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Review: The Road Book 2020

The Road Book is an almanac of stats, stories, and trivia that cover the length and breadth of the 2020 men's and women's season. Here's Jim Cotton's look at it.

Review Rating


Basics

The Road Book describes itself as ‘a comprehensive record of the 2020 season.’ The almanac is comprised of data and deconstructions of every men's and women's WorldTour stage, and essays and commentaries written by riders and journalists. It makes for a hefty 704 pages, with the weight of facts and stats balanced by the human touch of reflections from editor Ned Boulting and contributors from both inside and outside the peloton. The Road Book would sit equally comfortably on a writer or researcher's desk as on an avid fan's coffee table.


Pros

The Road Book binds everything you would want to know about the 2020 men's and women's pro cycling season into one beautifully-produced well of information. The information is thorough, the editorial sections are well-informed, and the larger prose-pieces are insightful and authoritative.

Cons

Like all printed material, the information could be found free online, and the hefty price tag of The Road Book may leave some sticking with Google for now.


Our Thoughts

Do you need it? No.
Do you want it? Once you've got it in your hands, yes you do. It's the ultimate indulgence for a cycling fan that could be returned to endlessly.


Price

$68


Is it Wikipedia? Is it a printed version of ProCyclingStats? Is it a commentary collection?

The Road Book 2020 is all of those things, packaged into a huge labor of love.

Related:

At 700 pages, The Road Book is the ultimate resource, coffee table prize-piece, and bedside browser for any avid fan of women’s and men’s WorldTour cycling.

The weighty tome includes details about every WorldTour stage of the season, analyses of team performances, and essays written by riders including Wout van Aert, Anna van der Breggen, and Tao Geoghegan Hart. As if that wasn’t enough, the almanac also has an image gallery, infographics, and commentaries from top cycling journalists.

Race reports

Want to know the wind speed and direction, a full list of results, and a nugget of trivia about stage 6 of the Giro Rosa? The Road Book has it.

Every stage of the men’s and women’s WorldTour is dedicated on one or two pages of space in what is a veritable treasure trove of information. The book’s editorial team fills out the almanac with every bit of geekery you’d wish to know, including the day’s weather and parcours, full results, and even details of who got into the breakaway. The nerd-factor is nicely balanced by a short but authoritative breakdown of the action itself.

Lower-tier races get their space too, albeit with abbreviated details. So, if you want to know who came 17th in stage 5 of La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in 2020, you’re in luck.

Essays

The Road Book elevates itself above just being a compilation of statistics through the inclusion of a series of rider blogs, editorial pieces, and journo essays.

Editorial introductions and interludes punch up summaries of the season and serve to remind the reader of just what was going on at that point in a year of racing that was far from the traditional template. Contributions from guest editors reflect more widely on themes or narratives that were emerging at the point of the year into which the essay is inserted into the book.

For me, the rider essays are the most interesting. Van Aert, van der Breggen, and Geoghegan Hart reflect on their stellar seasons. Nic Dlamini gives a detailed account of the challenges he faced living and training in South Africa, and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio analyses how the virtual Tour de France could have been a pivotal moment for women’s racing. The writing is insightful and gives insight into the character of the rider themselves – something that doesn’t always come across in a post-race interview or PR-polished team release.

Other stuff

This book has got basically everything. There’s a selection of images from noted photographer Russ Ellis that counter the weight of text and data, an archive of the podium finishers of top races through past decades, analyses of team performances, some wacky graphs, and obituaries. The latter are diverse and comprehensive, with well-known figures such as Raymond Poulidor and Nicolas Portal given extended space and touching commemorations.

The price

The Road Book comes in at a fairly hefty £50.00GBP ($68.00USD), and then there’s postage from the UK publishers to boot. All in, it’s quite a steep price tag, but the book drips with quality and the effort that has been put into it is painstakingly obvious.

However, the good news is that those behind the almanac are offering discounted shipping to the USA for VeloNews readers. The full details to claim £15.00GBP ($20.00USD) off shipping can be found at the bottom of this review.

Who’s it for?

To consider “who” the Road Book is for perhaps requires a thought on “what” the book is for – what’s its purpose?

The Road Book sits somewhere in the middle of the Venn Diagram of a lot of things and does a solid job of putting them together into a robust almanac of a year of racing.

However, I cannot help but feel a conflict when I browse through this hefty tome. Tugging at one side is respect and admiration for a remarkable piece of work, while at the other end is a nagging thought of “what’s the point?”

The database of facts and figures is fascinating for a quick browse, but I’m not sure I grasp their purpose for anyone but a researching hack like me or the hardiest of bike fans. As much as I hate to say it, if I were to want to quickly know who came 72nd in the third stage of the Giro d’Italia for a story I’m writing, I’d likely dive into Google.

It’s the human touches that elevate the book beyond something that can be accessed via a keyboard, however.

The editorial analyses and subtle interjections from The Road Book’s mastermind Ned Boulting bind the data into a coherent whole. The words pull the book from a set of numbers into a review of the year that isn’t to be found in one place online, and personally, I’d have like to have seen more of it.

For example, Boulting’s introduction to October reminds us not only of how busy the fall calendar was, but that those races looked entirely different from what we’re used to seeing as the summer sun of the Vuelta was replaced by long autumn shadows. A musing on the rise of Remco Evenepoel can be found ahead of the datasets for February, serving to take us back to a time when the world couldn’t get enough Remco hype after when the young buck blitzed through the Vuelta a San Juan and Volta ao Algarve. The editorial sections and blogs by the season’s star riders complement the text and embellish it.

Together, the data, words, and other bits and pieces combine to make The Road Book a single entity that is much more than a sum of its parts. Pressing buttons on a keyboard won’t do that for you.

Verdict

Nobody “needs” The Road Book. The information can be found elsewhere for free easily enough. However, if I’m faced with the choice of poking at a digital screen or leafing through a perfectly-executed almanac during a post-ride sofa session, I know what I would choose.

Like pro racing as a whole, the book is an unnecessary luxury to indulge and dip into. Nobody needs it, but once you have it, you love it, no matter how often or how thoroughly you choose to dive in.

The Road Book has offered VeloNews readers an exclusive deal on postage to the USA. To claim £15.00GBP ($20.00USD) off delivery, shop here and enter the code RBVELO20 at checkout.