the post

previous book reviews

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saving the kilo?

10,000 signatures but the uci says it's not taking any notice and it's up to the ioc, who apparently can't see any need to dump two track events to accommodate bmx. this is beginning to sound like formula one

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roule britannia by william fotheringham.

a history of britons in the tour de france. yellow jersey press 15.99 (hardback) 290 pages illustr.

roule britannia

up until i was about 17, i rode a raleigh twenty which was pretty much a shopping bike, with 20 inch wheels and a very handy box/bag on a rack at the back. great vehicle for my paper round in the mornings.

after college, having started work, it became more practical to cycle to work than drive, so i bought a falcon all steel 'ten speed racer' which came with a colour poster depicting members of the falcon racing team (?) though i have a sneaking suspicion that the bike in the poster wasn't quite as basic as the one in the bike shed.

in 1984 i watched robert millar win the polka dot jersey in the tour and figured, well 'how hard can it be?' and promptly went out after tea wearing t-shirt and jeans and hammered up the nearest climb. needless to say, i didn't make it to the top and was pretty sick when i stopped. so obviously it was harder than it looked (massive degree of understatement).

the fact that there were occasionally jerseyed riders battering their way up and down the dual carriageway while i pedalled sedately to work, it never once dawned on me that joining a local club might be a good idea. in fact, i wasn't really aware that such things as cycle clubs existed. and so a chapter of my cycling life just passed me by.

'roule britannia' by the ever resourceful william fotheringham gives a grand account of all those british cyclists who were obviously much more aware of cycle racing than i had ever been at an early age. so much so, that almost all of them had the temerity and confidence to remove themselves from the safety of the british isles to take up residence in europe (predominantly in france) to compete in a whole different world.

cycling has never enjoyed mainstream popularity in the uk (massive understatement number two) and if this book points out nothing else, it shows that the only way, then as now, to compete successfully in the world of the grand tours and one day classics was/is. to move to mainland europe and get stuck in. the book covers the tour eras of brian robinson, tony hoar, tom simpson, paul sherwen, robert millar (we are not worthy, we are not worthy), sean yates, chris boardman and david millar. the chapter on robert millar (the wee yin) is worth the price of admission alone.

while america has had more visible success from participation in the tour (if not the classics) with apparently fewer participants than britain, the uk hasn't done too badly over all. granted taking their efforts out of context - i 'm not so sure that their tour de france results would have been so generously intimated in the european press of the time, or even in the tomes celebrating one hundred years of the tour - can make them seem more super human or doggedly determined than was perhaps the case at the time. however, since the idea of becoming a professional cyclist who would participate in the tour was eminently more acceptable in europe, perhaps their doggedness should not be underestimated.

william fotheringham has done an excellent job, producing an entertaining book that will appeal to the die hard fan (me, me, me!) as well as to those with merely a passing interest in the subject. the chapters break the history and personalities into manageable chunks, the writing never too heavy, and the detail quite excellent. he even manages to render david millar's drug taking with acceptable dispassion. similarly the death of tom simpson from unrestrained drug abuse more than thirty years earlier, though he has the advantage here of being the author of the much acclaimed 'put me back on my bike' - the tom sinpson story (yellow jersey press). there's also an appendix of all the british cyclists who have competed in le tour starting in 1937 for the real anoraks, along with a comprehensive index (a feature all too often missing from such books - witness les woodland's 'this island race' of which the post will have a review in a short space of time).

there is no stinting on the illustrations either, both colour and black and white (two dozen all in), and in this year when there are no britons participating in the 2005 tour de france, it behoves you well to log on on to amazon or nip down to your local branch of waterstones, barnes and noble (i am presuming that this book will be available in the usa at some time), ottakars etc., and purchase a copy of roule britannia to read while you wait for eurosport to show the evenings highlights of this year's tour.

a highly recommended book and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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by the way, i've already had promises of photos for the velo club d'ardbeg web page, so just a reminder: if you've bought an ardbeg cycle jersey, get a photo of yourself wearing it along with your favourite bike, and we'll put them up on a vcd'a page on the post, before we start hassling the good folks at ardbeg to incorporate similar onto their own website. and remember, the official tea stop and club hut is at the old kiln cafe at ardbeg distillery. wear your jersey anytime you visit. if you missed the ardbeg cycle jerseys, click here for a look see.

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this website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine

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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.

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previous book reviews

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