The Road Book, edited by Ned Boulting
This is a yearbook of the 2018 pro cycling season which contains the results of every race, listings of all the teams, their riders and more including some essays from guest writers and statistical and data nuggets. It’s an analogue effort in a digital age, a luxury good even.
A annual for the cycling season isn’t new, see the Wielerjaarboek by Bernard Callens which has covered Belgian cycling, or retrospectives by the likes of the Miroir du Cyclisme and there’s been the English-language The Cycling Year too in the past. The Road Book is bigger bordering on biblical, listing all the results from every pro race, male and female, plus a section on the UK domestic races too. On top of this all the teams are listed, along with their riders and they have info such as the number of career wins, their UCI ranking and so on. It’s chronological and above all comprehensive, you can see all the finishers of the Tour de France this year but also look up, say, the Tour de Romandie and find who won Stage 3, what the profile was and the weather that day; it’s an archive with info like who was second in the the points jersey after Stage 4 of the Szlakiem Walk Majora Hubala and so on.
There are summary results for smaller races and full listings for the grand tours. The picture above illustrates it, you can see the weather, the stage profile, the GC and then the full stage results on the following page. Each World Tour race gets a quick report so it’s not just the who, when, where but also the how. As you can imagine this amounts to hundreds and hundreds of pages.
There are essays inside too, the kind you might find in the dormant Cycling Anthology or Rouleur. One by Education First DS and writer Tom Southam about why modern racing is boring is compulsory. Marianne Vos explores her hopes and ambitions after years of dominance but otherwise they’re focused on the English-speaking part of the peloton, there’s one by Denmark’s Morten Okbo but it’s about the British; a piece about Niki Terpstra is an Englishman writing about a Dutchman in Belgium. Pippa York’s examination of Geraint Thomas and the burden of leadership is an exploration of the flipside of victory. They’re enjoyable but present an Anglo view of the peloton, ideally a yearbook would have voices from Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Colombia, Kazakhstan and beyond. Still they’re good reading and you want more as page after page of race results are very dry, there are only six of them meaning to read page by page would be like eating a plate of tortillas with only a teaspoon of salsa on hand.
As well as the essays, there are features with facts and figures supplied by Cillian Kelly, the example above looks at which race number or dossard has won the Tour de France most often, another page looks at Paris-Roubaix and how many times the winners in the last 20 years had to ride it prior to winning and the answer is a lot, you may reckon that experience counts in this race and here’s the data to prove it although you might have seen it before on social media. There are obituaries at the back which are quietly important. Having come out the moment the season there’s little room for retrospection, it does name several riders of the year but it’s more a day-by-day book than a yearbook.
Alas there are typos and errors. This blog has them too but they’re easy to fix at the click of a button. A few typos are inoffensive and are unlikely to mislead you, a “Zdanek Stybar” here, a “Colle delle Fenestre” there and so on. There are factual errors, a few results get mangled, more a hiccup than a howler, unless it was you who finished 14th in the Japan Cup and take it personally. The listed wheel supplier is wrong for half the men’s World Tour teams. Perhaps the 2019 version could include
an a corrections chapter or an erratum to slip inside the 2018 edition?
One reason the errors matter is the price. It sells for £50 (about €56/$64 today) and that’s 20% more than anything at Rapha and Rouleur’s bookstores and deliberately not sold by online retailer Amazon. It’s part book, part luxury good. In a digital era there’s often pleasure in the analogue, think drip coffee or a vinyl LP. A premium price for luxury goods is often achieved by story that reaches the buyer: that coffee doesn’t just taste nice, it comes from an estate where the workers are paid a premium; that Coltrane or Clash record is direct copy of the master. Here the originality isn’t so obvious – the results inside are the same as cyclingquotient, cyclingnews, procyclingstats et al – but it is a heavyweight hardback and there is pleasure in opening the book and seeing where you land, something a website doesn’t provide.
It’s something we need, yet you may not need it. This is a useful endeavour that is comprehensive, complete and usefully collectively to the sport as a matter of reference. It certainly belongs in a library or the office of a cycling magazine but does it go on your bookshelf at home? Yes if you want every race result going and some extras but it also depends on what you’re willing to pay and how much you value a hardback in your hand over pixels in your palm.
- You can order at theroadbook.co.uk
- Note: A PDF copy was sent free for review
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