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There's good news and there's bad news: the good news is that The Road Book returns for a sixth year, and once again lives up to being 'the ultimate chronicle of the 2023 season of our great sport'; the bad news is that it's so good every time you feel compelled to come back for more, and before you know it, bookcases need lengthening (and strengthening).
This has always been a subdued time of year for fans of road cycling, but I feel that The Road Book has already established itself as an excellent antidote to those winter blues: it encourages you to take stock of the year – and it whets the appetite for when the whole circus starts again.
When you see a whole year of activity recorded in one place it makes you realise just how much there is to cover. As always, The Road Book team don't have a lot of time to wrap things up – the season now limps on well into October, yet the commercial imperative of delivering before Christmas is immovable.
When The Road Book first appeared, I questioned whether it was a long overdue and welcome arrival, or an idea that would have no relevance today – 'only time will tell'. I think we can safely say it is the former: all of the earlier editions have been reprinted at least once to meet demand, and annual sales are now about twice the number originally planned. Surely reassurance that enough people like what they do?
In that review I also lamented that 'it might make you regret that no one did this years ago'; as we now know, the team are starting to address that with the retrospective 'blue' books. Again, further confirmation that they were onto something.
For me, and I suspect most others, it's the written word that provides the more immediate appeal than the statistics. While it's important to have a definitive record of results, it's not the sort of thing that I routinely sit down and digest – unless on a specific fact-finding mission.
However, there is still an incentive to skim through the results pages, as scattered throughout (yet curiously absent from the contents pages) are the usual selection of infographics and quirky statistics. A page of 'pub quiz' facts about Team Jumbo-Visma and Annemiek van Vleuten are timely, but it's the less obvious pages that intrigue me – such as an analysis of the number of wet race days in the first part of the season. You may remember that 'Spring 2023 was conspicuously wetter than usual'.
It's the variety and quality of essays that are of greatest interest to me. Of the eight authors, seven are new to The Road Book – although you might recognise them from other prestigious publications. Who better than Kate Wagner, for example, to write about Pogačar and Slovenian cycling? In becoming an expert on the subject, she even learned the language to allow her to do a better job.
On top of that, every year editor Ned Boulting manages to skilfully summarise the season in a few pages – to the extent that it's superfluous to comment further because he always delivers.
The category of 'In the winners' words' is another reliable crowd pleaser; it might be the last time that Mark Cavendish contributes, but I suspect some of the others (like Demi Vollering) will have many more opportunities to participate.
In addition, the articles from names who are better known for their riding than their writing are invariably worth a read. This year it's Lizzie Deignan, who (I feel) reveals more than any interviewer would ever manage to extract.
At 62 pages, this year's obituaries section is the biggest yet; I was not familiar with some of the names, let alone being aware that they had died. However, it's a useful historical record that I doubt you will find all in one place anywhere else.
Several organisations give 'rider of the year' awards, often based on a season-long accumulation of points; The Road Book defers to a panel of esteemed judges for more subjective awards... Choosing Matthieu van der Poel as the winner on the male side certainly doesn't match any objective rating that I have seen, but there is some logic to it.
Perhaps more unexpected is The Road Book readers voting to give Sepp Kuss their award; while there will undoubtedly be some 'recency bias' in that choice, it does show how out of touch with public sentiment Team Jumbo-Visma were for most of this year's Vuelta a Espaňa by (apparently) not supporting him for the win.
While The Road Book sticks primarily to road-based activities, the coverage of cyclo-cross has crept up over the years – often featuring some riders that we know from the traditional summer disciplines. Given that an increasing number of road riders are also having success in gravel events, perhaps we will be seeing coverage of UCI-sanctioned ones in future editions...
I have previously complimented The Road Book on managing to hold the original £50 launch price through subsequent editions. Although that is no longer the case, even at £55 credit is still due, I think. Obviously it is a lot of money, but a 10 per cent price rise after six years isn't much these days.
Helping with the value-for-money equation is the fact that the latest offering is the biggest yet: at 992 pages, it beats the previous record of 932 (set in 2019). I couldn't quite find the 1,000 pages claimed, but that landmark is surely imminent – which will test the strength of the binding even further.
All those pages lead to a weight of just over 2kg – and that's before adding any packaging for shipping. That means a £6.50 carriage charge (in the UK) when buying from The Road Book directly – although you can offset that by using code 23ROADCC at checkout to receive a 15% discount on this year's book.
As before, there aren't many other options for obtaining one: the Rouleur store might be the only one at present, where subscribers to the magazine can receive a 10% discount – but again you have to add on the £6.50 cost of shipping. For both, it's considerably more if you are outside the UK.
There are already some collectors who are committed to buying every new edition when it appears, and such people probably don't need a review to convince them to continue. However, should they want some reassurance about what they are getting, TL;DR it's as good as ever.
* Use code 23ROADCC at checkout to receive a 15% discount
All images © The Road Book / Russ Ellis
The return of a familiar and welcome institution in a world of change and turmoil
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road.cc test report
Make and model: The Road Book 2023 Cycling Almanack
Size tested: 992 pages
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From the Publisher:
Welcome to the ultimate chronicle of the 2023 season of our great sport, cycling.
The Road Book 2023 is a beautifully made hardback that reverently and diligently captures the whole 2023 cycling season in incredible detail.
The 6th edition of our definitive guide to cycling is the largest, and dare we say, the best version yet.
Featuring over 1000 pages of exclusive unrivalled data and infographics from every professional race in the men's and women's calendar, it also includes unique personal insights from cycling experts and riders who experienced it all. There is no greater way to reminisce over the 2023 season.
With a special introduction by our editor Ned Boulting, you won't find a better 'end of year' summary, placing the entire cycling season into context, and offering a reference to enjoy for years to come.
This lovingly put-together compendium truly is the best way to relive the remarkable, dizzying season of cycling that was 2023.
2023's addition brings together Winner's Words from the cycling greats:
* Mark Cavendish
* Victor Campenaerts
* Lotte Kopecky
* Demi Vollering
Alongside insightful contributions from:
* Giles Belbin
* Ned Boulting
* Peter Cossins
* Lizzie Deignan
* Callum Devereux
* Amy Lauren Jones
* Lukas Knofler
* Katy Madgwick
* Kit Nicholson
* Brian Nygaard
* Iain Treloar
* Kate Wagner
* Marijn de Vries
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: The Road Book 2023
Author: Ned Boulting
Publisher: The Road Book Ltd
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It just keeps on delivering each year.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It gets harder to read without glasses with every passing year, thanks to the small typeface – and age.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
At the new price of £55 it is one of the most expensive books on my shelf, but looking at value-for-money (by taking into account page count, or weight), it offers a lot for the price.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes – selectively.
Use this box to explain your overall score
When everything is of the same calibre (or even slightly better) as previous versions, there is no reason not to continue with awarding full marks.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,