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"Crunching the Numbers"- Jonny Long

"Crunching the Numbers"- Jonny Long
The Road Book has become the indispensable companion for any nerd and fanatic of the sport. Filled to the brim with infographics, statistics, team profiles, wind reports and race reports, the 2020 edition raises the standard even further. Featuring over 100 pieces of trivia dotted throughout the 700 pages, you are never far away from winning that argument or dispute when armed with this tome.

Have you ever stayed up past your bed-time figuring out how many of the 1980s Monument winners had previously won one of cycling’s five most-prized one-day races? Then going on to track the next 40 years of Monument winners to see whether today’s peloton is seeing more or fewer repeat winners?

It’s one of the numerous perks that come with sorting the stats for the Road Book. Another is that I can also now claim to spend days ‘crunching the numbers’ alongside my housemates who hold down proper jobs which don’t involve finding out how many Germans have won stages of Tirreno-Adriatico.

Trying to get your head around all the data of just a single cycling season reveals the staggering depth and breadth of the sport. As the deadline to send the book off to the printers approached it was time to put together the bios of the riders of the 2020 season, and my severe underestimation of just how many professional cyclists exist forced me into an all-nighter.

We’re used to seeing pelotons numbering around 180 riders, but turns out there are over 1,000 between the men’s and women’s WorldTour as well as the men’s ProTeams. Quite the underestimation. The all-nighter coincided with the US election and if you thought politics was scary try typing out hundreds of date of births in the dead of night. I’m not sure if I’d be here today if we’d included the Continental teams.

Finding out just how many people are plying their trade as professional cyclists gives way to the realisation of just how many of them you’ve never even heard of. Riders that have never ridden a Grand Tour or recorded a single victory. Who ride one season as a pro and then disappear. These figures inspire as much intrigue as the serial winners, as winning in the context of cycling is as much about making it to the start as crossing the finish line first.

A real appreciation for cycling’s depth can’t be found within contextless results pages. Instead, the Road Book is like a set of classements for the soul. The stage result sheets are sandwiched between the vibrant stories of the races, accessorised with trinkets of trivia specifically picked out to make you go ‘ooh’ and interspersed with
the words of those whose names appear near the top of the GC standings a few pages later.

Yes, each year’s Grand Tour winners should be cherished, but so should the nondescript Belgian domestique who’s managed to finish 26th in the Vuelta three years on the trot.

Helping to parcel together the results and stats for this year’s Road Book gave the season we’ve all just enjoyed watching even deeper meaning, taking the time to piece together the story of every race reminds you that inside each page lies the hundreds and thousands of calories and watts burned and churned by those heroes in the peloton. I imagine reading the finished product will be even more enjoyable, packaged without the glare of cycling statistic websites burning your retinas into the early hours.


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