The Cyclists’ Gift this Father’s Day
June 1, 2020
Photographs: Offside/L’Equipe (Rouleur)
Fathers Day was never a thing in my house, when I was a kid, which is a good job, because it would have been just another way of disappointing a parent. I know I’d have forgotten it. The day might have passed in muted fatherly rage that yet another year of patient nurturing and sacrifice had been and gone, and that I had entirely failed to acknowledge the efforts made on my behalf. Not even with a card. Not even one from the garage at the end of the road.
Happily, I have managed to continue this tradition of familial neglect, thus sparing my offspring the potentially devastating psychological effects of an annual barrage of guilt. In short, the day comes and goes like any other. Much like Mothers Day, and indeed my birthday, come to think of it.
But, it would be nice, nevertheless, if someone cared. I’m not saying I’d necessarily want to be whisked off for dinner at the Ivy followed by tickets from someone obscure and wonderful doing Jazz-type things at Ronnie Scott’s. Although, now that I write it down, it does sound fun.
It’s just that, actually, I do quite like presents, if I am honest with myself. I seldom leave a hotel room without trousering the shower gel, for example. And, last December Matt Rendell and I were both reprimanded in the breakfast room of a hotel in Bogota for constructing, and then removing sandwiches as a form of free lunch, of which there is famously no such thing.
In short, things that other people buy you and which you simply receive for no apparent reason are good things. It’s taken a remarkably long time for me to reach a fairly straightforward conclusion. Which brings me to The Road Book.
We should, of course, have made the same song and dance about this beautiful publication when Mothers Day was on the horizon, since there is no possible reason why females would not feel equally drawn to the first edition of a historic contribution to the world’s most beautiful sport. But we didn’t, which is our bad. And since we already stand rightfully accused (by me) of everyday sexism, let me double down on prejudice: There is a certain type of bloke who will adore this book with indecent ardour. There, I’ve said it.
Stuart O’Grady hugs his son after victory in the 2007 edition of Paris Roubaix
Let us examine why. I have thought of a few good reasons:
1) Heft. This book has HEFT. It weighs two bags of sugar. This is not normal for a book.
2) Numbers. This book has NUMBERS. The most important of them is perhaps 952, the total number of pages. It is ridiculously comprehensive.
3) Pictures. There are loads and loads of PICTURES: Beautiful photography from Russ Ellis which documents key moments in the 2019 season, as well as a series of bespoke commissioned illusrations to accompany some of the key written contributions.
4) Info. It is stuffed with INFO. Literally. The day’s breakaway, the day’s profile, the prevailing weather, infographics of the entire season broken down, team by team, men and women, rider by rider, domestic and international racing. There are essays and obituaries, month by month analysis. Honestly, it’s boggling.
5) Words. WORDS, folks. Words written just for us by Richard Carapaz, Philippe Gilbert, Annemeik van Vleuten, Philippe Auclair, Paul Fournel, Matt Rendell, Orla Chennaoui, Kit Nicholson, Bob Roll, Michael Hutchinson and me.
6) Collectability. This big red book is crying out to be added to. It is the second edition of a lineage which we believe will endure for decades to come, and spread across the world, as it has already started to do, annexing its place as the definitive account of a year’s endeavour.
7) Beauty. It’s just beautiful.
Read: Cycling dads and their able offspring
So there we go. I’m very proud of this achievement, which many in the publishing world said was impossible. If I hadn’t abandoned hope of ever getting given a present again, I’d want one of these things.
And if you don’t have a father to treat, just treat yourself and to hell with tradition.