Written with verve and enthusiasm, A Higher Calling explores why mountains have such a magnetic appeal to cyclists the world over. But Max Leonard, himself an accomplished amateur cyclist, does not forget the pain, the glory, the sweat, and the tears that go into these grueling climbs. After all, cycling up a mountain is hard. So hard that, to many, it can seem absurd. But for others, climbing a mountain gracefully (and beating your competitors up the slope) represents the pinnacle of cycling achievement. It is where legends are forged.
Many books tell you where the mountains are, or how long and how high. None of them ask why. Why are mountain ranges professional cycling's Coliseum? Why do amateurs also make pilgrimages to these high, remote roads? Why are the roads even there in the first place to lure us on to these obsession inducing climbs? Just why are mountains so enthralling?
"This is real cycling, where the glory is and where dreams come true," according to Bradley Wiggins. Mountains are where cycling's greatest heroes have made their names. Every amateur rider wishes they could climb better, too. Are all these people addicted to the pain? To the achievement? Or to the allure of the peaks? Some spend their weekends and holidays cycling up mountains from start to finish. But how does a rider push themselves beyond their limits to get up a 10% gradient on pedal power alone? What is happening when they do?
A Higher Calling explores the central place of mountains in the folklore of road cycling. Blending adventure and travel writing with the rich narrative of 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 even elephants, along the way.