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Rapha Editions and Bluetrain Publishing have done it again – produced a book I probably wouldn't have looked at were it not for this review, but which I am now very pleased to have on my shelves. It's a great combination of a well-respected author, an outspoken cycling personality, and lavish production values.
It's not readily apparent what this book is about: 'Raphaël Geminiani,' shouts the cover... so a biography of another little-known cyclist? No, it's not, although there is a significant biographical element to it. Actually, although you might not have realised, Raphaël is already familiar indirectly – it's where the Rapha name came from.
Perhaps the 'racing secrets' part hints this book is like The secret cyclist? No, it's not really that either, although some the aspects discussed are as relevant today as Geminiani's time from the 1950s to the 1980s.
The real title is the jaunty part: Raincoats are for Tourists. It's a direct quote, and gives a flavour of what to expect inside.
However, for a thorough understanding of this book, Rouleur magazine's article from a few years ago does a better job than I can manage. Called 'The Wisdom of Géminiani' (he seems to have lost the acute accent since), it's reproduced on Best's own website and is the perfect distillation of the book.
There is no doubt Geminiani knows what he is talking about, having seen considerable success both as a rider and a directeur sportif – and, crucially, he's willing to go on the record with his forthright views.
Best has taken quotes from various books by (and interviews with) Geminiani from over the years, given them some context, and combined this with more recent conversations and meetings. It works well, as you would expect from someone with Best's pedigree.
I suspect many will be intrigued by chapter 15: Everything That's Wrong With Modern Racing. Sure, there's a bit of 'things were better in my day,' but I think most people will find agreeing with a lot of it. Few of today's riders meet with his approval, with the exceptions including Peter Sagan, Julian Alaphillipe and Annemiek Van Vleuten.
In many ways, Raincoats are for Tourists complements Shoulder to Shoulder, a book of classic cycling photographs from yesteryear. Both provide great insight into racing at the time, each through a different medium. Raincoats includes a smattering of apposite line drawings from illustrator Ste Johnson.
We are running out of opportunities for first-hand accounts from racers of a 'golden era' of the sport, so it's fortunate a book such this as could come to fruition, and about a rider like this. For better or for worse, they really don't make 'em like that anymore.
The insights of a proper old-school cyclist, born of experience and success
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Raincoats are for Tourists - The racing secrets of Raphael Geminiani by Isabel Best
Size tested: n/a
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 Rapha Editions: "To this day, Raphaël Geminiani is the only rider to have finished in the top ten in all three grand tours in the same year. Now in his mid-90s, he's one of the last living members of an iconic cast of riders that illuminated cycling's golden era. Raised on the legends of racing in the 1920s while building wheels in his father's bike shop, Geminiani took part in no fewer than fifty Tours de France, competing as a rider against the likes of Coppi, Bartali and Gaul, and later guiding Anquetil, Simpson, Merckx and many more as a directeur sportif. The latest title from celebrated cycling author Isabel Best, Raincoats are for Tourists draws on a myriad of memories from Geminiani's decades in the peloton. From the unpaved roads and unending stages of the postwar period to the emergence of clipless pedals and disc wheels in the 80s, to plot Geminiani's career is to recount the history of modern cycling. And who better to tell the tale than a man who was always at the centre of the action?"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Raincoats are for Tourists
Author: Isabel Best
Publisher: Rapha Editions
Not something that normally warrants comment in a book review, but this one really is a joy to hold.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It is quite unlike any other book that I have.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I might have overlooked it!
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a great concept that works well, thanks to the right participants.
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,