Liberté, Égalité, Vélocité

Mark Perryman makes the case for a two-wheeled  revolution

Le Tour is now as much a fixture of the Great British Sporting Summer as Wimbledon strawberries and cream, a flutter on the Derby, England’s bi-annual early exit from a Euro or a World Cup and the five-day drama of an Ashes Test, weather permitting.

It wasn’t always thus. Not so long ago cycling up mountains was only something those pesky continentals were daft enough to attempt, domestic interest was less than zero.  Olympic success dating back to Chris Boardman’s track gold at Barcelona ‘92 began to change this but it took another decade and and a bit with the Gold Rush that began at Athens ‘2004  to accelerate the interest. Beijing 2008 and London 2012 firmly established track cycling as amongst Team GB’s number one Olympian sports aided by the mega-personalities of Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Laura Trott and Paralympian Sarah Storey too. Continue reading

Va-va Froome

A summer of sport is unfolding that reveals Britain as a nation of winners. Mark Perryman, editor of a new book on last year’s London 2012 asks what this means for our national identity ?

A British encore in the Tour de France. Not even a sniff of winning the yellow jersey for 99 years, now we have two in quick succession. On the same day England pile up the runs at Lords to go 2-0 up in an Ashes series, for the first time since 1979. Add Andy Murray at Wimbledon ending the 77 years of hurt since the last British man won the singles title at our ‘home’ Grand Slam and the Lions tour victory down under, their first since 1997. Plus golfer Justin Rose winning the US Open, the first Englishman to win a major since 1996 . 2013 already has all the signs of what seemed to be an unrepeatable 2012 Summer of sport, topped of course by Team GB finishing third in the London 2012 Olympic medals table.

A number of writers are already suggesting that all this adds up to ‘winning’ becoming a big part of British national identity. But what nation are we talking about exactly ? In a wonderful sentence that must have taxed the skills of the sub-editors at the Guardian the complexities and contradictions of British sporting success were summed up as follows :

“ It would make Chris Froome the second British cyclist to win the jersey. History beckons the quiet Kenyan.” Continue reading

The democracy of cycling

Boucle Centieme Edition s-s”Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” HG Wells

The most infamous quote on cycling from modern British politics remains hard right Thatcherite Norman Tebbit’s unhelpful advice to the 1980s unemployed to ‘Get on your bike’.’ So suggesting that two wheels are a more than useful basis for a progressive political project may be an uphill struggle. Whoops! Apologies, a cycling pun so early in the article! Don’t worry, there’s sure to be more.

My weekend early morning ride takes me up Sussex’s Ditchling Beacon. Sad I know but kitted out in a London 2012 Team GB replica cycling jersey I am Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Laura Trott all wrapped up in one for those stupendous and lung-bursting 90 minutes of cycling. And as I finish with a sprint drown Lewes High Street there’s a little bit of me that is Cavendish too. This is part of the fantasy of non-competitive cycling, we can all have that dream and not be too ashamed to admit it.

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A mountain of bike books for Christmas

Philosophy Football’s MARK PERRYMAN declares Cycling ‘Sport of the Year’ and chooses his favourite books from 2012 inspired by life on two wheels

Never mind the BBC hyped-up hoopla of ‘Sports Personality of the Year’, for most successful British sport of 2012 surely nothing comes close to cycling. An extraordinary first, and second, places for British riders in the Tour de France, a hatful of medals in the Olympic velodrome, more on the road too, and by the autumn a new generation of winners breaking through on the track in the World Cup series too. The achievements, matched by an explosion of popular participation is truly breathtaking.

For those new to the sport, this is one with a rich and varied literature, cycling takes its history seriously, the efforts to excel are tales of human endurance hardly matched by any other sport. Matt Seaton’s The Escape Artist may have been published ten years ago yet it remains the single best depiction in print of how a commute to work by bike can become the force to transform the individual into a cyclist driven to pile on the miles in the cause of speed, and endurance on the road. A route no doubt many tens of thousands are taking inspired by Wiggo, Cav, Hoy, Pendleton and the rest.

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