Soviet road cycling memoir

The Renegade is a collection of memoirs I wrote for RIDE Cycling Review magazine between 2014 and 2017. As far as I know, this is the first look behind the Iron Curtain into Soviet cycling in English literature.

What you’ll read is only part of the story I want to tell. I never meant to turn the series I wrote for RIDE into a book until dozens of readers contacted me and said they’d like to read the whole thing in a book form.

By that stage, I was already three or four issues in. The story started where it started, not where I’d have started it had I sat down to write a book. And the narrative, I knew how to narrate a story as I knew how to fish — I’ve never caught a fish in my life. Which is why, after the RIDE had closed down in 2017, I sat in my writing cave night after night and trimmed and edited this manuscript to carve it into a shape closer to how I started to write at the end of the series.

Like any other skill, writing takes time to learn. Where I started in 2014 and the last chapter in the series I wrote is like me trying to finish a race in the main bunch and racing for a podium. Two different things.

I chopped six or seven thousand words off the magazine version. Pieces that were fine for a magazine but didn’t belong in a book. Dialogs, trimmed and chopped off some dialog meat.

Speaking of dialogs.

Picture yourself writing down a conversation you had thirty years ago. Yesterday even. Never mind yesterday — this morning. Or as you argue with someone. Try to write that down. Try to tape it and compare your notes. They won’t match.

Every memoir has this problem. Who said what in the past. How good is your memory? How many times have you heard: I didn’t say that… Or: But you said…

How good is your memory?

Me, all I have is an image, a snapshot. All I have is — I know myself. I know what I would have said if he or she had said this or that. If.

Snapshots I pull out of my memory one by one and stick them to the wall. Did this really happen? Does anyone care?

This is why I buried some dialog — too much talking, bookish talking. You try to recreate a dialog and end up writing what you’d expect to see in a book except no one talks like that. I din’t know that in 2014 when I started writing. I didn’t know that writing dialog is the most difficult part of the job. I thought if I write like a writer, I’ll be fine. Except I’m not fine. When I speak, I want me to be me. When someone else speaks, I want him to be him. I want her to be her. And we all speak Russian as I write. It’s complicated.

I deserve a second take on the dialog. If not, I take it anyway.

It’s edited. That’s what I’m trying to say. I breathed more life into the manuscript. For you. Everything in this book is for you.

Where to from here? Next step is to tell the rest of the story. The run from the USSR, the falling in love part, hanging out in Europe, the trip to Canada, the landing in Australia.

This e-book, think of it as a preview.