The Armchair Series #3- “The Season that never was, but emerged from the past”
April 16, 2020
Described by the Telegraph as the ultimate love letter to road cycling, The Road Book is proud to present The Armchair Series, showcasing in their own words what our customers most love about The Road Book and how it is a must for the discerning cycling nerd.
Jukka Rajala (Finland)
I live in a country where the most popular sport is, as I understand, sort of kendo on ice – they call it hockey. A cyclist here is an anomaly, cycling as a sport is even rarer and a person who follows cycling races is practically unheard of. I don’t care to watch hockey, soccer or any other major sports, but I admire cycling endlessly. In my bookshelf there’s a large section devoted to cycling books and among those books two red books stand out. They are constantly taken out and browsed, flicked and read. I’ve used them to support my fledging ego, even more fragile memory and a wonky desk. The Road Book, the epitome of cycling statistics, “the red brick”, is not a coffee table book, it is the coffee table.
In the early days of cycling, before there were live broadcasts, evening highlights or live tweeting, the was a reliance on accurate and creative writers when reporting the progress of a race or tactics. Modern racing is seen live, even from the most far flung locations of the world. Even if there’s no one watching on the roadside of a desert race, we can watch it from home and The Road Book is there to document and record all that. Now that we’re all wearing only pyjamas and leaving the house only when there’s a rumour of a new shipment of toilet paper at the local supermarket and all the road racing has been cancelled until the foreseeable future the records, The Road Book has proven to be the ultimate virtual season companion.
As no amount of Tour of Quarantine or Zwift racing raced or (god forbid) streamed can replace the beauty of a real bicycle race on a real road, I’ve taken to creating my own virtual season. With a creative combination of Twitter, Rouleur, old podcasts episodes, YouTube and The Road Book I’ve selected some of best racing of the last years into a small mental list of races and stages. This list I reorganize and revise every now and then by opening The Road Book and reading about a random stage or race.
And when the mood hits me, I open The Road Book on the table, find a recording of the race online, have a beer local to the race and relax watching the most beautiful sport in the world. The race description, results and weather data remind what to expect – I’ve seen the race most likely already before, so they’re not spoilers. With this information I can concentrate on following how tactics develop in the peloton, how a rider keeps trying to get into a breakaway ultimately failing and failing, how echelons are navigated and sailed, how the mountain goats are herded to the foot of the final climb and sprint trains choose their tracks on the final kilometres.
Giro d’Italia 2018, stage 19. How could one forget that? I was on the edge of my chair in the office. Stage playing on a phone screen, headphones bringing the sounds of the race to me and the computer screen blanking as the screensaver turned on. I don’t think I worked a single billable hour that day.
Sagan crossing the line at Roubaix with rainbow on his chest. The way he surfed the cobbles, followed the right wheel and avoided the wrong ones. I remember how I was in my garage fiddling with my bikes, kids outside riding and playing and that race on a laptop screen on the workbench. It was a lovely spring day. All the colours, sounds and emotions come back to me from those black and white pages of The Road Book.
Even now, as I write this, the golden band on red book spine glows in the evening sun and calls me to lose hours reading about the cycling seasons past. Insight of a pro-rider, obscure statistics for that hipster race in Italy or the defining moment of a monument, it’s all there, between those lovely covers.
Of all the hours I’ve spent with The Road Book I’ve enjoyed each and every one. It extends the experience of a race from the road to my sofa just when I want it to. I do have one regret; I read all the columns from the latest edition during the first three days after I received the book – I should have saved some for now…