Why Cycling Is The Sport Of The People
A farmers’ protest delays the start of stage 16 of the 1982 Tour de France. Photograph © Mr Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos
Mr Guy Andrews’ book <i>Magnum Cycling</i> is a celebration of the sport of the people.
If there’s one thing a photographer likes to do, it’s get up close and personal. And if there’s one sport where that’s possible to an in-your-face degree, it’s cycling. You are as likely to encounter the road racers and Grand Tour pelotons flashing past your front door as you are in the nearest velodrome, which, says Mr Guy Andrews in his new book Magnum Cycling – a compilation of cycling images from the legendary Magnum Photos agency – makes the sport unique. It combines, he says, “the romance and adventure of a road trip with all the sporting drama of a cup final”.
A crowd gathers outside a bicycle shop in Playbon, Brittany, to cheer on its owner, Mr Pierre Cloarec, who is racing in the Tour de France, July 1939. Photograph © Mr Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos
So it’s no wonder the giants of Magnum reportage were keen to dive into the heart of the action. One of the first shots in the book shows a crouching Mr Robert Capa in the midst of the riders during the 1939 Tour de France. Mr Henri Cartier-Bresson, meanwhile, placed himself trackside to picture the thrills and spills – and the champagne-quaffing high-society patrons – of the 1957 Six-Day Race at the Vel’ d’Hiv in Paris. Of course, it’s wonderful to see work from such influential mid-20th-century figures, but the book also brings things up to date, with Mr Chris Steele-Perkins’ portfolio from the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, and a series of shots of a pre-mea culpa Mr Lance Armstrong by Mr Christopher Anderson (the photographer found his subject “an arrogant prick – and I said that at the time, too”).
Pacing riders, Antwerp, Belgium, 1984. Photograph © Mr John Vink/Magnum Photos
In keeping with Magnum’s egalitarian ethos, the book also focuses on the sport’s spectators, hanging out of boulangerie windows and spilling over crash barriers. It’s a reminder that, among the strained sinews, yellow jerseys and mud-splattered victory laps, cycling remains “the sport of the people”.