Cycling can be a confusing sport. A few years ago sensing a need, Rouleur columnist and true public servant Ned Boulting set himself the task of clearing things up. Or confusing things further. The Vélosaurus is “the ultimate lexicon of nonsense terminology surrounding the esteemed Tour de France” and an indispensable tome, worthy of a place on every cyclist’s bookshelf.
And now it can find its way onto your audio bookshelf as well. With his typical Tour de France duties pushed back by a couple of months, Ned recently found time to record it in its entirety, and he’s only giving it away for free. All you have to do to get your hands [surely “ears” – Ed.] on it is to sign up for The Road Book society. Read more from Ned about how the book came about, and find out how to do just that, after the jump.
The genesis of Boulting’s Vélosaurus was my own ignorance. You see, if you come at road racing from the outside, it seems to do everything in its power to obfuscate, baffle and over-complicate. And, to add another layer of confusion, it does so (or at least did so) in French. When I first discovered the sport in 2003, I had to learn fast and foreign.
From souplesse to bordures, bonifications to combativité, road racing revels in a lexicon that does not easily translate into English, and it’s all the better for it. In fact, as certain races so wonderfully prove, there is simply no English equivalent to Grand Départ which doesn’t make you wince at the banality of it. It is not a Big Start, nor should it ever be.
When you add into this heady linguistic cocktail the sheer wealth of cycling folklore, history, legend, myth and superstition, then you have created a universe of unique richness. In this world of scarcely believable ill fortune, superhuman stoicism and unselfconscious absurdity, there is an inexhaustible well of human foibles and narratives to drag to the surface.
When I first started to read about cycling, one of the first books I read repeated the well-worn (literally) urban myth about riders on the Tour placing a rump steak in their shorts, which gently marinated over the course of a stage and would then be fried up at the team hotel in the evening. It was my dear friend and colleague Matt Rendell who had to point out to me that the story was, in his words, ‘total bollocks’.
But the very fact that it could just about be believed started to fascinate me.
Over the course of the following decade, I started to make a series of notes. I’d find myself scribbling down ideas whenever they occurred to me; little fictitious entries in an imagined glossary of cycling terminology. Obviously, it all had to be in French; that went without saying. Before I knew it, I had filled a notebook with lies.
Those little lies became the basis for Boulting’s Vélosaurus.
It is a work of ridiculous fiction, then. But I hope that, at the heart of every little definition, and each of the many made-up biographies contained within, there is enough truth to make you pause, and, as if hearing the story about the rump steak for the first time, wonder whether it might not, after all be true. And secretly wishing it were.
Oh, and it’s alphabetical. I thought that might make it easier to follow.
You can listen to the first parts of Ned Boulting’s Vélosaurus at the link below. To access the rest, all you have to do is sign up to The Road Book Society. It’s completely free to join. As well as the rest of Ned’s personally recorded audiobook, you’ll receive exclusive The Road Book content, including competitions, direct to your inbox.