THIS ISLAND RACE
TITLE: This Island Race
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Sport
As the calendar of cycle races for 2014 was gradually revealed I remember wondering if there would ever be a better year for world class cycle racing on British soil than 2014 – and the team at Rouleur magazine had the same thought as they decided on the theme for their eighth Annual review of the year.
To be clear, I am not talking about the best year for British cycling, where 2012 might be regarded as the zenith; no, 2014 was the year when we saw world class events with world class athletes from across the world competing on our doorstep. The mainstream press ran pictures of cyclists in front of famous national landmarks - even if some of the rider’s names were hard to pronounce.
The editorial team who put this book together were spoilt for choice when trying to choose which events to include. The authors are a mixture of Rouleur staff and regular contributors, including some better known for other work such as Ned Boulting. Similarly many of the photographers have featured in other Rouleur books and magazines before.
There are ten chapters, and each typically starts with three pages of text. Actually, that does not do the words justice: lets us say beautifully crafted prose that offers a new angle on the event in question. Those three pages are followed by around twenty pages of pictures, mostly in colour, and often from an ‘unusual’ perspective. At 32 x 25 cm the pages are certainly big enough to display the images at their best.
Not surprisingly the Tour de France gets three chapters in the book, reflecting the three stages on British soil. Whilst the French race has been on our shores before, hosting the Giro d’Italia was a first for Britain – although running as it did from Northern Ireland to the South, some people might want a little more accuracy on the use of the word Britain.
It is good to see the inaugural Women’s Tour making the cut: note that by not calling it the Women’s Tour of Britain the organisers may not suffer from the same complaints that the (Men’s) Tour of Britain experience every year when they fail to appear in every corner of Britain. Sadly, one of the best ever editions of that race could not be included since it ran in September, which was too late in the year to meet the book’s deadlines. The same fate befell the World Cup cyclo-cross event in Milton Keynes, which was held in November.
Reviewed by Richard Peploe
No good reason is given for missing out any of the cycling events at the Commonwealth Games, so we shall move on to the second running of the RideLondon events: both the Grand Prix for women and the Classic for men are covered, and they share a chapter.
The remaining chapters feature events that have been a regular of British cycling for many years, and will continue to be so for many more to come. In the meantime I would like to think that they can benefit from the extra attention they are receiving this year. The 59th running of the Lincoln Grand Prix is an impressive feat, but even more so is the fact that Ian Emmerson has organised the majority of them since 1963.
The 25 mile National Time Trial Championship is an event for which the words ‘peculiarly British’ could have been invented – and the pictures reinforce the point. Third place was taken by a 52 year old, “one of the thousands of over-forty veterans who compete in the sport, keeping themselves young and out of the doctor’s surgery in the process”.
The National Road Race Championships and the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic provide the remaining chapters, and show that the racing in national events can be as good as any international event, even if the press coverage is normally much reduced.
At 2.2 kg the book pushes the boundaries of reasonable postage costs. One laudable reason for such a hefty tome comes from the thickness of the pages: more than once I incorrectly thought that I was turning over two pages at a time.
This book is a beautifully presented reminder of a great year for cycle racing in Britain, and is a worthy addition to the existing Rouleur Annuals.
It is, as they say, available from the usual outlets, but I did notice that, at the time of writing, the publishers Bloomsbury are offering a 35% discount on their own website at present, which does make the considerable purchase price a little more palatable (see http://bloomsbury.com/uk/this-island-race-9781472912312/). Images courtesy of Bloomsbury.
REVIEW FIRST PUBLISHED 2015