OK, let's start at the beginning. I first encountered the Kennedy Brothers Publishing Tour de France books back in 1989 when a number of copies were sat on the counter at the local lightweight road cycling specialist Ridge Racing in Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth with Greg Lemond (ADR) aboard a red Bottecchia with those Scott tri bars on the cover.
Lemond even featured on Roger's voicemail message some year later for the shop, Roger wasn't a fan, and that voicemail enabled him to say that Lemond wouldn't be welcome as a rider for the shop's team given his recent slump in form. Classic Roger.
With only a handful of copies of the paperback book on the counter, it didn't take me long to hand over the money before devouring every word of the 128 pages which not only included a full rundown of the all the classifications, but also a third of the book was devoted to the mystical Giro D'Italia which of course had no TV coverage at the time.
Fast forward many years later, I started collecting the Kennedy Brothers books for research for the day job - they often contain rare archive photographs that you'll never see online. A fair few of the jerseys that form part of our retro peloton have benefited from being corrected before the design has been finalised due to a grainy black and white photograph in these delicate old books.
Secondly, and probably more of the reason why I've carried on collecting them, is they are a nostalgic reminder of the cycling that I first fell in love with as a teenager. It would appear I'm not alone on that front, as plenty of visitors to our space at the Rouleur Classic in November 2017 loved the way both the Kennedy Brothers Books and the Winning Magazines formed part of the artwork that decorated our La Vélothèque installation.
I intend on running through all of the Kennedy Brothers books highlighting some of my favourite aspects of them starting with the 1973, 1974 and 1975 editions of these fabulous old paperbacks.
With Eddy Merckx opting for the Giro d'Italia - Vuelta a España double and the reigning World Champion Marino Basso and Felice Gimondi staying at home after the Giro, Luis Ocaña's performance in the 1973 edition of the Tour was unfairly recorded by some sections of the press as not as worthy.
Saunders in his writing took a more measured view, reporting that it was a richly deserved victory - observing the Spaniard would have beaten Merckx anyway.
Instead, Saunders took aim at the apathy of the other top riders who although turned up capitulated, plus the race organisers by adding un-necessarily long transfers despite the record prize money. Spare a thought for Saunders himself who had to endure those same long transfers behind the wheel of a Morris Marina loaned by British Leyland.
It was Ocaña’s only victory at the Tour, winning six stages (two time trials, four mountains stages) with his final victory margin over 15 minutes, which I feel makes the front cover photo and subsequent back page advert even more interesting.
Ocaña was riding a Titanium frame hand-built by Speedwell in Birmingham. No doubt unheard of at the time, Speedwell were surely one of the earliest fabricators of Titanium bicycle frames and forks.
If you wish to read more on Luis Ocaña, Alasdair Fotheringham's biography of Luis Ocaña 'Reckless' is an excellent read. There's also a good amount of information on both the 1971 and 1973 editions of the Tour over at cyclingnews.com.
For us Brits, the 1974 Tour de France is, of course, best known for the visit to Plymouth, with 14 laps of the A38 Plympton-by-pass providing the race circuit with the Dutchman Henk Poppe (Frisol) the stage's victor.
Pre-race favourite Eddy Merckx (Molteni Arcore) went on to win, taking his fifth victory equalling Jacques Anquetil, top and tailing the race, winning time bonuses along the way as well as taking eight stages.
With TV coverage now starting at 0km, Saunders reported considerable criticism from both sides of the channel that the stage was not broadcast on TV as it should have been. This, however, did not affect the joy and happiness for the 25,000 spectators (many of them on bikes) that made the pilgrimage to the West Country to enjoy the spectacle that is "le Tour".
Back to the publication itself, without boring you all with advertising rate cards, the back cover of a magazine is usually the most expensive premium position of a magazine. Reason being when you throw your copy of Procycling, Rouleur, Winning, etc on the coffee table, there’s a 50% probability it will land with the back cover up!
Despite the fact that all of these books were produced in the 1970's, all three editions that we're reviewing here have advertisements on the back page with Speedwell, Adidas and Simplex. Although I don't have every edition (yet), curiously the Kennedy Brothers only took back page ads for 8 out of the 20 editions with Castelli, Colnago and International Cycle Sport also contributing.
The Adidas advert on 1974's back page features a product that is almost as famous as Merckx's Molteni jersey - the Adidas Eddy Merckx shoes.
Merckx was no stranger to product endorsement, be it chewing gum, mineral water and razors all benefitted from having him promote them. One product he did actually use on a daily basis were those classic lace-up black leather cycling shoes with their famous three white stripes that Adidas named after him once Rudi Altig retired.
It wasn't just Merckx who used them though, Raymond Poulidor and Luis Ocaña also used one of the two models available - the "Eddy Merckx" or the "Eddy Merckx Super" which was the lighter of the two models with additional perforations.
Popular once again with fans trying to re-create the complete look for L'Eroica, the clipless revolution saw many pro and club riders swap laces for velcro straps, so these leather shoes eventually disappeared.........until perhaps providing the inspiration for Giro's modern Empire shoe range albeit without the three stripes.
The cover of the 1975 edition features a photograph by somebody we hugely admire here at Prendas - the Bristolian photographer John Pierce who has been covering professional cycling for over six decades.
In the photograph, race winner Bernard Thévenet is in yellow along with Felice Gimondi, World Champion Eddy Merckx and French Champion Regis Ovion on the first occasion the TdF visited the Champs-Élysées.
Bernard Thévenet came straight from his victory at the Dauphiné Libéré to winning the 1975 Tour for Peugeot / BP / Michelin.
One of the hardest Tours in recent years, Merckx finished second with a fractured cheekbone, with Thévenet the only rider to attack Merckx in the race with Lucien Van Impe and Joop Zoetemelk seemingly happy to finish in third and fourth overall - something that could have been written about any number of recent Tours!
Saunders gives praise to Thévenet who was alone in the lead over the Col d'Izoard on Bastille Day amongst huge crowds, but he also lays praise on a number of domestiques throughout the text including Joseph Huysmans (Molteni).
He also was keen to single out a young Francesco Moser (Filotex) in his first Tour as well as Britain's Barry Hoban at the other end of his career who still gained a stage victory and second in the points classification despite being short on winter miles due to illness.
Thévenet's victory at the Tour also meant that Merckx failed to record a sixth win at the Tour, so perhaps it's only natural that people remember Merckx's loss rather than Thévenet's victory.
It's not just the cover photo that Pierce provided - there are plenty of examples of his work. The photos of Felice Gimondi above (the photo on the left is from page 23) is one of my all-time favourites and comes with an amusing story. The man in the Somerset Road Club jersey is Arthur Needham (former owner of Argos Racing Cycles, Bristol).
His objective was to keep the background area free of spectators, it was like Noah's Ark all day and people were walking up to see the race further up with some walking back down. The funny part was the best pictures all have Arthur in the background, those where he does not feature, were not so sharp!!!
John Pierce, PhotoSport International.
The subject of a recent Rouleur interview, John Pierce was also in attendance at the Rouleur Classic and it was fascinating to see people's reaction when he was introduced as the person who shot a number of the photos on display.