The Cycling Anthology is a collection of essays writing by many well-known English language writers. The first edition is 272 pages with fifteen essays plus a Toto cartoon.
This is original writing, no pieces are lifted from past newspaper columns or old magazines and they often come with a more personal take and deeper insight than you’d normally get in a shorter piece cropped for a website. It’s a great read and even fits in a cycling jersey.
Each chapter is independent but all cover pro cycling whether by analysis or anecdote and often both. You can tie some threads together. One chapter about “Project Wiggins”, with its watts, VAM and performance audits is followed by the antithesis of Monsieur Thomas Voeckler, captain of chaos. And maybe the chapter about Adam Hansen might not have existed were it not for the enlightened recruitment policy of T-Mobile’s Bob Stapleton explained in another chapter.
With writers from Britain, Australia and the US an English style stands out. French and Italian cycling literature is often more poetic, see Antoine Blondin or Paul Fournel. Here the prose is informative and most contributors are journalists not novelists although “self-confessed Francophile” Edward Pickering comes enjoyably close in his praise for Voeckler.
You might enjoy reading, say, Pickering in Cycle Sport or Daniel Friebe in Pro Cycling. Their pieces are brought to life by fine photos and glossy paper. Yet here there’s no distraction. Apart from the cover the only illustration is an amusing Toto cartoon in the middle and even that’s in black and white.
It’s more personal than a magazine article, contributors often deploy the first person. Pickering writes “Voeckler races how I like to think I would”, David Millar describes the routine involved to meet Michael Barry on a stretch of road beyond Girona whilst Jeremy Whittle opens with his tale of being at a party where a woman declares “Oh God, the Tour? I love it” when mentioning what he does for a living.
If you enjoy this blog then you’ll love this book. For starters it’s better written – I wish I had more time for his blog – but there’s also some content that coincides with popular reads on here. If you liked my piece called Moneywheel about copying the Moneyball ideas for pro cycling then you’ll love Friebe’s “Cyclonomics” piece. When I wrote about luck it inspired William Fotheringham to write a piece in Rouleur magazine (issue 24) whilst in The Cycling Anthology Ellis Bacon also explores the role of chance and superstition.
There’s a wealth of cycling content these days that didn’t exist five years ago. Twitter, video, digital apps and more are on the rise but books like this suggest paper and print aren’t going out yet. I like the simplicity just as I prefer a still photo rather than video for my “The Moment The Race Was Won” series. The Cycling Anthology is small enough to fit in a jersey pocket but too good to tuck away.
Comparisons with other essay-rich publications like Rouleur are inevitable but this is different. It’s solely pro cycling and there are no photos. It’s not for the coffee table, more a pocketbook to pull out in a café as you can read a chapter in the time it takes order, sip and pay for an espresso.
A pleasure to read. It fits in a cycling jersey but is packed with a variety of subjects and rich prose. Those wanting glossy photos won’t find them but you should be rewarded by the writing and the tales within, especially if you’re hungry for detail, backstories and analysis. All for €10.
How to buy
The book is not for sale with Amazon, it seems the US retailer takes too much of a cut from smaller publishers like Lionel Birnie.
A list of book reviews is available here.
Disclaimer: this book was sent for free by Prendas. Thanks!