The Invisible Mile

Written by David Coventry
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In 1928, the Tour de France cycling race includes its first English-speaking peloton. The Ravat-Wonder team from New Zealand and Australia compete for the yellow jersey against over 150 of the world’s best cyclists. The route they ride includes the mountains of the Pyrenees and the Alps. They also ride near battle fields of the Great War that had ended ten years earlier. The cyclist narrating the story talks of his anguish over the mysterious death of his younger sister while dealing with the war-ravaged mind of his brother, who had fought in the war. He manages the grueling ride with the help of cocaine and ephedrine provided by a young woman, who follows the cyclists in her car and claims to know many of the famous riders from Europe.

Originally published in the author’s native country of New Zealand, the novel is based on a true story of the Ravat-Wonder entry in the grueling Tour de France. The author blends historical characters with his fictional rider, who tells his version of the race, its effect on his body and others on his team, including his relationship with the mysterious young woman who accompanies the riders on their trek through the mountains and countryside of France.

The settings and scenes throughout are poetically described and evoke the time and place of the novel. The injuries and occasional accidents are described as “the riders fall, bikes break down, and bandages are worn. Only when your bones splinter do you stop for good.”

An introspective, philosophical look at the race. At times the story can be confusing because the storyteller often adds backstory to his tale. The novel shows the Tour at its most horrifying and challenging as the riders continue to compete until the end when the yellow jersey is won.