In 2012 ex Rapha rider Tom Southam and the photographer Camille McMillan started The Inside Out project - a web blog following the first year of a few of what was then Rapha Condor Sharp's (now Rapha Condor JLT's ) new young signings.
Tom lays it out in his introduction: 'We'd both raced...We wanted to challenge the insipid stories that get regurgitated to the press by riders...and the constant replication of the same imagery that cycling fans have been looking at for three decades.'
Inside Out is a collection of the best articles from the blog in print form and a beautifully perceptive piece of work by both contributors. It is hard to distill the complicated world of cycle racing into something simple and strong without it sounding or looking like bad poetry but they both succeed.
'Bedroom Kids' visits three young signings Felix English, Oliver Rossi and Luke Mellor. '.. riders poised on the cusp of what might be their future career. Before their pictures are taken by hundreds of insistent Belgian photo collectors, team photographers, fans and journalists, before their bodies are ravaged by the roads of Europe...They still have their old bedrooms. They still train on their own bikes, they still have one foot in the door."
As an ex pro himself having a foot in the door himself makes Southam's writing so much more personal than writers who have never raced at the highest level.
'Mind Games' starts with a photo of a rainy car window and a dejected rider inside dressed in the pink fleece of the team's lady soigneur. Three riders have climbed off early on the East Midlands Classic and their dry clothes are still out on the road in the other team car.
It puts paid to any ideas of elitism you may have gazing at the perfect team and shiny team cars at a race when you get to hear the bollocking dished out to the young riders by manager Rigo Zimmerman for missing the vital breakaways.
"What does failure taste like? To me it tastes like dirt. How the f**k do you miss a 44 man move that goes off the front in the first 60km of a race that you know will be decided early by the wind? You're young: youth is no excuse. I didn't even feel the pedals until I was 25.. Racing will only get harder as you get older... You should be young and aggressive and desperate and angry: don't forget to be desperate....Too many magazines. Too much time spent reading too many stories... Winning a bike race isn't about flamboyance. It's about anything but. It doesn't matter how you do it. Get it f**king done. We don't pay you to dream dreams.."
Some don't make the cut. Tim Kennaugh is interviewed twice about the frustrating thyroid illness stopping him achieving like his Team Sky brother Peter. Oliver Rossi just isn't strong enough yet but may be back. The Nationals are covered from both ends with Mike Cuming winning the U23's and what it was like for Kristian House to win that coveted jersey. House recalls seeing a photo of Cuming out training in the podium jersey the day after his win." I did exactly the same thing. I mean I laughed at myself at the time, out there riding in the podium jersey but at the same time I just couldn't not do it. I was over the moon." In 'Nothing to be Scared of' David Miller talks about winning a stage of the Tour and 'The Weight' is an interview another Garmin Sharp rider Dan Martin about the pressure of expectation when you are considered good enough to ride the Tour. 'The Tour is the dividing line separating all professional cyclists. At first it divides those who have from those that haven't. And then it divides those that can perform on the biggest stage of all, and those that can't.'
If you had any misconceptions then this is cycling laid bare for what it is: a very tough and uncertain profession, where even bad luck is no excuse after a while. As Southam says
'After all, as any good rider knows, the trouble with bad luck stories is, that while they entertain, they count for nothing more than a handful of air. At the end of the day the only thing that keeps a bike rider in a job is the black
and white printed piece of paper that contains the results; nothing else is concrete so nothing else matters.'
There isn't a single weak story or sentence in Inside Out. It's the urgency and energy of cycling distilled into prose yet has time to think of the history as well. All McMillan's flat team portraits for team cards are shown in "Postcards' and Southam muses on just how rushed and irksome for the riders the process of rider card portraiture is and so how little personality the cards reveal. There is however sometimes a moment which turns a two dimensional portrait into three dimensions 'the occasional card you give out, or sign, which you realise means something special... you know these cards will be kept, and that someone somewhere will dig out years later and, ignoring the the badly posed photo, bland background, or pasty early season skin, will feel like they actually, just for a moment got a glimpse of who you are.'
Inside Out is just such a record. An instant classic and a beautiful guide to what it's really like to compete at the highest levels for the UK's most glamourous team.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Inside Out - Rapha Condor Sharp by Tom Southam and Camille McMillan
Size tested: n/a
It's beautifully designed but it's like a thick copy of Rouleur. Great quality but I'd have paid £20 to see it in hardback.
About the tester
I usually ride: Dolan Prefissio - winter bike My best bike is: Condor Moda Ti - summer bike
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,