Sir Bradley may not be on the starting line in Leeds, but his 2012 triumph will live forever within the pages of LEGENDS OF THE TOUR.
In the words of Rachel Cooke in the Observer:
'Oh what a fantastic book this is. Not only is it a wonderfully concise history of the Tour, it is quite ravishing to behold. I adored it.’
A labour of love from artist, lifelong cycling fan and sometime bike racer Jan Cleijne, LEGENDS tells the story of the first 100 editions of the Tour in pencil and watercolour. Hundreds of thousands of kilometres have been covered in pursuit of the yellow jersey, and few of them have been without incident or drama. At one end of the book, sepia tones depict moustachioed, dust-covered heroes grinding their way across France’s gravel roads, at the other, sunburned whippets astride high-modulus carbon-fibre sprint up mountains in glorious Technicolour.
As a frustrated bicycle racer myself (did I ever tell you about the time I went head-to-head with Sir Bradley in West Sussex… cont p94), discovering Jan's magnus opus was a chance to re-acquaint myself with life on two wheels beyond the daily commute. Originally published last year in Jan’s native Netherlands by Oog & Blik, we took the opportunity to update LEGENDS to include the exploits of Messrs Wiggins and Froome. We were up against a time limit, but every stage of the process was a joy, from Jan's planning sketches, to Laura Watkinson and Michele Hutchison’s translation. And for making our our lavish, 5-colour, super-matte, gloss-UV production possible, we gratefully acknowledge the support of the Dutch Foundation for Literature.
It is now, according to The Bookseller, one of Britain's bestselling cycling books, second only to Chris Froome's autobiography. Over the next five days Waterstones (@waterstones) are running a Twitter competition and giving away copies of this marvellous book. Tune in and win. Or click here to see their list of top cycling books.
So, with 198 riders on the start line and millions of fans lining the roads to salute their progress, I’ll leave you with the words the Tour’s Founding Father, Henri Desgrange, used to address the riders at the start of the 1906 Tour de France:
"Through torrid afternoons, entire populations will present themselves before you, their hands raised in applause, their eyes wide open to catch a lasting memory of the battle. In the evening, as nature slumbers peacefully, tired after the long day, the peasant, burnt by the sun, will fall silent to celebrate your passing. Then, after the pain, honour will follow; alive again, you will enter Paris in sporting glory. And later, you will remember your exploits at the Tour de France, and you will be able to say with pride: 'I was there'".