Cycling Book of the Year - Cross British Sports Book Awards
When the ‘Iron Curtain’ descended across Europe, Dieter Wiedemann was a hero of East German sport. A podium finisher in The Peace Race, the Eastern Bloc equivalent of the Tour de France, he was a pin-up for the supremacy of socialism over the ‘fascist’ West.
Unbeknownst to the authorities, however, he had fallen in love with Sylvia Hermann, a girl from the other side of the wall. Socialist doctrine had it that the two of them were ‘class enemies’, and as a famous athlete Dieter’s every move was pored over by the Stasi. Only he abhorred their ideology, and in Sylvia saw his only chance of freedom. Now, playing a deadly game of cat and mouse, he plotted his escape.
In 1964 he was delegated, once and once only, to West Germany. Here he was to ride a qualification race for the Tokyo Olympics, but instead committed the most treacherous of all the crimes against socialism. Dieter Wiedemann, sporting icon and Soviet pawn, defected to the other side.
Whilst Wiedemann fulfilled his lifetime ambition of racing in the Tour de France, his defection caused a huge scandal. The Stasi sought to ‘repatriate’ him, with horrific consequences both for him and the family he left behind. Fifty years on, and twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dieter Wiedemann decided it was time to tell his story. Through his testimony and that of others involved, and through the Stasi file, which has stalked him for half a century, Herbie Sykes uncovers an astonishing tale. It is one of love and betrayal, of the madness at the heart of the cold war, and of the greatest bike race in history.
HERBIE SYKES is a cycling journalist, historian and author of The Eagle of Canavese, about Franco Balmamion, Maglia Rosa: Triumph and Tragedy at the Giro d'Italia, and Coppi: Inside the Legend of Campionissimo
Sykes lives in Turin, and writes for a number of cycling publications.
‘a great book that mixes a variety of source materials to tell the story of a cyclist… a story that deserves to be told’
'incredibly impressive… a monumental work of great credit to its author and principal subjects, in equal parts social and sporting history and may well be one of the finest books i have ever had the pleasure of reading.’
'A hugely rewarding read and a tour de force of excellent journalism'
'more than the story of a cyclist, more than a story about cycling... it's the story of a man forgotten by history but who deserves to be remembered, not just for the life he lived, but for the way the story of that life has been told.'
'a window into a world that no longer exists but which conditioned the lives of millions of people… most definitely a book worth reading'
"moving and enjoyable"
“The story of Dieter Wiedemann is an intriguing tale, encompassing a potent combination of politics, sport, love and betrayal. Herbie Sykes impressively balances the political and the personal, making The Race Against the Stasi an enjoyable, compelling and highly recommended read.”
"gripping book was as unputdownable as the best espionage novels."
'so much more than a regular biography... [a] unique account of life behind the Iron Curtain when the Berlin Wall was up and the Cold War was at its chilliest'
"A fascinating tale"