Podcast Review: This Week in Cycling History

This Week in Cycling History podcast

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.

The past isn’t always a black and white place

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

20 thoughts on “Podcast Review: This Week in Cycling History”

  1. Bit holier than thou – having a go at Mark Cavendish (who, if anyone can be said to be proven clean, his blood tests show him to be so). They’re cyclists, not stars of stage and screen. I can say it as I am not English – there seems to be a bit of anti-English bias in the podcast.

    • Tovarishch, thanks for the comment. I wasn’t necessarily having a go at Mark Cavendish for not being clean (although I do think his refusal to answer questions on Armstrong was disappointing). I was taking exception to his reaction to an interviewer in a working environment.

      • Although there are a surprising number of erudite cyclists you just have to listen to Geraint Thomas to realize that is not universal. To condemn someone who is paid to turn pedals for not being able to answer the questions of a professional journalist seems to me that you are not living in a world populated by normal people.

        • This was not someone who is paid to turn pedals being unable or unwilling to answer a question. This was someone paid to turn pedals telling someone who is paid to put questions to people who turn pedals to ‘fuck off’ repeatedly.

          In my world, populated with normal people, this is not the sort of behaviour that should be tolerated in any working environment.

        • Cavendish is smart enough to know that if he didn’t want to deal with journalists he never should have put pen to paper on his first contract. Just as annoying paperwork is a part of many people’s jobs, the media is a part of Cav’s job. And it didn’t seem like a case of being “able to” answers questions; he was fed up. Cillian has a point about professional behavior. In the “normal” world, if you start telling people at your work to F Off then you’d get fired. Although because sports is essentially entertainment, maybe the sponsors take the PR view that no attention is bad attention…

    • I wasn’t there so can’t offer a proper account but I gather he was only speaking to the media. He’s opened his mouth in the past in public which caused trouble. But this time it was in private and there are different terms when dealing with the media according to whether the camera or voice recorder is rolling.

      It wasn’t polite but that aggression is used to help fight for position. He’s got much better at fighting off the media.

      Maybe the next time Cillian can do a show about Bernard Hinault punching a journalist or Laurent Fignon spitting on a TV crew.

  2. Awesome photo!

    I’ve listened to the show before, need more time to catch up on them but want to say thanks to them for it as they – or one – seems to be reading. Keep up the good work.

    Will this carry on as normal as the Velocast goes to Eurosport?

  3. Wow- timely post. I just discovered these podcasts about 3 weeks ago (not just TWiCH, but the other Velocasts as well). LOVE them! I’ve enjoyed John, Scott and Cillian very much and quite enjoy their take on the Pro peloton- much more “Euro-centric” than we’re used to getting in the States! They’re obviously huge fans of cycling and cycling history. “Brilliant” as John might say in his inimitable Scottish brogue.

  4. After hearing Mr. Galloway “gag” on about TWiCH on the Velocast I also just started listening to it. It’s informative, funny, and always insightful. Thanks to Cillian, John, and Scott over there for all their great work.

  5. Thanks INRNG. And great work you guys on TWiCH. These are the only podcasts I actually save to re-listen too again in the future. And about expressing an opinion on people? Absolutely, I would be disappointed if you didn’t do this.
    (And I don’t mind Tovarishsh expressing his opinion either, disagreeing with people is part of life.)
    As far as Cav’s interview technique goes, one immediately thinks: Cav is just being Cav. But also you can see its a line of questioning he wants to discourage in the future. Media bites from other senior Pros capture gems such as “Shock, dismay, complete surprize, I never had any inkling for all those years.”

    Sigh, it is just entertainment. Think Pro Wrestling (with History).

  6. TWICH and the Velocast are up there with the Inner Ring as essential reading / listening for any road cycling fan. It was only a matter if time before someone (like Eurosport) took them on board. How long before they replace Phil and Paul?

  7. There are some things that stand out in this picture:
    Eric Boyer groping a woman’s backside
    The ridiculous blue hat of the rider to his left
    Indurain’s facial expression.

    I really like that picture, it’s kinda cool

  8. I did start listening to the podcasts a while ago but was turned off by the continuous venom in one show against David Millar. Being fans rather than journalists they are just expressing their personal views but lack of balance started to grate too much for me personally.

    • I remember this too on the main show but it stopped a while ago. Still, you get opinion. As INRNG says this is not some academic analysis.

      The good thing with these podcasts is you can keep them and listen again, say a year later.

  9. At the end of the day, Cav seem to have the perspective that if anything harms cycling’s image, it is bad news. His line is pretty consistent – as far as widespead doping goes, “it all stopped years ago and this generation shouldn’t be punished for it”. He refused to comment on the Lance interview until he saw it, and then produced his Sun article where he trotted out his stock answer. I do see his point. There are some hardcore fans who will never be able to accept anyone as being clean after the disgrace of the last few decades. Dopers harm the sport’s image and scare off sponsors. I don’t see Cav’s position as being weak – more one of damage limitation.

  10. I must say this is my favourite podcast, it is ‘history’ but a fans perspective so not an info dump that you can get from any old book. They give their opinion on historic incidents and are able to discuss the history in light of present antics in the peloton or use the histroy as a kickoff point to discuss live issues. I must say that this show far exceeds the other shows that the velocast boys pump out and like yossarian these shows I keep to listen to months later. I really hope Cillian keeps producing more and more content as his collection of facts generally leads to an insightful view of cycling that many journalists miss.

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