The cliché goes that you never judge a book by its cover. But a good title can tell you much. “The Crying of Lot 49” is precise, mysterious and reveals a love of language that a motivated reader will find marvelous. The title of The Horton Collection’s latest masterpiece (yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and just make that distinction, all unsupported like), “Shoulder to Shoulder: Bicycle Racing in the Age of Anquetil,” gives you much with which to work. Sure, there’s the obvious—bike racing—but there’s also intimacy—shoulder to shoulder—and then there’s the distinction of Anquetil. That defines a particular period. It was his time. Rik van Looy may have been the emperor, but Anquetil was the ruler. He was the guy by which others were measured and he was just as much the rider who imposed his will over the peloton. But this isn’t just a book about Anquetil; this is the era of Anquetil.
So this is a document that chronicles racing in that time. For English-speaking cyclists, Anquetil’s face is probably the most recognizable, but he features in only some of the photos. The book draws its range from his career as a cyclist, starting during his years as an espoir and concluding at the end of his career. This is, however, no chronological time lapse of his career and adversaries. The array of photos is more musical, more sweeping. And more shocking.
There are moments displayed for which many of us would give an organ to have witnessed first-hand. There are others some of us will squirm to view, photos for which one view will be more than enough. It’s a measure of the riders’ fortitude, a testament of that time’s medicine and a reminder of how far we’ve come.
It’s a small volume, at 8″x7″ and 120 pages, but it’s hardcover, and many of the images contained have never been seen before. And while the images on the pages feature ultra-brief captions, there’s a notes section in the back that gives more detail. It’s a bit more work to digest each image, but it does the image and the layout a service.
Somebody out there wants to give you something that pays homage to your passion, a namaste of the cyclist’s soul. This is such a book.