This cycling almanack, edited by Ned Boulting and Cillian Kelly is a stunning book both on the inside and the outside. It is brimming with graphs, stats, lists, articles, photography... but it's more than that. It is curated with love and attention to detail in its design and editorial content.
Back in late October 2019, I attended the launch of the book at the London Rouleur Classic. From the stage you could see and feel the enthusiasm from the very people who had participate in this project, the second of its kind, after the successful 2018 edition. It was easy to understand why once I finally had a copy in my hands.
Its encyclopaedic heftiness gives it a special gravitas and you immediately know you're holding something special.
It includes contributions by:
Orla Chennaoui, broadcaster, podcaster and writer);
Philippe Auclair, sports writer and broadcaster;
Peter Cossins, cycling journalist and author;
Paul Fournel, writer;
Michael Hutchinson, former time trial champion, author, columnist;
Tom Isitt, author;
Lukas Knöfler, cycling journalist;
Lucy Martin, former pro cyclist, press officer, broadcaster;
Kit Nicholson, writer;
Matt Rendell, author and broadcaster;
Bob Roll, broadcaster).
The stats are comprehensive and beautifully laid out. The design of the whole book is crisp, contemporary and leaves nothing to chance. The amount of information spread over 900 pages is not daunting as each page has been given its breathing space. The stats are impressive. There's every race you can think of from both the Men's and the Women's seasons, month by month (including the UK domestic season), including the profile of the courses, the weather, the wind direction, the results. Each team is represented and so are many historical results of the major races.
There is also a section on obituaries, a lasting memory of some of the greats from the world of cycling like Felice Gimondi and Paul Sherwen.
The photography is by Russ Ellis and it is stunning. Ellis immortalises some of the most exciting races and conveys a certain intimacy. He captures a fleeting moment and he transforms it into emotion, which is often missed by the restricted medium of the television cameras.
But the most alluring features are the essays from the various contributors. They enhance the flow of the book and enrich it with behind the scenes expertise and hindsight that is invaluable to the cycling fan. And then, there are the gems right at the start of the book:
Philippe Gilbert on winning Paris-Roubaix, Richard Carapaz on seizing the Giro d'Italia and Annemiek Van Vleuten on smashing the World Championships in Yorkshire.
Many times riders are interviewed so close to the event, sometimes just after the finish line, and because of the fatigue and duties of the moment, they don't tend to be too informative. But when they are given time to reflect, the recounting of how those races were won becomes alive and the little subtleties are brought to the surface to give a more comprehensive understanding of what goes on in riders' minds in those moments.
This book is a welcome addition to anyone's collection. It is timeless: a book that looks beautiful on the bookshelves but it is impossible to leave alone, year after year.