:  English
ISBN-13: 978-0857386243
Dimensions: 29.2 x 25.8 x 2.6 cm
Price: £20.00

You can follow Sven Thiele on Twitter @sventhiele and Daniel Friebe @friebos