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Riding in the Zone Rouge

The Tour of the Battlefields 1919 - Cycling’s Toughest-Ever Stage Race
By: Tom Isitt
Narrated by: Roger Davis
Length: 10 hrs and 19 mins
Categories: History, Military
4.5 out of 5 stars (13 ratings)

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Summary

The Circuit des Champs de Bataille (the Tour of the Battlefields) was held in 1919, less than six months after the end of the First World War. It covered 2,000 kilometres and was raced in appalling conditions across the battlefields of the Western Front, otherwise known as the Zone Rouge. The race was so tough that only 21 riders finished, and it was never staged again. 

With one of the most demanding routes ever to feature in a bicycle race, and plagued by appalling weather conditions, the Circuit des Champs de Bataille was beyond gruelling, but today its extraordinary story is largely forgotten. Many of the riders came to the event straight from the army and had to ride 18-hour stages through sleet and snow across the battlefields on which they had fought, and lost friends and family, only a few months before. But in addition to the hellish conditions there were moments of high comedy, even farce. 

The rediscovered story of the Circuit des Champs de Bataille is an epic tale of human endurance, suffering and triumph over extreme adversity. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio on our Desktop Site.

©2019 Tom Isitt (P)2019 Orion Publishing Group Ltd

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6/10

This is a book in 2 parts, one is the recounting (dramatised) of the 1919 race, the other the modern day author's ride on roughly the same route. The latter is mostly him just moaning about how tough riding is and how shit roads in Europe are which honestly, is pathetic. The former is actually pretty interesting even for someone like me, who has no interest in war.

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Great listen

...if you are into cycling and WW1 - I am. Found it interesting and informative.

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The Historical Parts Justify The Purchase

The historical part of the book is fascinating and extraordinary. It brings a brutal and unique event to life vividly with well researched background to the race and astonishing descriptions of the conditions and landscapes the riders valiantly cycled through. The elements recounting Mr Isitt’s retracing of the route doesn’t have quite the same magic sadly. After a while his constant highlighting of all the difficulties he encountered and the endless “looking at everything so negatively” became a tad wearying... Particularly when one had just read how the original riders had toiled through such extraordinary circumstances. Mr Isitt doesn’t appear to be a “count your blessings and not your grievances” kind of fellow...

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  • Michael Wagenseil
  • 06-10-20

Interesting Twist

Love the way Tom wrapped the story of the race, WW1 history and his own adventure into his tale of the Zone Rouge. You will enjoy it.