A century before Lance Armstrong captured headlines around the world by winning a record seventh consecutive Tour de France, another American dominated the world of competitive cycling. His name was Bobby Walthour, and in the early 1900s he was one of the world’s most famous and highly paid athletes.
Life in the Slipstream chronicles Walthour’s rise from a lowly bicycle messenger in Georgia to a two-time national and international cycling champion who was nearly as popular in Paris and his adopted home of Berlin as he was in his hometown of Atlanta. His career parallels the surging popularity of the bicycle in America, and this biography depicts his life against the backdrop of the bicycle craze that swept America in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Readers will experience the rough-and-tumble world of professional cycling at the turn of the twentieth century, where deadly accidents and illicit drugs were commonplace. During Walthour’s long career, more than a dozen of his rivals were killed or permanently injured. He himself suffered multiple injuries—from fractured ribs and separated collarbones to mangled fingers and concussions—and was twice declared dead as a result of racing accidents. But Walthour’s fortunes on the racing circuit ultimately took a dramatic turn for the worse when his personal life began to unravel because of drug abuse and an unhappy marriage that culminated in his attempted murder—by his own wife. Life in the Slipstream is an unforgettable account of the rise and fall of one of the greatest athletes of the twentieth century.
"If you love American history, sports in general, or the great sport of cycling in this country, this is a unbelievably rich book that captures a world-class American athlete in one of our richest eras. As a fan of all three things, I couldn’t put this book down. This is a history of heroes, triumphs, and the stuff that makes them both bigger than life."
George Mount, U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame inductee
"Few Americans realize that at the turn of the twentieth century, six-day competitions and motorcycle-paced bicycle races drew larger crowds than baseball. Andrew Homan, with his detailed telling of the life and career of Bobby Walthour, puts you squarely in the middle of the action, vicariously reliving the spine-tingling victories and anticipating the all-too-frequent horrific crashes that were part and parcel of the sport. Life in the Slipstream provides a glimpse into this nearly lost historical era when Americans first dominated the sport of cycling."
Joe Herget, executive director, U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame
“Life in the Slipstream is a piece of history that I am thankful did not slip away. Bobby Walthour was a gladiator in the most brutal and dangerous form of bike racing there has ever been. Andrew Homan’s book does him justice, and Walthour’s courage and accomplishments put all the rest of cycling’s heroes in their places. Put yourself on a bike at 55 mph behind a motorcycle and find out for yourself!"
Alexi Grewal, 1984 Olympic Road Race champion
"A fantastic look at one of American cycling's Golden Age greats. A fast paced read full of harrowing detail of a life lived on the edge. Definitely a book that will appeal far beyond cycling circles. I loved it."
Mike McCarthy, former World Professional Cycling Champion and two-time U.S. Olympian