robert millar has never struck me as a rider who dwells in the vestiges of nostalgia. the first scottish/british rider ever to win one of the three principal jerseys on offer in the tour de france and up until 2012, also the highest placed from the british isles. that's a record he held for eighteen years, and possibly one he thought would never be superseded, and most likely one none of the rest of us thought had a chance of being eclipsed.
until the last five years or so, britain has not featured as the nation that immediately brought cycling success to mind. though france has featured rather poorly in its home race since the days of bernard hinault, along with belgium, holland and italy it's definitely one of those associated if not with recent cycling success, undoubtedly with a long term affinity with cycle sport. not that i've considered it in this light previously, but perhaps it ought to be considered a tad shameful that the continent across the pond managed to beat us to the top of the podium in paris (but only twice, if we're willing to accept the asterisks that accompany the remaining wins).
so bradley wiggins' fourth place in 2009 (moved up to third after one of those asterisks was added) ostensibly meant that fifteen years after millar's joie de vivre, things were starting to look a tad more optimistic for the british cycling aficionado. though many will now maintain that they had every faith in sir dave's contention to put a british rider on the top step in paris within five years, i doubt that's as true as recall would like it to be.
then, of course, we had the summer of 2012 when it seemed little could ever go wrong. brad nabbed yellow and gold, chris stood second in line and many a track star went home wearing at least one medal. perhaps, chris froome's tour victory this year notwithstanding, that's as good as it gets; if it turns out to be true, there's no shame to be suffered and no face to be lost. british cycling achieved a number of goals that few ever thought would happen in their lifetimes. and the period of celebration, it seems, continues to this day, and rightly so.
sir brad may be seen to have entered the wilderness since this year's giro d'italia, with injury and altered targets leading to a few time-trial victories but no noticable podium spots. perhaps it reflects more upon us that we expect a tour de france victor to repeat the feat ad finitum. surely the yellow jersey foretells of unrivalled prowess on two wheels, laying waste to all that rides in front of the mavic car? despite a collective knowledge to the contrary, more than just an individual has queried "what now for sir bradley?"
but the aura of celebration trundles on apace, particularly in the publishing trade, other than the world of moving pictures, possibly the single most accessible format available to the man/woman in the bikeshed. the latest to fill a slot in the bookshelf, however, might just bring a wince to your bank balance.
"...our mission is to produce definitive publications featuring the finest writers, stunning images displayed on an epic scale and presented in a beautifully-designed, luxury format."
so states the opening paragraph from the about us section of opus publishing's website, the latest from whom concerns britain's favourite mod (paul weller relegated to second place for the time being). "Right now and right here, in his world, he is top of his game, impeccably dressed, feet in the ground, head in the clouds... somewhere up a mountain probably. That's devotion.". So quoth mr weller himself, a tribute that accompanies an image of a besuited sir bradley holding a copy of 101, a substantial yellow bound volume that takes its title from the number affixed to a rear pocket of wiggo's yellow jersey in the year of success.
the 360 page book promises an 'Official, behind the scenes recollection of the victorious 2012 Tour de France campaign. The Official Bradley Wiggins Opus celebrates the historic feat in a depth and on a scale never before possible.' what this opening statement fails to mention is the cost of admission. admittedly limited to 101 copies wordwide and weighing an impressive 15kg (more than the equivalent of two team sky pinarello dogmas) as well as enclosing a piece of brad's yellow jersey, the book can be yours for the princely sum of £1,199.
maybe you'd better sit down.
all, however, is not lost, for there are another two lesser versions available in greater quantities and at lower cost. the limited edition (300 copies) signed by wiggo retails at £599, while the version for the rest of us requires only 199 pieces of the folding stuff, one which you will share with only another 1599 individuals. each edition is of identical content, only the degree of luxury varies the user experience.
so what do you get for your money?
"Scott followed me on the Tour before and we'd discussed during this year's tour (2012) how his stunning images could be translated into an Opus". the scott mentioned above is edinburgh-based photographer scott mitchell, now officially a part of team sky and not infrequently featured in these yellow and black pixels. 101 is a collaboration between the photography of scott mitchell and the words of bradley wiggins. i'd be misleading you if i apportioned great literary prowess to the text accompanying each spread of photographs; most are described as post-stage comments, at which point in time wiggo was probably not apt to quote from proust or hemingway. however, they do provide an immediacy to some quite frankly stunning photography.
at fifteen kilograms and a price in excess of £1,000, a leg on each corner would easily create a real coffee table, let alone a book that might lovingly occupy space upon yours. the plushness of production is of considerable credit to opus; they sure as heck don't do things by halves. but i can't pretend that even paying £199 for a book is somewhat too rich for the average pocket. though it may well be thought to undermine the exclusivity of the three existing versions, i'd love to have seen a fourth edition priced at closer to £50. not all of sir bradley's fans are possessed of unlimited wherewithal; but then i suppose the same could be said of one of those blue and black dogmas.
if you have the money and consider yourself a bradley wiggins superfan, this might just be the icing on the cake. there is no doubting the quality of either production or content, but somehow i'm not sure we'll see the same treatment for this year's winner.
wednesday 11th september 2013