Thursday, 24 July 2008

From the pen of J B Wadley, ed Adrian Bell (2002)

Mousehold Press 1 874739 22 6 £12.95 206pp

A collection of articles about competitive cycling by one of Britain's most celebrated cycle journalists

Jock Wadley was a towering presence in British cycle journalism in the middle years of the twentieth century. True, you might say, with few practitioners in this particular corner of reporting during that period, even one of short stature might appear as a giant. But Wadley's qualities as an observer and recorder of bicycle sport would have shone out, whatever the competition.

Born in 1914, Wadley reported on the domestic and continental scene from 1933, pretty nearly until he died in 1981, writing for Cycling and The Bicycle, as well as editing Coureur and International Cycle Sport. That this publication was issued over 20 years after his demise shows the regard in which he was held by his readers.

The pieces here cover topics as diverse as the intense competition to take the 'Bath and Back' record (from London - of course); Frederico Bahamontes assault on the 1959 Tour and a Randonneur in the Alps. His tone is almost conversational - he frequently explains the difficulties of following a race from a press car. "When the journalist is equipped with a helicopter he might be able to cover all four races at once" he laments at one stage - speaking of an age before most commentators watched the race on the box.

Here he is on Shay Elliot's progress in 1958's edition of Ghent-Wevelgem: "What I dared to hope was the Elliot was still strong enough not only to win the Messines prime, but to get away on his own to keep clear of the other chasers all the way to Wevelgem. But although he was still strong, one man was stronger. He was Noel Fore, and Fore Flung himself into a powerful sprint on a modest hill".

He is partisan, but when the English-speaking riders do not triumph, he is quick to applaud the winners.

Often the style is more that of a letter to a friend than what we would today recognise as journalism. But what a correspondent to have! These dispatches from the past are so full of colour, incident and detail that they transcend their style.

PS 24 July

No comments: