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Great British Cycling The History of British Bike Racing 1868-2014 By Ellis Bacon

Release date: 29th September, 2014
Publisher: Bantam

List Price: £20.00
Our Price: £16.00
You Save: £4 (20%)
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While cycling’s popularity continues to soar, so demand for bike-related magazines, websites and books follows a similarly upward curve.

As a direct result, cycling biographies, autobiographies and accounts of amateurs tackling Grand Tour routes (Tim Moore’s Gironimo is particularly good) have been produced to satisfy burgeoning demand from cyclists keen to embrace every aspect of the sport.

Against a backdrop of innate enthusiasm, Ellis Bacon’s history makes a timely appearance.

Thankfully, this is no dry statistical tome intent merely on arranging cycling’s many landmarks in strict chronological order. Instead, Bacon livens matters with first-hand accounts which oil the narrative as effectively as a heavy squirt of 3-in-1 onto a recalcitrant bike chain.

For instance, 1955 was a pivotal year in British racing after both Brian Robinson and Tony Hoar became the first Britons to finish the Tour de France. But Ellis injects life into this stark historic fact by including a lengthy interview with Hoar, a man who was clearly enjoying himself en route to battling through to claim the Lanterne Rouge.

He tells how riders changed inner tubes but didn’t advise sponsors for fear of losing their bonuses, while everyone rode more or less the same bike, painting their sponsors’ names onto the frame. Discovering that a Frenchman, Bernard Gauthier, insisted on asking spectators for a push and then asked them to push the Englishmen as well suggests that TV coverage of the 1955 Tour was not quite as intrusive as it is today.

Bacon introduces Peter Keen, then an enthusiastic cyclist and student at college in Sussex. Several years later, Keen, by now working in the sport, suggested that central funding should be directed mainly at track cycling and women's racing as they were areas where medals could be won in the short term, so attracting more funding. Keen’s ideas were later developed by Dave Brailsford, the man at the helm of Team Sky when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France.

But this is more than record of Britons competing in the Grand Tours. Bacon takes the reader through the development of bike racing; considers the continued attraction of weekend outings and cycling clubs and mulls over the post-war explosion in participation. In short, it’s an ideal read for Mamils (middle aged men in Lycra) keen to gen up on a sport they have so lovingly embraced.


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