The year was 1987, and the book was Graham Watson's "Kings of the Road". It was pre-Internet and pre-cable TV. For race coverage you could call VeloNews' $0.95/min 1-900 number to get that day's Tour de France results, and if you were feeling really spendy you could part with another dollar per day to buy the Nationwide edition of the New York Times and see a black & white photo of Jean Paul Van Poppel or Charley Mottet alongside Samuel Abt's 2-paragraph summary of the previous day's Tour stage. Information -- be it factual, or visual -- was scarcer than scarce.
Reading "Kings of the Road" -- Graham Watson's photographic retrospective of the mid-80's era in the professional peloton -- was a spiritual/sexual experience. Nowhere else could you see the heroes of the day -- Eric Vanderaerden, Sean Kelly, Greg LeMond, et al -- in the medium they deserved: Full-color glossy photos, well-written narrative, hardback cover. Think about it: Color photos of Euro-Dog bike racing simply didn't exist in the US. If you got Paris-Roubaix results within a week of the finish, it was the forbidden delight of insider information. "Kings of the Road" presented the suffering and the majesty of our beautiful sport like never before. We spent countless dozens of hours in our youth dissecting every photograph again and again, stoking our passion for bike racing. Watson's book was a landmark achievement by any standard.
Fast forward to 2011. It's been 24 years since we've had similar feelings of awe (about anything, really). Given the beautiful photos and intense prose of Rouleur magazine, though, it perhaps should come as no surprise that we feel that youthful white heat again: The Rouleur Photography Annual moves us in a way we haven't felt since "Kings of the Road". Let's be clear on what this Photography Annual is not: This is not a compendium of prior issues of Rouleur Magazine. Rather, it's a fat softback book with photos you've never before seen and dashes of prose you've never before read.