"When I was a kid"- Ned Boulting

When I was a kid, I used to stare at maps. I suspect I wasn’t the only kid of the nineteen seventies sitting on their bed, or stuck away in the corner of a boring family dinner at which the grown ups were arguing about the oil crisis, silently tracing the outline of Chile, all the way from North to South, mentally slicing it away from the rest of South America. Or gazing at the bruised, purple crumple zone of the Alps, playing with the image of Italy hurtling at full pelt into an amputated Europe.

Atlases will always remain landscapes of imagination. In their obsessive acribia, their detail and scale, they sow seeds of narrative wherever the page happens to fall open; the empty Mongolian steppe, the unlikely-looking polder and dyke coastline of the Netherlands, or the horrifying immensity of Antarctica. Step back, and take in the whole world. Step forward and the picture fractures in a million ways.

If we’re honest, this book scared people. It scared us. Seasoned publishers, considering the proposition, looked at the scale of the task involved, wanted badly to see a way of making it work, and then threw their arms up in defeat.

The complexities of assembling the seemingly endless data, scraping what can be scraped, and ferretting the rest of it out, then presenting it in a beautiful, readable form, interpreting it so that it looks cogent and precise, and setting it alongside the right mix of comment and interpretation, graphically, thoughtfully, respectfully, by the correct range of contributors: I’ll be honest, all this has been far from easy.

I had the pleasure of commissioning the writing from a wide mix of the very best. Mine was the simple task. But others, such as Charlotte Atyeo and Cillian Kelly have been charged, all year long, with actually making the book happen, on time, beautifully bound and ready to go, as soon as the last rider crossed the line at the last WorldTour race, the Tour of Guangxi (which happened to be Team Sky’s Jon Dibben, on the off chance you’re interested).

 

From time to time small errors have inevitably arisen, as they will on a project such as this, hard up against almost unfeasible deadlines. While awaiting the final votes from our jury for one of our riders in the Awards section, I had written a “holding” paragraph with the name of the rider in the lead at that moment, who, when the final votes came in, was pipped to title. Sadly, the wrong name went to press in one section of the book, for which we can only apologise. Such errata are, I suspect, irksome but inevitable collatoral from a project as ambitious as this.

 

In our Atlas, the world is a single year in the racing calendar: 2018. It has a fuzzy form in the memory, viewed from a distance. Isolated peaks stand proudly out, piercing the mist: Peter Sagan casually dispensing with Sylvain Dillier in the Roubaix velodrome, Annamiek van Vleuten refusing to bow to reality and accept defeat at the finish line as Le Grand Bornand grew ever closer, or Chris Froome tearing away from the Giro d’Italia, venting all his bent up anger in one single blow.

 

Yet, beneath the glassy surface of these headline acts, a million other stories were told by each day’s racing. Each time the flag drops, a hundred little dramas begin to unfold, playing out over a host of  different time zones, under hot suns and frozen skies, up hill and over dales.

 

Think of road racing as an explosion of energy emanating from a single dot on a map, arrowing up a singular path, towards another distant mark.

 

The Road Book allows you to join the dots.

Ned Boulting

James White