in 1947 the uci decreed that the nca, the irish national cycling association had to confine its activities to the 26 counties that comprised eire, or southern ireland, the remaining six counties being declared northern ireland after the partition of the early twenties. since this was deemed unacceptable to the nca, who did not recognise this partition, in 1949 a breakaway organisation was formed by most of the dublin based cycling clubs, one that was willing to recognise the 26 county rule. calling itself the cra (cumann rothaiochta na heireann) it achieved recognition from the uci and became the sole irish cycling organisation whose members were allowed to compete internationally in uci events.
since political events, aspirations and feelings ran high within irish society, these could not, and would not, be divorced from the cycling fraternity, many of whom were also political activists within the ira (irish republican army). without the benefit of such high emotion, the obvious solution for cyclists wishing to participate on the international cycling stage would have been to leave the nca and join the cra.
had that been the action taken, 'the ras, irelands major stage race' may never have arrived. however, had it not, tom daly would not have compiled and written this excellent book and the post would not have subsequently provided you with this review.
the ras was the ncas answer to providing its members with a quality stage race that would satisfy the competitive needs of said membership, taking place between teams drawn from the 32 counties that the nca continued to recognise. the first ras was run as a two day event in 1953 and has continued to this day as an annual event, though it no longer bears the full weight of oppression sanctioned by the uci - it is now a world class stage race that consistently attracts a quality field each year. but there have been many principal characters involved in its fifty year history both on the organisational side as well as, perhaps more obviously, on the racing side. This book is principally about them and their effect on irish cycling
unlike many books about cycling, tom dalys, 'the ras' doesnt depend on a hardened insider knowledge of cycling or a fanatical devotion to the sport , since it crosses the divide between social history and sporting history. the research undertaken by the author to achieve this level of detail really has to be read to be believed. while its easy enough to acquire videos and books covering the history of the major european stage races, such as le tour, the giro and the major classics, the information regarding each year of the ras puts you there in the event and reading hurriedly to the end of the chapter to find out who won the stage or race.
tom daly is a teacher by profession, and set about documenting the ras having first been intrigued by the tactical complexity of cycle racing. the jacket notes tell how he initially failed to realise the scale of the task he had set himself or the subsequent richness of the story. we can only be glad he was not put off by such enormity of research.
if it were possible to criticise, it would be the featuring of photographs showing the eventual winner of a particular years race, while the text was still dealing with the daily stages. a bit like being told the butler did it before reaching the end of the book. and while on the subject of photos, while the breadth and range is incredible, i dont quite understand why it was deemed necessary to give them all a sort of rough, torn edge effect. It really does little for them.
but what cannot be denied is daly's enthusiasm for the ras. he tells of the races major figures, men such as shay ohanlon (who compiled the extensive indices for the book), gene mangan, joe christle, paddy flanagan and others; the invitation of a russian team, of a french team during the years when the uci still failed to offically recognise the nca, in order to give the local teams at least a flavour of international competition; of the eventual compromise between the cre and nca to bringing the ras forward as a uci sanctioned event in 1990.
this truly is an excellent book and a worthy addition to your already bulging bookshelves full of cycling books. in fact, its very degree of detail is the reason this review appears now rather than about a week ago - there is just so much to absorb to do it justice.
while its possibly a bit late for you to rush out a and buy a copy of the book as a last minute christmas present, its definitely something on which you would want to spend those book tokens that auntie sent you.
this website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine.
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek) i have also found an excellent review of the colnago c40hp here
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to. here's the link.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, and imac computers, using adobe golive 6 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.