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Heroes, Villains & Velodromes by Richard Moore

Release date: 05th August, 2008
Publisher: Harper Sport

List Price: £15.99
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Heroes, Villains and Velodromes
By Richard Moore
Harper Sport price: £7.99, saving 50% on rrp

In an interview conducted on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, former world cycling champion Graeme Obree told of the occasion when he was dispatched to compete in World Cups in Australia and Japan. It was 13 years ago and such was the parlous state of British cycling, the affable Scot was sent to the other side of the world on his own, accompanied by just his bike and some tools. There was no support crew, no technical assistance, no dietician, not even a cameraman; that he managed to claim the world title is nothing short of remarkable.

British cycling reached its nadir in 1997, yet earlier this year, the GB team won nine of the 18 world championship titles on offer, a stunning return which has been replicated in Beijing where another gentleman Scot, Chris Hoy, has achieved incredible success.

Three Olympic golds in five days was Hoy's outstanding haul in Beijing's velodrome. It is exactly a century since a Briton, Henry Taylor, won three gold medals at the same Olympics and as a leading contender for sports personality of the year, Hoy, as he does on the track, will take some beating.

Of course, the whole cycling team has achieved success well beyond the nation's wildest expectations: seven gold medals, three silver and two bronze represents the biggest contribution to Britain's aggregate medal haul by a single sport in modern Olympic history. Yet it was not always thus and as indoor cycling enjoys a surge in popularity, anyone wishing to trace how the sport rose from the ashes should read Richard Moore's timely account.

Moore knows the mechanics of cycling inside out: his portrait of Robert Millar, Britain's most successful Tour de France competitor, was peerless and now he has turned his attention to the sport's indoor version.

A little over a decade ago, the words 'British cycling' and 'medal' were rarely mentioned in the same sentence, although having touched rock bottom, with the assistance of Lottery funding, the sport has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance, wonderfully documented by Moore.

Moore's book is not about Chris Hoy, although this genuine Olympian features as a central character, but there are other men and women, passionate about cycling, who ensured that instead of falling into disrepute, indoor cycling fought its way back to become mainstream.

People such as former national coach Doug Dailey and Chris Boardman's former coach Peter Keen, together with cyclists such as Craig MacLean and Hoy himself almost dragged the sport from out of a dirty, drug-laden shadow and transformed it into one where Olympic successes have lifted the nation's spirits.

Britain's new cycling order will not tolerate a once-prevalent drug culture; it was a stance the sport's administrators and coaches had to take a decade ago as cycling underwent a complete transformation. Where once there were sneers, there is now only admiration for a job well done.

As Hoy's own renaissance proves, this could hardly be described as a cake walk and Moore, a former Commonwealth Games cyclist, explores the range of mental and psychological strength required of a champion. Hoy has succeeded in spades while not letting his own standards of decency slip. His performance director Dave Brailsford describes him as "the leader of the pack." Richard Moore shows him when he and the whole sport were cubs; my, how they've grown.

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