It would be hard to tell the story of British cycle racing without making some reference to track cycling, and Mark Wellings has taken that to its logical conclusion in Ride! Ride! Ride! by telling the story from the perspective of an iconic event in track cycling.
Most of us know that 1903 was the year in which the Tour de France was first run, but there is a cycling event closer to home that started just a few months earlier: the Good Friday Meeting at the Herne Hill velodrome. Both continue to this day, and both are in some ways a reflection of how cycling subsequently developed as a sport in each country.
Herne Hill first opened in 1891. It has been refurbished a few times since then, and proudly boasts that it 'is the only remaining venue still in use from the 1948 Olympic Games'.
Exactly 100 years before the current Revolution series started, the Good Friday Meeting was attracting the top names from road and track, including Fausto Coppi, Tom Simpson, Reg Harris, Graeme Obree and, of course, Bradley Wiggins (who has featured in both events).
It won't be a surprise to discover that much of the story has already been told in the other books about British cycling and its stars that have appeared over the last few years: indeed, many of them are listed in the useful bibliography. But while some of the history may be familiar, the chapter about the race formats you can expect to see at a track meeting may be less so. The 'longest lap' event is a recent arrival that has proved to be 'a bizarre, crowd-pleasing race' and is easy to follow; the 'Reverse (or Belgian) Win and Out' is new to me and does sound like a 'very strategic and exciting race'.
Competitors and spectators increasingly have a certain expectation of a track event, and Herne Hill does not fit that mould: at 450 metres long it is an oddity, and as an outdoor track it naturally suffers more disruption from the weather than covered tracks – even with its advanced non-slip surface. Newer tracks tend to have a roof, like those at Manchester, Newport, Lee Valley, Glasgow, Calshot and Derby.
For a long time the success or failure of British track cycling was reflected in the fortunes of Herne Hill – so it is ironic that the velodrome was fighting for its life at the same time as Britain became one of the strongest nations on the track. Further investment has been secured to allow a thorough refurbishment to take place, so although the Good Friday meeting may have relocated in 2011, the Herne Hill track is showing that it has a life beyond that event.
In his book, Wellings has found a new angle from which to tell the story of British track cycling, which has always been such an important part of the sport in this country.
The familiar story of British track cycling told from a new perspective
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Ride! Ride! Ride! by Mark Wellings
Size tested: Hardback
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From the publisher:
The early 21st century has been a golden age for British track cycling, with world championship glory for the likes of Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton, and Olympic medals galore.
Tracing the origins of this phenomenal success story, Mark Wellings delves into cycling's chaotic and colourful past to chronicle the rise of the sport through the story of Herne Hill Velodrome, the iconic south London venue.
125 years on from the inaugural race, Herne Hill has played host to many of the most significant moments in British cycling history, from the first Good Friday Meeting in 1903 to the 1948 London Olympics and later the first track rides of a twelve-year-old Wiggins. Writer and historian Wellings, a Herne Hill regular with rare behind-the-scenes access, brings these events vividly to life, while also exploring the lives of those involved, such as 'Champion of Champions' Fausto Coppi, the legendary rivals Tommy Godwin and Reg Harris, the tragic figure of Tom Simpson and the fascinating Graeme Obree.
Drawing on exclusive interviews with key figures and featuring many previously unpublished photographs, Ride! Ride! Ride! is a thrilling circuit of track cycling's history, the story of a unique venue, and a tale of British achievement against all the odds.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Ride! Ride! Ride!
Author: Mark Wellings
Date: May 2016
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding