In 1977, Geoffrey Nicholson’s book The Great Bike Race was published, a report on the 1976 Tour de France and one of the early works in a developing tradition of British writing on cycling that continues today. Nicholson is perhaps the doyen of this tradition, having opened up the reporting and literary possibilities of European cycling for English readers.
Many have followed in his footsteps, and pen strokes, to uphold the tradition and discerning readers still look to the UK for serious cycling writing. A few honourable mentions aside, such as Owen Mulholland and Samuel Abt, American writers on the European cycling have yet to establish a body of literature comparable to what Nicholson helped get underway.
As a bonus in the 1978 paperback edition of The Great Bike Race the publishers, Magnum Books, offered to readers a knowledge competition. The prizes were three Raleigh bikes of various models, the top prize “based on the model used by the TI-Raleigh Team”, which for the Tour in 1976 had included Hennie Kuiper and Gerrie Knetemann. It was a bad Tour for the ‘stars’, but Gerben Karstens edged out Freddie Maertens – who had already won an incredible eight stages – on the Champs Elysées for final glory. Raleigh also won the Team Time Trial. The next edition, in 1977 would be a much better year with two riders in the top five on the GC including Kuiper in second place.
For those readers interested in testing their knowledge of the Tour, at least up to 1978, the full-page excerpt is reproduced below. It’s a tough dozen questions but feel free to submit your answers as comments below – there’s no prize, however, as we’ve all missed the deadline by nearly 30 years.
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