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The Road Book 1989

Author:             Matt Rendell (ed)          

Publisher:         The Road Book Ltd

Date:                June 2023

Format:            Hardback          

Pages:              368

ISBN:                9781916484955

Price:                £40

Reviewed by Richard Peploe

road book 1989 review

For the last five years we have been treated to the ‘red’ Road Book, a ‘cycling almanack’ for afficionados of the sport. The principles behind it haven’t changed much since it was launched, and you can read more about them in our older reviews . Now, there's a new 'blue' Road Book n the scene.

As I reported in my review of the 2022 Road Book, we knew that at some point The Road Book team wanted to go back in time and retrospectively create something similar to the contemporary publications, but for previous years.

With the original idea now well-established, the first ‘blue’ book has been published: it largely follows the format that has served the ‘red’ version so well as it “restates and commemorates the past”.

The road Book Road Racing Professiona book review

They have started with 1989, from back in the pre-digital era, which is well up there as a year of significant sporting (and geopolitical) interest: it is as good a starting point as any. It is likely that the sport of cycling started around 1868, so there’s plenty more years to choose from if this venture proves to be a success – although I can imagine that the difficulties in producing a worthwhile result would only increase the further back you go.

When creating a current Road Book, memories are fresh and people are still dissecting the year just past. It’s a bit different for the ‘blue’ book: after 34 years, recollections won’t be quite so reliable - and subsequent books and articles will have made it harder to find fresh perspectives.

I found plenty of interest in ‘1989’: it probably helps that I had just started to follow the sport avidly by then, so enjoyed being reminded of some significant sporting moments. Who remembers the first use of aero bars in a race, the Vuelta being run in the Spring, and the Tour de Trump (yes, that one)?

I would have expected the race results to be immutable, but it appears that there are “conflicting versions often in circulation”, meaning that “the results themselves sometimes hold surprises”. All this required an unexpected level of detective work to establish the facts, even if few people would notice the difference – but those are the lengths required if you want to be considered as a reference book.

 

At 368 pages, the ‘blue’ book is less than half the size of recent ‘red’ books, so what is different? I always enjoy editor Ned Boulting’s introduction to the year in the ‘red’ books - and fortunately editor Matt Rendell maintains the standard, really whetting the appetite for what is to come: always a highlight, and always deserving of a wider audience.

the road book 1989 review tour de France

Race results are the core of both colours, with “special attention paid to” the three Grand Tours of 1989. Actually, it is more the case that the Giro, Tour, and Vuelta receive similar attention here as they do in the ‘red’ book, but other races receive less: things like the top 10 instead of top 20 places, and no profiles or weather reports – and simply not as many races covered.

Also present and correct are the various essays and ‘In the winners’ words’ articles, which complement the statistics and really enhance the appeal of the publication; there’s also an abridged presence of obituaries and photographs.

A much reduced section for women’s racing is a reflection of the times, and you will look in vain for anything about cyclo-cross (which was a recent addition to the ‘red’ book). The ‘Rider of the year awards’ are understandably absent, which further contributes to the page reduction. 

I have previously commended The Road Book for offering increasingly good value as the £50 price remained the same despite recent inflationary pressures. At £40 the ‘blue’ book doesn’t offer such good value, being a 20% lower price than the ‘red’ books for a reduction in page count of at least 50%.

Furthermore, with the book alone weighing about 950 g the packaged product exceeds 1 kg, thus raising the carriage charge from £2.50 to £7.50. However, it is worth noting that you can receive a 20% discount on your first order simply by signing up https://theroadbook.co.uk/pages/the-road-book-society for the newsletter.

A ’blue’ book for a previous year is never going to be the same as a ‘red’ book produced at the time, but on the evidence of the 1989 edition it can offer something slightly different – and equally worthwhile. Can’t wait to see what year they choose next.

Will the ‘blues’ succeed? Obviously collectors and completists will welcome their arrival, but I can see a new market amongst cycling fans for whom the year has some significance - such as an anniversary. Perhaps they will become a useful problem solver for those trying to buy a present for a serious cyclist? 

 https://theroadbook.co.uk/collections/the-blue-books/products/the-road-book-1989 

Images courtesy of The Road Book Ltd

 

REVIEW PUBLISHED JULY 2023

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