along with many others, i sat more or less transfixed to a continually buffering eurosport player on sunday afternoon, as the six hours of sprinters' world championship played out in the heat of doha. irrespective of the uci's logic in holding such a long, tiring event in the heat of the mid-day sun, it was simplicity itself to witness each turn of the screw, eventually confirming peter sagan's second successive stint in the rainbow jersey. allowing for the vicissitudes of alacritous video editing, there were no secrets to be hidden. mark cavendish's dismay at achieving only second place was plain for all to see.
no handlebars were harmed in the making of this podium.
these are somewhat changed times from the early years of international cycling events. though photographs would suggest that the classics and grand tours have always been followed by a phalanx of motor cars and motorbikes, the reporters aboard either means of transport could vouch only for that which transpired in front of them, augmented by press room conversation. prior to the advent of movie cameras sufficiently portable to be carried and operated on following vehicles, the eagerly awaiting public had simply to take the word of the men with the typewriters.
it's hard to think of a newspaper editor of the era who would have been happy to accept less than a few paragraphs to fill the sports or cover page, so legend would have it that the reporters simply made up that which they failed to see. it's not as if there were video tapes to contradict the published stories. more than likely, several if not all of these press men were responsible for adding to cycling's great woolly jumpered heritage.
it's easy to pretend that modern-times are free of such fictions; social media, online broadcasts and a fleet of helicopters have all but put paid to that. modernity, however, has failed to take into account the acuity, observation and humour of the inestimable ned boulting. you may be excused for thinking that his recent partnership with david millar to commentate on the grand tours, would have brought the man to a level of profound seriousness leading to the publication of earnest treatises on the strategic nature of today's world tour cycle racing.
fortunately, ned is still a man of the people, given to flights of fancy that probably still has his mother worried about his future.
boulting's vélosaurus could easily be used as the basis for an entire series of cycling 'call my bluff'. for example, does the word Capilliculteur really mean "An extravagantly coiffed rider"? or is the word Joujou the shorter version of "A laughably small bicycle bicycle, built for a very small rider. Like Richie Porte's"? it truthfully only takes a couple of reads to start believing.
of course, the more intellectual amongst you will be questioning the value of such a compact, bijou, yet filled to the brim with fictional insights publication. why would any sane member of the pelotonese descend to such depths? well you may ask. but let me remind you of those three grand tours, overfilled as they are with lengthy sprinters' stages during which nothing whatsoever happens for at least 120 kilometres. or indeed, the individual time-trial, the quantity of which varies greatly depending on which jersey wearer is flavour of the month and allegedly fostered the phrase 'watching paint dry.'
ned's vélosaurus is the ideal companion for strenuously empty moments such as those.
but perhaps the book's worth is more easily appreciated during the ritual froth supping of a post sunday bike ride. though the mighty dave t immerses his concentration in the current issue of the comic, the rest of the peloton is engaged in several disparate conversations, invariably pertaining to specific factors of the day job. but cycling is supposed to transcend such mundane banter; the disparity of occupations is rarely designed to result in a coffee driven gestalt. what better way to create a verbal team time-trial than to recite gems such as the true definition of créperie being that of "a low budget team, in which the limited resources are spread across a wide area until they are paper thin."
think not, however, that ned's ruminations are confined to the shortened soundbite, the sort of epithets that would not be out of place on cycle-related greetings cards (if you're reading ned, i claim half the profits of such a venture for having the good sense to suggest it). there are far more expansive possibilities, every bit as nonsensical as their shorter brethren.
i cite as my witness the eight paragraphs by way of explanation of the word 'Kopek': "It was the famously avaricious French sprinter Claude Spirelli who made this expression part of cycling folklore when he publicly expounded on his personal sponsorship deal with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics." that has to be worth a large cappuccino and a choc-chip cookie.
helpfully, mr boulting himself may well have provided the ideal definition of his latest publication in that last excerpt. for though several entries (well, all actually) in his vélosaurus would test the credulity of even those who think bottechia are the little caramel flavoured biscuits on the saucer alongside a skinny latte, they are every bit as enjoyable and believable as the existing historical panoply of cycling's rich folklore.
'genius' is a term that suffers greatly from indiscriminate overuse, and one that you'd think about more than twice before you let it loose anywhere near ned boulting.
ned boulting's vélosaurus is published by yellow jersey press on thursday 20 october...........................................................................................................................................................................................................