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Book review - January 3, 2005

Velo 2004 by Paul De Keyser and Harry Van den Bremt

Facts at your fingertips

Reviewed by Jeff Jones

Photo ©: CN
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Like most sports, cycling is well endowed with its share of facts and figures. From a rider's time in a road race, to how many races they've won, to how fast they can do a kilometre on the track - it's all a numbers game. Of course it's not actually necessary to have a mathematical bent to appreciate most forms of cycling, but there are plenty of people who are fascinated by the statistics of the sport. The Velo series of books, compiled by Belgian journalists Paul de Keyser and Harry Van den Bremt, are just the thing for these aficionados.

The Velo books come out at the beginning of each new season, and are crammed full of statistics from the previous season, and in many cases even further historical detail. Cyclingnews reviewed a copy of Velo 2004, a solid 640-page almanac that is based on the 2003 season. Although we're used to dealing with large volumes of results on our site on a daily basis, it is still quite impressive to see everything bundled together in a book such as this one.

Velo starts with a written month-by-month summary of the previous season, which is some six pages noting all the significant race results, deaths, doping stories and anything else newsworthy. The summary is written in French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and English, which should keep most cycling aficionados happy. Similarly, the rest of the book is in French and Dutch, with some parts in English. Language is not really a big issue, as the stats and sections are pretty self explanatory, but even so it's clear (and understandable) that this is aimed at Belgian readers.

What it's got

There are more than 20 sections packed into Velo 2004, with over half dedicated to professional male road riders, and the rest split between women's road racing, U23/amateur/junior road racing, track racing, cyclo-cross, mountain biking, artistic cycling, and even an "in memoriam" section. Hundreds of photos are spread throughout the book to alleviate the dryness of it all.

In terms of results, you can find everything that's on the UCI calendar in varying degrees of detail. Full results (and in many cases start lists) of the major championships, grand tours and classics are given, as well as partial results from all other stage races, road races, time trials, criteriums and yearly classifications such as the World Cup. Men's road racing is covered in the most depth, but the women, U23, junior and amateur riders all receive fairly comprehensive coverage, with results from more than 40 countries. Naturally, Belgium receives the most coverage, and all the amateur kermises, tours and championships can be found in Velo.

Of interest was a palmares section which covers a large chunk of the professional peloton. The rider's preceding year is broken down in detail (wins and placings in major races), but there's also information on the rest of his career. For example, I now know that Jose Luis Arrieta, riding for Banesto in 1995, finished 64th in the Giro d'Italia. I can feel that will come in handy one of these days.

The book concludes with a somewhat sober "in memoriam" section dedicated to riders who died in the past year. Although some riders have clearly enjoyed long lives, there are unfortunately quite a few young rider deaths as well.

Velo Plus and Gotha

But wait, there's more... Also available with Velo 2004 is a more historical book called Velo Plus, which is a comprehensive collection of past winners of most of the major races, including many races that are no longer held. For 2005, the publishers have promised to bring out a new edition of Gotha - a huge dictionary of cycling with details and palmares from more or less every important rider since cycling competition started, over hundred years ago. Gotha was last published in 1984, and even then it was almost 800 pages. In 2005, it will be available in English for the first time.

Overall, the Velo books are perfect for the cycling stats geek, who just has to know what gear Ole Ritter used in his Hour Record attempt in 1968 or who won the kermis in Drongen on June 19, 2003. They're just the thing for holding your own at all those cycling beer & pizza nights, barbecues and cocktail parties.

Recommended retail price: €28 (Velo 2004), €25 (Velo Plus 2004), €50 (Velo + Velo Plus). The price of Velo 2005 and Gotha have not yet been fixed.
Available: European bookshops (non-Europeans can contact the editor at raf@travel-marketing.be)
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What do you think of 'Velo'? Let us know

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