The next chapter……………………..

Since returning from the Road World Championships in Richmond, I have been busy editing Greig’s latest opus. This time we don’t have to worry about raising sufficient finance. The book, The Art of Cycling: Richmond 2015 UCI Road World Championships, is being underwritten by the local newspaper which will also be handling its nationwide marketing.

 

Cobbles climb: iconic view from the races
Cobbles climb: iconic view from the races

I learnt a massive amount from editing Book de Tour and I’m delighted to be able to put that into practice. I follow a rigorous routine whereby I initially correct all the typographical errors. I then check the facts to make sure Greig’s correctly interpreted the race, appreciating that, this time around, he had many distractions. He painted from a live feed in the Greater Richmond Convention Center right opposite the podium and not from his home studio.

He enjoyed a very visible presence while painting and selling his original artwork, and prints, meeting many of the competitors, their family, television crews, and a number of his own admirers. Greig tells his wonderful tale in the book’s introduction.

Double art whammy as racer goes past Greig's mural
Double art whammy as racer goes past Greig’s mural

It was also the first time we had met in person, but sadly our respective schedules precluded too much interaction. Cue another visit to Richmond!

I then try to weave the story of the individual races from the individual narratives under each of Greig’s paintings. Obviously, as a resident, he was able to add plenty of local colour and individual perspective. However, unlike Book de Tour, the landscape was pretty much the same for every event. In addition, many of the competitors were completely unknown to either of us. But we tried not to let these be limiting factors.

One particular hurdle for Grieg was the lack of television coverage of any of the junior events. Luckily, he had friends out on the course who sent him photographs which he could then reproduce in his own inimitable fashion.

Having got the story straight, I meticulously check all the wording. Who knew there was such a wide variation in American-English and English-English? And then there’s the grammar! Our transatlantic cousins are mighty fond of the comma. I also have to be careful to keep Greig’s “voice”. He has a particular way of talking that I am at pains to preserve. We pore over the narrative regularly via Skype.

Flying flag in support of
Flying flag in support of France

 

Team time-trial World Champions
Team time-trial World Champions

Meanwhile, Greig’s still painting: flags, team jerseys and course maps. These help to further illustrate the narrative and results. I do my bit with the start lists. These I can download from the UCI site and transfer from pdf to word documents. We want to ensure that everyone who took part is included in the book. It’s a painstaking task converting pdf documents into word ones and re-checking every detail.

Each race has its own map showing where on the course the riders were painted
Each race has its own map showing where on the course the riders were painted

Then there’s the thorny question of who to ask for a foreword plus quotes for the sleeve jacket. Again, with Greig’s growing reputation, this proved a much easier task than with Book de Tour. Kathryn Bertine, one of the better known and higher-profile figures in women’s cycling provided a glowing, but well-deserved, foreword. I had no trouble getting a quote from newly crowned world champion Peter Sagan, despite asking him the week before his nuptials.

After a day spent editing, I like to leave checking the draft [book] until the following day to get better perspective. Yesterday, I sent everything to Amy, the publisher’s designer, who’ll set the book into the previously agreed format. She does this with Adobe InDesign, a programme with which I have no familiarity.

This will then allow Grieg and I to pore over the book from cover to cover to check its consistency. There’s a couple of things we’ve done differently this time. Specifically, we’ve omitted accents, largely because the UCI ignored them in the official start lists but also because of the vast amount of time I spent checking and re-checking the correct spelling of participants’ names last time.

In Book de Tour, Greig used the start list from a respected and popular website which contained no less than 60 errors! A pretty startling number given there were only 198 starters!

One of Richmond's many Monuments
One of Richmond’s many Monuments

We’ve also avoided the use of typical cycling terms such as bidons. The Americans call them drinks bottles and so have we. This avoids having to provide a glossary, though we have a section on Frequently Asked Questions based on Greig’s post-worlds experience. It appears that a number of Richmonders have seen the light, embraced cycling, become fans, and sought further information from Greig

Greig’s now working on the book cover, using one of the striking paintings which shows a readily recognisable Richmond scene. While, I’ll be checking and re-checking the content with the designer.

Sadly, the book won’t be available before Xmas though the newspaper will be pre-selling the book and offering book certificates to be exchanged in February. I do know one thing, I will not be collecting autographs on a copy of the book though I may ask Peter Sagan to sign a number for Greig and his supporters – a nice memento.

Highlights

New Year’s Day is not a bad time for sober reflection on the last 12 months. What were the highlights of another busy and thoroughly enjoyable year? In no particular order, here goes:-

1. Amael Moinard (BMC) wins stage 2 of Tour du Haut Var in Draguigan

Amael Moinard

There’s nothing nicer than seeing someone you know win. Particularly someone who spends most of the season working his socks off for his team mates. We saw Amael’s victory in the company of his wife and children which made it even more special. His two young boys were thrilled, going onto the podium with their father to receive the trophy. A moment they’ll always treasure, which was captured by the mother of another professional rider who kindly gave me the picture. A fellow VeloVoice (Thanks Chris) gave it the Andy Warhol treatment, I had it printed and it now hangs in the Moinard’s hallway. A constant reminder of a special moment, one we were fortunate to share.

2. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) wins Vuelta al Pais Vasco

VpVstage1winnerBertir

A stunning win on stage one by Bertie in truth secured him the overall. He looked to be back to his best, heralding the prospect of a thrilling summer of racing.

3. Book de Tour

book du tour small cover for style v5

I edited Greig Leach’s narrative accompanying his marvellous record of last year’s Tour de France. It wasn’t the Tour we were all anticipating but it was none the less thrilling. The crowds for the UK Grand Depart in Yorkshire were unprecedented –  wonderful to see, and experience. The race had more twists than a barleycorn, an emphatic victor and each stage’s tales were beautifully captured by Greig in bright clear colours which convey a real sense of movement, occasion and emotion. I’m hoping this first successful foray into printed medium will be just the start of a new venture for Greig. His paintings deserve to be more widely shared.

4. The Basque Country

Cycling: 32th Clasica San Sebastian 2012

We managed three visits by dint of our trip along the northern coastline of Spain to last year’s World Championship in Ponferrada. We’re slowly exploring more and more of the region on two wheels and refining our list of must-visit hotels, restaurants and bars. It’s a region which never fails to delight us and we’d move there in a nano second were it not for the weather. Once again we visited places we might never have gone to were it not for bike racing and our lives would be poorer because of it.

5. Marquez Boys Double

marc-marquez-alex-marquez-motogp-moto3

Having watched Marc Marquez take the world of MotoGP by storm, breaking records every which way since his rookie season in the 125cc class, it was great to see him (easily) retain his World Championship and for his younger brother Alex take the MotoGP3 title. Their parents must be so proud of them.

6. Conviviality of Cannondale Pro Cycling

Jake Hamm CPC Studio 8785b

Our friends at G4 provided the casual wear for Cannondale and, because I lend them a hand wherever I can, I got to spend time at training camps and races with the boys. We were made to feel part of the extended Italian family and looked forward to meeting up with them at races. In return, I think the boys enjoyed my cakes which I believe have moved up a notch since moving from club events to WorldTour. While the name continues, the team’s backbone is no more. But we wish all the former staff and riders every success in their new teams and roles. Thank you for a memorable year, we’ll cherish it forever.

You may have noticed that, one way or another, every highlight involved two wheels! I’m hoping 2015 continues in a similar vein.

Another twist in the tale

The Book de Tour books to be signed by Vincenzo Nibali finally arrived via FedEx while I was collecting my beloved from the airport. The FedEx van was on the point of departing as we drove up to the garage. I quickly rescued my long-awaited package. As soon as I got inside the flat, I opened the box to discover everything had been beautifully and carefully wrapped and the books had arrived in mint condition.

Having missed out on Plan A, personally taking the books to the team’s first camp at Montecatini Terme for signature, I now invoked Plan B. The following morning I took the books over to Astana’s service course and handed them, with explicit instructions who was to sign what and where, to the mechanics who were driving down to the team’s second camp in Calpe. The boys promised to take great care of them, get them signed and bring them back safely to me. They thought they’d probably be back with me on 18 December which would enable me to return them, FedEx Priority,  to USA in time for Christmas.

During the camp, I received confirmation that Nibali had signed the books and were now in a safe place prior to their return to France. I checked yesterday and was advised the mechanics were on their way back and would arrive at the service course late at night, so they would park the van and unload the following morning. I said I’d call this morning to arrange a convenient time to go over and pick them up. I even had one of my prized fruit cakes for the service course staff to enjoy with their morning coffee. In addition, I had arranged with FedEx for them to pick up the package this afternoon and speed it safely back to USA.  We were good to go.

If everything had gone to plan, I would now be emailing the FedEx tracking number to the book’s author and confirming that the duly signed books would be winging their way back to him by 22 December. But, as we know, very little has gone to plan where these books are concerned. It’s as if they’ve a life of their own.

This morning, merely as a formality, I rang the chap in charge of the service course to enquire when it would be convenient for me to drive over and collect them.  There was a heavily pregnant pause until he found the courage to admit they were still  somewhere “safe”. Yes, the mechanics had forgotten to put them on the van but, no worries, they’d pick them up in early January after the next training camp at the same hotel.

I sprang into action. I contacted the hotel where the staff, having received instructions from the mechanic, had located the box which had already been closed back up. Understandably, the hotel staff were unwilling to re-open it or indeed split the contents. My first idea had been to send the Kickstarter subscribers’ four signed books directly back to USA and have the others brought back to me in France. With the hotel unwilling to disturb the box’s contents,  I’ve arranged to have them all shipped back to France – priority delivery for 22 December.  I’ll then check them (I’m hoping and praying that they’ve been properly re-packed, but have no way of verifying) before despatching them back to USA. Sadly, it means they’ll arrive after Xmas, but not too long after!

Having scheduled the pick up with FedEx and promptly sent all the accompanying paperwork to the hotel, I was keen to use the tracking number to see what was happening to my precious package. Nada! It hadn’t budged. I contacted FedEx. It appears the 72 working hours required to return it to translates into 48 hours to pick it up and 24 hours to speed it from Spain to Nice. Right now I’m wondering why I didn’t drive down and back to Calpe.

Friday postscript: We have lift off, or should that be pick up? The package was picked up from Calpe this morning and is now in Madrid awaiting its flight to Paris from whence it’ll head to Nice. Should (fingers crossed) be here no later than Monday.

Monday postscript: I’ve been tracking the parcel which was due to be delivered this morning. Imagine my horror when at 11:00 a message flashed up that they’d tried to deliver but I wasn’t home. How could that be? My beloved and I were both home and no one had rung the bell. Fuelled by righteous indignation I rang FedEx’s call centre and was referred to a very calm lady  – no doubt used to dealing with irate customers – who’s promised to resolve the situation. I have paid for delivery within 72 hours, that has now expired.

Tuesday postscript: Called the nice lady at FedEx and the package is going to be delivered this morning. However, a quick check on the tracking system shows no date for next delivery – we shall see! I have taken the precaution of asking our security guard at the barrier to the Domaine to give me a call when the FedEx van arrives.

Wednesday postscript: The books were safely delivered in mint condition, have been carefully, individually wrapped for their final journey back to USA after Christmas (on FedEx’s advice).

All’s well………………………….

Postal problems

book du tour small cover for style v5

Book de Tour rolled off the publisher’s presses at the beginning of the month but I’m still waiting to receive my copies, all of which need the signature of the winner, Vincenzo Nibali. The author packed up the copies and sent them straight away via USPS aka US postal service. Who then handed over responsibility to the French postal service. I have been tracking the package’s progress with interest. The French postal service claimed to have tried to deliver the parcel last Friday and this Monday, but I wasn’t there. Actually I was home on both occasions but no one, not even Postman Pat, rang my doorbell. He did however leave me one of those slim yellow receipts.

I was so excited to see, and feel, the finished product and, if I’m honest, thoroughly check that all my edits had been correctly incorporated. I hot footed it down to the main Post Office yesterday to claim my parcel and pay the customs’ fees. It soon became obvious why the postman hadn’t bothered to deliver the box. It was decidedly bashed about on all corners, one of which was torn open, as if someone had been using it as a football. Also, the box was palpably damp to the touch, leading me to suspect it had been left out in the rain. But was it US or French torrential rain? Probably the latter!

I looked carefully at the torn corner and could just make out a couple of damaged spines. Additional the lightweight bubble wrap was loose and flapping – not a good sign. Was this the total extent of the damage or was it even more extensive? I sought advice and guidance from the post mistress. If I opened the parcel, I was explicitly accepting the state of it’s contents.

The post mistress pointed out that along with its bashed and gaping corners, the parcel had ballooned in the wet. She told me not to accept delivery, but to return it and have the sender claim on his insurance. I was in a bit of a quandary, it was too early in the day to contact Greig, but I finally decided to follow her advice. We simply couldn’t present Greig’s biggest financial supporters with a damaged “reward”.  She also gave me some helpful tips on packing heavy, fragile parcels such as these. Great advice which I’ve passed on to Greig.

Greig’s shipped me replacements express-delivery which should arrive within the next 5 days. This incident has doubled my resolve to keep hold of the books to obtain Nibali’s signature. After all, he only lives a few hours away in Lugano. Much better to preserve the integrity of the soft (not hard) cover books, which can easily get damaged, by retaining possession. It’s also given me food for thought as to how I’m going to maintain the pristine order of my master copy. This is the one where, in the run up to next year’s Tour, I’m going to try and obtain as many signatures as possible from riders featured in Book de Tour. The result will be auctioned on eBay, with all proceeds going to the charity of the author’s choice.

I keep reminding myself that patience is a virtue and everything comes to those who wait. Yes, but for how long?

Book de Tour Postscript: According to USPS, the package arrived in Nice on early Friday afternoon and was sent out to its final destination. My apartment is at worst an hour’s walk from the sorting office. Here we are on Wednesday morning and I’m still waiting. Who’s delivering it? Postman Ant? I have a feeling that Greig’s going to be sending me package number three later today! Let’s hope it’ll be third time lucky.

Book de Tour Second Postscript: Greig has indeed sent me parcel number three. This time via FedEx. it’s due to arrive before midday tomorrow. Sod’s law dictates that as soon as I leave tomorrow to collect my beloved from the airport, FedEx will arrive to deliver said parcel. They cannot leave it with anyone, customs duties have to be paid. They’ll leave, only to return on Monday, probably when I’m returning my beloved to the airport. I need to contact FedEx and have them advise me of when the parcel is likely to arrive. To do that I need the tracking number. Greig’s sent me a tracking number but the FedEx site says it’s not valid! Here we go again.

Book de Tour Third Postscript:  Greig had missed a digit from the tracking number. Armed with the correct number, I contacted FedEx only to be told the parcel was already on its way to me. I popped out to the airport to collect my beloved only to find the FedEx lorry was just heading back to base, as I returned home. I ran after it and managed to retrieve my parcel at around about the same time Team Astana were leaving Montecatini Terme – Plan A out the window!

Just around the corner

Life-is-like-a-box-of-chocolates-620x440I’m going to have to disagree with Mr Gump. Life isn’t like a box of chocolates. They come with a guide so you can avoid the fillings you don’t like – and there’s plenty I don’t like. No, the wonderful thing about life is that we never really know what’s around the corner.  When I gave up my job in the City over 10 years’ ago now, I didn’t know what I would do but was excited by the prospect of getting well out of my comfort zone. I feel I’ve finally arrived.

I’m currently working having great fun on a newish project. Earlier this year, while skimming my Twitter timeline, I caught sight of a delightful painting. It was by an artist called Greig Leach, based in Richmond Virginia, the official artist for next year’s World Road Race Championships. I contacted him and asked if I could interview him for VeloVoices where we’re mightily keen on posters, paintings and photographs of cycling and cyclists. He agreed.

The picture that had caught my eye was one of his postcard-sized water colour and ink paintings. He produces a series of these during the year’s major races. I bought one of Peter Sagan’s (Cannondale) stage win into Montpellier in last year’s Tour de France and gave it to him for being voted VeloVoices Rider 2013. The picture now hangs in his entrance hall.

Peter and award2

Throughout the season, wherever possible, I’ve used these postcard-sized paintings to illustrate articles and frequently attach them to my Twitter and Facebook posts. Before the start of this year’s Tour, Greig approached me with a proposition. He wanted to turn his paintings of the Tour into a coffee table book.  He was going to raise the necessary cash on the crowd-funding site, KickStarter, following the template of a friend who’d successfully financed a similar project. Would I edit the book?

book du tour small cover for style v5

I’ve never done anything like this before but that didn’t deter me. My blogposts for VeloVoices are expertly edited by one of our three main writers.  No one edits these posts but then they’re just ramblings intended for friends and family. I often come back for a quick tidy up a week or so after I’ve posted. It is, of course, always easier to spots the errors of others. I should add that as an accountant I’ve proof-read many sets of accounts and, when I worked in investment banking, many legal documents. Editing’s a rather more skilled proposition.

Of course, I readily agreed. Who wouldn’t? I also helped publicise the project. I was advised to “bother the crap out of everyone you know!” Wise words. I took that advice to heart and pestered everyone I knew and lots I don’t. All in a good cause you understand.

Crowd-funding sites advise that projects which raise at least 30% of the required funds in their first week-end are more likely to be successful. We had barely raised 5%. But our target audience was watching a gripping Tour de France, with more highs and lows than the Alps. It all came together in the last week of fundraising, the week after the Tour finished!

Saying Farewell

As an editor, it’s rather tempting to superimpose what you might have written  but you shouldn’t. It’s not your tale to tell. Of course, it should be error free even though it’s written in a language not your own – American English. I won’t pretend it hasn’t been a challenge. I have cast my eagle eye over everything. And, I do mean everything. I have even checked that the racing numbers on the back of the jerseys correspond to the riders named in the narrative.

It’s only when you undertake such an exercise that you realise how many errors there are on most websites. You need to establish creditable reference points. Greig takes his Tour feed from NBC where the commentators are the much-revered pairing of Liggett and Sherwen.  Please don’t believe everything they tell you. I could find no substance for a number of their claims in my large library of Tour reference books.  It’s painstaking work and surprisingly time-consuming but then I’ve been on a steep learning curve and have gained plenty from the process.

The book is taking shape. Of course, it is all about the paintings but I want the narrative to do them justice.  I’ve also had to bear in mind that while Grieg and I are fans of the sport, it’ll be bought and read by some that are not. Just how much do you need to explain? More than you might imagine but not too much that it becomes tedious.

We’re on a tight schedule, the book is due shortly at the printers for its first blue-lined draft. We want that draft to be perfect – corrections cost money. The printed copies will roll off the presses at the beginning of November – just in time for Christmas. It’ll be the perfect gift for art-lovers, art-loving cyclists, cycling fans, cyclists and anyone else you know.

My work doesn’t stop there. I rashly promised Greig I’d get some signed by the Tour winner and he included this carrot in some of his crowd-funding incentive packages.

Safely Home

In recent days we’ve heard that the book is going to the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair. I’ve had to provide the publisher with a picture (cringe) and potted bio where I failed dismally to make myself suited to the job of editor.

Of course, we need to generate as many sales as possible in the window before the next Tour and I’m hoping that this will just be the start of Greig’s production line. Next up the Giro d’Italia, then the Vuelta a Espana, The Cycling Season and………………….

Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Book de Tour here!

Links:  Greig’s paintings of this year’s Tour de France and La Course (with unedited narrative)