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Phil O'Connor's 21 years of cycling photography

Reviewed by John Stevenson

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For thousands of British cycling fans, Phil O'Connor is their eyes at the races. O'Connnor's 22-year career has taken him to countless races in Europe, across the pond to the US and all the way round the world to Australia. This book contains O'Connor's best and favourite work, gathered together for the first time.

Your average working sports shooter has no problem catching the speed and dynamism of bike racing, but O'Connor's talent - and it really shines through the 144 pages of this book - is in capturing expressions. Open up almost any page and you're struck by the sheer variety of emotion bike racers undergo, from Florian Rousseau's ecstasy after his Olympic keirin win in Sydney to the demoralized agony of two riders from British team ANC-Halfords climbing Alpe d'Huez in the 1987 Tour de France.

O'Connor also captures the huge range between those two extremes: Sean Kelly seemingly reveling in his own sheer power as he approaches the finish of a time trial in the Three Days of De Panne; Bernard Hinault powerful but supremely confident on the Puy de Dome; Chris Boardman just allowing himself a smile as he crosses the line in the 1994 Tour prologue; David Millar and Jeremy Hunt goofing around on Berkshire country lanes; and you can almost hear Tony Doyle grunt as he slings Charly Mottet into the fray at the Paris Six.

If it sounds like there's an English and Anglophone bias here, there is, and that's both a strength and a weakness. I'd like to have seen more riders from the European mainland, though all the important riders of the last 20 years are here. For non-British readers, though, I suspect the insight into the unusual and often eccentric world of British domestic racing will be illuminating. There aren't many parts of the world where time trials start before dawn and the participants include a rider clad all in pink and riding a tricycle! They're here, as are a couple of hundred cyclo-cross racers carrying their bikes up a hill in Yorkshire for the Three Peaks race, and a handful of 80s pros having a wonderful time in early-season sleet.

The tone of O'Connor's images indicates a deep affection for his subject matter and this carries across into his commentary on the pictures. He also clearly relishes the challenge of shooting more than just the road discipline - there are cross-country and downhill mountain bike images here, as well as plenty of track and cyclo-cross.

I doubt that any cycling fan can have too many books of cycling photography, but this is one that deserves a place in your library for its range and variety as well as the excellence of O'Connor's images.

To order this book

Cyclingnews and Amazon have joined to bring this book to the rest of the world. Priced at £32.95, you can own this essential addition to every cyclist's bookshelf. To order just click here.

Recommended retail price: £32.95
Format: A4 landscape
Available: Good bookshops & Amazon
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