Is there another sport where history is so important? It seems no race can take part without a tribute to the past, from the extravaganza of the 100th Tour de France this July to the observations of how many times a particular mountain pass has been crossed.
History is part of the sport, this is not a branch reserved for specialists or aged fans to look back on their youth. No, the past is an essential ingredient of every major race. Maybe it’s the way cycling crosses the landscape or perhaps it’s the feats of endurance over the years. Do tennis fans get so nostalgic?
Velocast’s This Week in Cycling History podcast
The format is as obvious as the name suggests, presenters John Galloway and Cillian Kelly jump back to the past to tell stories, give anecdotes and chat about events. Typically Kelly gives a monologue about an event from the past and then the pair begin a discussion on the topic.
The pair work well together. Galloway plays the fan whilst Kelly is the historian, the guardian of cycling records and trivia, seemingly with database of a brain. Kelly doesn’t just recount individual facts but looks for statistics and anecdotes, recalling the smallest winning margins for the Giro or listing the youngest ever world champions in the latest episode. He’s adept at finding the only rider to achieve particular feats, for example you must know Ryder Hesjedal won the Giro last year but did you know he’d never won another stage race before? Or that he’d never worn a leader’s jersey in any stage race until the Giro last year? Stats become stories.
That chat format allows some laughs. Episode 20 told the tale of Raymond Poulidor pulling out of a track race against arch rival Jacques Anquetil. Only this left the event promoter fretting, he’d got an audience who’d paid good money. Amazingly he decided to take another rider taking part, and put an unknown Spaniard in Poulidor’s team clothing. Apparently they looked similar from afar and besides, it was dark in the velodome. The pursuit race started and… the unknown Spaniard beat Anquetil, one of the sport’s all time greatest rouleurs.
With all the scandal and infighting today it might be tempting to seek refuge in the past, to wallow in the good old days. Only the show doesn’t do this, it will often hold up an example from the past to use as a talking point to discuss contemporary events.
Past and Present
A lot of the shows cover recent events. If you think history means the black and white past, think again. Kelly uses recent magazines to get examples from the past decade as often as there’s something from further back. This is probably the show’s greatest strength. A book would cover the chronology of events but a weekly podcast can jump around, pick stories and make comparisons between the past and today.
The mean bit
The show’s enjoyable and free so it’s hard to knock it. But instinctively a review has to list some negatives so here goes: the Anglo-Irish focus at times is an obvious point. It’s acknowledged by them as Galloway often jokes about Kelly’s ability to inject Irish cycling anecdote into an story about something completely different. Also if you’re tuning in expecting two academic historians, tune out. They chat, this is not a strict review of the past, rather it’s two committed fans having fun.
A good take on the sport because the past looms large in pro cycling. Don’t tune in seeking shelter from current scandals, they often link events past and present. But it’s well produced, done in an relaxed style and the pair’s passion for the sport is obvious.
It’s available to download via iTunes or velocastcc.squarespace.com/twich