'As a way of remembering the war, the Tour of the Battlefields was perhaps too soon, and too brutal. The folly of it, though, is what attracts us to it today. Through research, imagination and recreation, Tom Isitt brings its story to life and allows us to once more marvel at men who raced their bikes along the Western Front'
'Isitt's subject is "cycling's toughest ever stage race", the little known 1919 Circuit des Champs de Bataille, which traversed the battlefields of Ypres, the Somme and the rest of the Western Front less than six months after the Armistice was signed. Isitt combines the story of the gruelling tour itself with an account of his own cycling trip along the same route nearly a century later to flesh out an evocatively thoughtful wider history of the race, the war and the peace'
'I loved the book, devouring it in a few nights' reading. As with so much to do with the war, the same page can often be funny and poignant. Tom has a good line in amusing stories and his tales of insufficient kit, hideous weather and a malfunctioning bike computer sat-nav raised plenty of chuckles from me . . . He has also cleverly included well researched information on the war's battles, key events and individual's stories. It all blends together perfectly, offering enough "nodding along" moments for current cyclists plus providing plenty of extraordinary information on early cycling, the race and the Western Front. Neither cycling fan or war nerd (and I count myself as falling into both camps) will be disappointed . . . Highly recommended'
'Isitt has written his first book and it is worthy and sometimes daft, occasionally funny and regularly poignant, brilliantly focused in its research . . . His drive, wit and curiosity inform Zone Rouge . . . gently profound and genuinely moving when considering the battles, the fallen and the graves that lie over acres of the Zone Rouge and beyond . . . There is the fun and obsession of cycling at the heart of this book. But there is a recognition, too, that its excesses are largely innocuous and can be life-enhancing. Malevolent madness, on the contrary, is the preserve of wider mankind and continues to colour the world with Zones Rouges'
'I was intrigued to read about a new book telling the story of an utterly extraordinary - mad, even - endurance event that I was totally unfamiliar with, which was held in north-eastern France, Luxembourg and Belgium in April and May 1919 . . . fascinating . . . By rescuing this most deranged endurance event of all from oblivion, this book provides a welcome monument to their hardness'