A few months ago I picked up a copy of A Significant Other by Matt Rendell. As I discussed in my previous review, the book turned out to be a great read although I had initially been a little wary, unfairly making comparisons with many of the other Tour ?journals? of recent years. I found it to be one of those books where every time I contemplated closing the pages, I was drawn back into it through the excellent narrative of Rendell and the eye witness accounts of US Postal?s Colombian domestique Victor Hugo Pe?a. Last month I had a chance to catch up with Matt and discuss the book.
Matt Rendell discovered cycling late. Growing up in a small English village, he was a middle-distance runner whilst at school, following in the footsteps of his Grandfather who excelled in the British scene of the 1930?s. It wasn?t until he moved to
Italy to study that he first developed an interest in cycling. Time spent in the cities of
Trieste during the 80?s fueled his new found passion.
After returning to the
UK to take up a position as an academic historian and linguist in
London, Rendell picked up a little casual work with the small production Company VTV that produces the Tour de France for British viewers. ?Just about the first thing I ever did for VTV was to subtitle an interview with Chepe Gonzalez, stage winner at the 1996 Tour de France at Valence, and I remember thinking, ?What?s your story??? explained Matt.
After a time in the capital, office politics finally got the better of Rendell and in an effort to ?clear my head? ; he set off along the length of
South America on his bike with a friend in tow. After crossing
Patagonia and most of
Chile, Rendell set out on his own, determined to make it to
Colombia. ?I contacted Radio Caracol and was immediately welcomed into the community of Colombian cycling by the commentators Marco Tulio, Alfredo Castro and RCN?s Hector Urrego. I made a low budget, but extremely well received TV documentary about the spirituality of the cyclists from the Colombian town of
Sogamoso and race-walkers from the Ecuadorian town of
Cuenca.? The film was so well received that a literary agent made contact and before long the book ? Kings of the Mountains ? had hit the shelf and was awarded a national prize for sports writing.
During a spell writing for a leading cycling magazine in the
UK, Rendell was again approached to write a book, but this time for a publisher looking to release a series examining closely the life of an elite athlete. ?I said, ?I have this friend on US Postal who has had to give up all his ambitions in order to help Lance Armstrong win the Tour,?? explained Matt to David Luxton, the agent. ?David?s face lit up; I dialed Victor Hugo there and then on my mobile phone and he said,