Why do road cyclists go to the mountains? Many books tell you where the mountains are, or how long and how high. None of them ask ‘Why?’
After all, cycling up a mountain is hard – so hard that, to many non-cyclists, it can seem absurd. But, for some, climbing a mountain gracefully (and beating your competitors up the slope) represents the pinnacle of cycling achievement. The mountains are where legends are forged and cycling’s greats make their names.
Why are Europe’s mountain ranges professional cycling’s Wembley Stadium or its Colosseum? Why do amateurs also make a pilgrimage to these high, remote roads and what do we see and feel when we do? Why are the roads there in the first place?
Higher Calling explores the central place of mountains in the folklore of road cycling. Blending adventure and travel writing with the rich narrative of pro racing, Max Leonard takes the reader from the battles that created the Alpine roads to the shepherds tending their flocks on the peaks, and to a Grand Tour climax on the ‘highest road in Europe’. And he tells stories of courage and sacrifice, war and love, obsession and elephants along the way.