it really was robert millar that brought me into cycling. not personally, you understand, if only because robert was in france at the time and i was living in troon, quite a long way from france (as it happens). i had bought my first ten-speed racer via the pages of one of mrs washingmachinepost's mail-order catalogues. you know that of which i speak; telephone directory thick, clothing catalogues where the mrs orders some clothes, tries them on then immediately packs them up to have them returned.
this is a trend that continues to this day (clothes ordering, not bicycle purchase), so much so, that i suggested to mrs washingmachinepost she should simply have all the parcels sent to catherine at the post office for returning and cut out the middle-man (woman).
anyhoo, having digressed somewhat, i return to mr millar. though he's a couple of years younger than yours truly, the tenacity he'd displayed in having moved from glasgow to french france several years previously to join acbb en route to peugeot, the team with which he subsequently nabbed 1984's king of the mountains and fourth place overall had inspired me to try and climb hills too. if you were a bloke from glasgow with his very own ten-speed racer in 1984, it's not hard to see the influence. i did stop short of having my hair permed, but spent many a purgatorial hour attempting to climb the hill to the village of dundonald without stopping to be ill at the side of the road.
though my admiration for robert millar continues to this day, a feature i share with many scots cyclists, learning about cycling's almost clichéd rich heritage brought me into contact (metaphorically speaking) with fausto coppi. i confess i truly have no idea what it is that singled coppi out from amongst greats such as anquetil, magni, bobet, bartali and merckx, but black and white images of the tall, gaunt and awkward (off the bike) italian were very much the stuff of which heroes are made. similar to my admiration of robert, this manifest adoration of coppi has persisted to the present.
i am in a very fortunate position where i am regularly plied with review copies of truly excellent cycling books, a situation that has enabled me to collect more than just one or two books about fausto coppi. aside from will fotheringham's biography the passion of fausto coppi, many of these are full-blown or quasi coffee table books, beloved of sunday evenings with the tv off, a green tea on the chairside table and the weekend copy of the guardian scattered all over the fireside rug. other than visual, there is little effort required on behalf of yours truly.
it was therefore of great interest and succour to the coppi fan to be presented with a pink-covered copy of richard mitchelson's grand tour, a volume which contains a page featuring a join-the-dots image of the great italian. i did so enjoy that, even if i did come across one or two stray, un-numbered dots in the process.
lest you think that richmitch's grand tour appeals solely to those enamoured of steel, celeste coloured bicycles and their iconic riders, you can also join the dots to delineate eddy, jacques and miguel indurain. this is serious stuff; the subject matter is hardly what the cognoscenti would refer to as child's play. towards the back of the book, there's one of those beloved word searches, regarding which, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to inform you that i am currently stuck on the word soigneur, though i have managed to find aero, attack and bottle with relative ease.
there is much between front and back covers with which to become obsessed. even if you've yet to gain base level fitness enabling unfettered colouring of every page, you can choose your very own dream team for richard's hypothetical grand tour as well as being offered the opportunity to cast monsieur prudhomme aside and create your own tour de france route. in fact, taking your lead from all the rider interviews you've devoured over the years, you can write an account of your very own stage performance.
"How did it feel chasing Merckx and Fuente?"
richard has also presented us, armed with our colouring pencils, with the opportunity to colour a jersey, an exercise that would prove highly beneficial if ever applying for a job at rapha. aside from the fact that i count richard mitchelson as a good friend, it was his idiosyncratic style of illustration, animation and cycling that connected us in the first place, even though he didn't move to france and win the occasional jersey. grand tour is amongst his finest work to date. if you haven't grown up yet, so much the better.
though not quite to the same extent as found on the golf course, those of us in the peloton can be occasionally guilty of taking ourselves too seriously. if this dawning realisation has landed upon you from a great height, grand tour is surely the ultimate panacea?
and it's darned good fun into the bargain. "The finishing line is yours for the taking."
richard mitchelson's grand tour is currently available for pre-order and due for publication in a day or two. | richard mitchelson's grand tour
wednesday 27 april 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................