Krabbé is probably best known in this country as the author of the novel adapted as the film The Vanishing, but in his native Netherlands The Rider is his bestselling book. As a young man, Krabbé’s forte was chess – in his late teens, he was inside the top 20 players in Holland – and he only discovered a talent for cycle-racing relatively late in life, in his 30s. That new-found passion eventually found its way into this autobiographical novella about a bike race in south-west France, but the chess knowledge still figures as Krabbé narrates the intricate battle of tactics and psychology as the race plays itself out against the bleak landscape of les causses. Like much of Krabbé’s oeuvre, The Rider has a strange, dark, philosophical flavour: it is both a paean to pain and a hymn to the fellowship of the road. Nothing better is ever likely to be written on the subjective experience of cycle-racing.