The Invisible Mile - review
The Invisible Mile is a dream to read, in all senses of the word. It’s a trance-like account of the 1928 Tour de France by an unnamed New Zealander, a fictional fifth rider inserted deftly into the real-life four-man Anzac team that competed with credit in what, then as now, was an insane, drug-fuelled ordeal of men and machines (opium, alcohol and sex being the drugs of choice back then).
There’s plenty here for the armchair triathlete or anyone else fascinated by extreme sports, by the tricks and lies competitors need to tell themselves to push their bodies beyond their limits.
The writing is fierce, a bravura mix of narcissism, masochism and lyricism, grounded in the honesty of the unnamed rider’s journey into his self and the dawning realisation that the race has become a grand metaphor for the trauma of World War I.
Skin, blood, teeth and bone splinters are smeared across the landscape as the band of exhausted men are drawn inexorably into north-eastern France, to towns “inked into memory: Messines, Vimy, Verdun, Flanders”, where corpses sprout from the soil.