***SHORTLISTED FOR THE TELEGRAPH SPORTS BOOK AWARDS 2020 – CYCLING BOOK OF THE YEAR******LONGLISTED FOR THE WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2019***‘A joy.’ – Ned BoultingEvery nation shapes sport to test the character traits it most admires.In The Beast, the Emperor and the Milkman, committed Belgophile and road cycling obsessive Harry Pearson takes you on a journey across Flanders, through the lumpy horizontal rain, up the elbow juddering cobbled inclines, past the fans dressed as chickens and the shop window displays of constipation medicines, as he follows races big, small and even smaller through one glorious, muddy spring.Ranging over 500 years of Flemish and European history, across windswept polders, along back roads and through an awful lot of beer cafes, Pearson examines the characters, the myths and rivalries that make Flanders a place where cycling is a religion and the riders its lycra-clad priests.
The Beast, the Emperor and the Milkman
Cycling is wildly popular all over Belgium, but in the northern, Dutch-speaking half of the country it is part of the psyche. Flanders is the size of East Anglia with population a tenth of that of Great Britain, yet this small corner of north-west Europe has produced eight winners of the Tour de France, five times as many professional riders as Italy or Spain. Blending reportage, interviews, observation, biography and history and written with affectionate humour by a committed Belgophile, ‘The Beast, the Emperor and the Milkman’ tells the story of Flanders’ neurotic love affair with bike racing, from tough early heroes such as Jules Vanhevel – wounded by mortar fire in the First World War and leading the world championship road race until he collided with a cow – to latter-day ironmen such as Tom Boonen, three-times winner of the Tour of Flanders and owner of a pet donkey named Kamiel.