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1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession

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The 103 third parties who use cookies on this service do so for their purposes of displaying and measuring personalized ads, generating audience insights, and developing and improving products. On the left, one of the Agence Rol images that can be found on Gallica, on the right a similar image from the pages of Le Miroir des Sports in August 1923. Menmuir uses all the poetic storytelling techniques honed in his Booker-longlisted career to imbue the wonderful The Draw of the Sea with a keen sense of place and purpose.

My main problem with the book, and the reason I didn’t rate it 5 stars, is that there’s too much Ned in it. I expected an in-depth review of a 100-year old race, but this was only one aspect of a brilliant book.

Ned's captivating book explores one man's obsession with this magnificent event and casts an intriguing light on a tiny fragment of a race long gone by ― Alexei Sayle. In the autumn of 2020 Ned Boulting (ITV head cycling commentator and Tour de France obsessive) bought a length of Pathé news film from a London auction house. The places he has taken it by the end of the book are a really nice way to cap it off and they give readers some form of closure.

A story about how an obscure piece of Tour de France film from 1923 shapes Boulting’s covid years and shines a certain light on what was happening a hundred years and ago and what is happening now. When cycling commentator Ned Boulting bought a length of Pathé news film featuring a stage of the Tour de France from 1923 he set about learning everything he could about it - taking him on an intriguing journey that encompasses travelogue, history and. If you want to read an excellent cycling book which goes back to grass roots of the sport try 1 more Kilometre and were in the showers by Tim Hilton. His style is relaxed and agreeably conversational, and although he is humorously self-deprecating, don’t doubt his narrative power: without any apparent change of cadence he becomes a Le Carré, generating nervous foreboding on a muddy jogging path, or the despair of isolation in “this never-ending Flemish wind”. Team on the Run Ten years ago, a British team ventured forth from the safety of the provincial racing scene and tackled a Grand Tour.But that was it, he didn't know what year it was shot and never found out how it ended up being offered on an online site for sale. Beeckman fell into Boulting’s life when the ITV commentator-come author – How I Won the Yellow Jumper (2011), How Cav Won the Green Jersey (2012), 101 Damnations (2014), On the Road Bike (2014) , Boulting’s Velosaurus (2016), Heart of Dart-ness (2018), Square Peg, Round Ball (2022) – acquired at auction a portion of a Pathé newsreel from the 1923 Tour and then set about turning its two-and-a-half-minutes of celluloid into a book and a TV programme. When cycling commentator Ned Boulting bought a length of Pathé news film featuring a stage of the Tour de France from 1923 he set about learning everything he could about it – taking him on an intriguing journey that encompasses travelogue, history and detective story.

It was a joy to read, dipping in and out as Ned pursued his determination to learn more about his obscure protagonist. Quirky, perhaps a little esoteric but enchanting and (to me at least) fascinating account of a tiny and previously forgotten snippet of the 1923 Tour de France, but expanded to take in a much wider context. Here, the alienated translator from The Cat and the City finds a book on the subway, leading her on a quest not just to understand the traumas and relationships between a strict old woman and her grandson in rural Japan – but the motivations of the book’s author, too. and appears to have been taken in the Parc des Princes was actually taken in Luxembourg (the Vélodrome du Bel Air, a quick jaunt elsewhere tells us), at the end of the first stage of the Critérium des Aiglons.It sets him off in fascinating directions, encompassing travelogue, history, mystery story – to explain, to go deeper into this moment in time, captured on his little film. A random auction purchase, combined with the stresses of COVID isolation, and we are taken back to midsummer 1923.

As a former history student it’s also refreshing to see ‘new’ primary source material being found and studied. I’d even switched my brain off when it came to the various factual infelicities that invariably appear in books like this. Fun fact for you: as the French bicycle industry went from boom to bust, the surviving companies had a tendency to pick up the pieces left behind by their fallen comrades. Other Pathé newsreels from this era exist and you can see many of the same people in them, including the likes of Henri Desgrange, Ottavio Bottecchia and Henri Pélissier. Even with added adjectives you can see that a written description of two-and-a-half-minutes of film won’t fill a 300-page book.Photograph: Ed Marshall/Alamy View image in fullscreen Mysterious beauty: the daymark on St Martin's, Isles of Scilly, whose coastline is explored in The Draw of the Sea. I sit in the sun trap, the heat helping to transport me a few hundred kilometres across the Channel from North Norfolk to La Roche-Bernard, South-East of Brest, where France juts out deep into the Atlantic Ocean. This book could be considered a dedication to the obsession that Boulting soon had to find out as much information as he could about the people in the film clip and the events surrounding that race. Biography: Ned Boulting is the UK's best known voice of cycling - he commentates on the Tour de France for ITV, and all other major cycling races. You will have seen or heard of the little scrap of film, and if you are familiar with the Author on podcasts, TV commentary and social media then there are connecting echos from this to the present day.

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