Dave Shields about Saul Raisin: "The story of his fight to return to pro cycling is mind boggling"

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31.03.2007/ Cyclingheroes spoke with David Shields about his novel "The Tour" and the new book "Tour Of Life", a book about Saul Raisin, who is also co-author of the book.

The cover of Tour de Life, the book is written by Dave Shields and Saul Raisin

Cyclingheroes: Who is Dave Shields?
Dave Shields: I'm a guy who has figured out a way to combine two of my passions, writing and riding. At the same time I've figured out a way to escape the corporate world. I live in Salt Lake City with my wife and three beautiful daughters.
Cyclingheroes: When did you start writing?
Dave Shields: I've been writing freelance articles for a long time. About ten years ago I decided to try to write a novel. My first novel was published in 2001, but it was when The Race came out in 2004 and its success enabled me to quit my day job and start writing full time.
Cyclingheroes: How did the Ben Barnes character start and develop?
Dave Shields: When I was fourteen I rode my bike three-hundred miles on a three day journey into the Utah desert with a bunch of friends. We reached a small city named Hanksville so hot and dehydrated that we had to climb inside of a gas stations ice machine in order to cool down. I had no idea I was doing research for a future book at the time. There were a lot of other similar experiences that became part of Ben. I was never a pro cyclist, though, and that's where I needed help. Years ago I hired a woman who later married Marty Jemison. After he retired I asked him if he'd read my manuscript and help me nail the details from a pro's perspective. At first he didn't want to do it, but once he started the manuscript he finished it in only a day. He told me that it brought back emotions he thought he'd never experience again. After that he gave me hours of his time helping me to get the details perfect.

Dave Shields published his first novel 10 years ago (picture: Dave Shields)

Cyclingheroes: We all know what happened before the Tour of 2006, we know
what your book The Tour is about... Do you have a crystal ball?
Dave Shields: I've got all sorts of cool research methods, but a crystal ball isn't one of them. Because so many pro cyclists and other elite athletes loved The Race they were willing to tell me off the record stories about experiences. These  guys want to drive drugs out of sport, but they'd be committing career suicide to publicly say some of these things. By showing readers their dilemmas fictionally I think we can empower young athletes to say no when faced with these tough issues.
Cyclingheroes: Do you think there is still organized team doping like for instance at the times of the Festina affair?
Dave Shields: My sense is that it's been forced farther underground since then, but one of  the toughest things about the doping problem is that nobody knows what to  believe. There are people who can benefit by convincing athletes that their  rivals are using drugs. What better sales presentation could there be than to insinuate that the reason your not winning is that your not doing what your rivals are. The mere suggestion that others might be using drugs is sort of an anti-placebo.
Cyclingheroes: Can you understand athletes who dope?
Dave Shields:Yes, and a lot of people who've read The Tour can too. I get e-mail all the time from people who say they had no sympathy for dopers, but then they
imagined themselves in the situations the book sets up and they realized that saying no to drugs wasn't simply a matter of right and wrong. It is one thing to say you wouldn't use drugs when nothing's at stake. It's an entirely different matter when you've invested everything in your big opportunity, plus your friends, family, sponsors, fans, and others are counting on you to perform.
Cyclingheroes: Do you have an idea how cycling and sport in general could tackle the doping problem?
Dave Shields: I've seen lots of good ideas circulating recently. I think that longitudinal  testing is an important part of the solution. I also think that despite the fiasco Operation Puerto has turned into, it reveals something positive about the doping fight. By testing everything we possibly can the doping operations are forced to become ultra sophisticated and expensive. In order to fund such operations there has to be a constant marketing and recruitment effort. That results in opportunities for law enforcement rather than drug tests to catch the cheaters. In my opinion, it's far more important to catch and punish the facilitators than it is to catch and punish the users.
Cyclingheroes: You are writing a book with Saul Raisin how did you get into
contact with Saul? Did you know Saul before he crashed?
Dave Shields: invited me to be a guest during their live ticker of Stage One of the 2006 Tour de France. The commentary is initiated through a private chat room, then edited and posted to the Web. The owner of the site had given Saul the address and password. When he showed up using a screen name I had no idea who he was, then the owner introduced us, telling Saul that I'd written some bestselling cycling novels. Saul said, "I want to write a book." I said, "I'd be happy to help you in any way I can." Saul said, "What's your number?" I typed it into the computer and moments later my phone rang.
Saul and I had met briefly before his accident but we didn't know each other. We've obviously gotten to know each other very well while writing the book. He's such an impressive guy! I'm proud that he has the confidence in me to help tell his incredibly inspiring story.

Cyclingheroes: Can you tell us something about the new book Tour de Life?
Dave Shields: The story is told in two parts. Part I is from the perspective of Saul's parents as they learn about Saul's accident and deal with the aftermath.
What they went through is overwhelming. Part II is told from Saul's perspective as he gradually gains an understanding of what's happened to him. The story of his fight to return to pro cycling is mind boggling. This kid is tough!

Saul Raisin and Dave Shields riding up Fort Mountain (picture: Dave Shields)

Cyclingheroes: Saul told us that he wants to start at the US national pro
, can you describe where his unbelievable power to fight his way back into life is coming from?

Dave Shields: Saul is driven by the desire to prove to victims of catastrophic injury and disease that anything is possible. During his recovery he saw people who gave up for one reason or another. He wants to convince them to keep fighting. He believes that, to a large extent, our minds limit what's possible, and I think he's proven that pretty convincingly with this recovery. He's doing things today that go light years beyond what his doctors once thought possible.
Cyclingheroes: Can you tell us when the book will be released?
Dave Shields: Books won't be available in stores until September, but you can pre-purchase them now at and you'll receive your copy signed by me (and also by Saul if his schedule allows) long before they are in stores.

More information about the author, Dave Shields:
Related stories:

The Tour - written with a crystal ball?

Saul Raisin: "Mom if I ever get back on a bike I want to help people like me"

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