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It's Not About the Book
By Podofdonny
Date: 11/17/2005
It's Not About the Book

After a few days in Paris recently I stopped at a newsagent in the Gard du Nord train station.

In a curiously disorganised newsagents, a huge selection of cycling magazines stood displayed under fierce lighting. What struck me as I looked at the array was the similarity between all the titles. Lance Armstrong and Tom Boonen monopolised the cover photos of every cycling magazine on display, and, it must be said, Boonen was a poor second.

I chose my magazines and took the train to the Charles de Gaulle Airport on a bleak journey past abandoned factories and low cost high-rise dwellings, with the sceptre of Montmatre casting its long eye over the accordion-playing beggars and the nomads of North Africa.

Paris, and cycling, seemed a long way from the cover of glossy magazines and the Tour de France.

So too did More than a Dream by Paul Greenhalgh when I opened my mail the next morning.

The Book

The back cover explains that “More Than a Dream tells the story of a year in the lives of young British riders, Tom Barras and Graham Briggs, as with the assistance of the Dave Rayner Fund, they lived their dream of becoming professional cyclists. It recounts the highs and lows of competition, as well as the challenging and the mundane elements of being a full-time sportsman.”

Geoffrey Nicholson (the benchmark for all British cycling writers) started his book The Great Bike Race with his tale of how he fell in love with the sport watching Bill Bradley and Brain Haskell duel it out over the Pennines in the 1959  Milk Race. Greenhalgh’s starting point is also a race (the 2002 British Championships) and he too is inspired by a rider in that race.

Phil Evans, a rider supported by the Dave Rayner fund, catches his imagination and his interest develops into following two riders who will race in Europe while supported by the fund in 2004.

The Dave Rayner Fund

David was born in Shipley, son of John and Barbara. John was a first category racing man in the 1960's part of the well known 'Rayner' cycling family. David's first club was the East Bradford CC which he joined in 1979 as a 12 year old. He went on to join the Bradford Wheelers in 1984, and won the National Junior RR Champs at Stoke on Trent.

His development progressed further when he went to Italy at the beginning of 1984 and rode for the G.S.Porcari-Fanini-Berti Team. He was riding with the likes of Mario Cipollini and Andrea Tafi and remained there until the end of 1986. In 1985 Dave came 14th in the Junior World Road Race Champs and 5th in the World Junior Team Time Trial Champs at Stuttgart.

In 1987 Dave won the under 22 award in the Milk Race and then turned pro for the Interent-Yugo Team in Britain. In 1988 he joined the Raleigh-Banana Team, won the under 22 award again in the Milk Race and came 8th overall.

1989 - Raleigh-Banana again, 8th overall again in the Milk Race and for the 3rd year running [a record] he won the under 22 award again. He joined the Banana-Falcon Team in 1990 and in that year won the Scottish Provident Criterium Series overall.

In 1991/22 he went to Holland and rode for the Buckler Team under former World Champion Jan Raas. He went to the USA for 1993 joining the I.M.E.-Health Share Team which was not very successful so for 1994, his final season, he came back to Britain and joined the Lex-Townsend Team, coming 2nd in the National Criterium Champs in Milford Haven.

In November 1994 Dave was tragically killed and in his memory the Dave Rayner Fund was established, its aim to support young British riders who want to race on the Continent.

The Selection Process

Paul Greenhalgh is definitely an outsider looking in at the Dave Rayner Fund organisation. Throughout the book his observations are that of an enthusiastic amateur rather that hardened cynic. So he will only hint at differences in objectives between the Dave Rayner Fund and the British Cycling Federation; the BCF with its huge Lottery funding and emphasis on Track Racing is in many ways in direct competition to attract young riders with the Dave Rayner Fund.  Sid Barras, a Godfather of British Road racing, once said of the BCF of "having more coaches than Wallace Arnold" ( last count the BCF had 34).

The contrast between young riders selected by the BCF, with a budget of £30,000 to £40,000 a year for every rider on the programme, and the Dave Rayner Funded riders is a huge chasm which Greenhalgh explores following a year in the life of two riders selected by the Fund, Graham Briggs (a Doncaster fast man) and Tom Barras (son of the aforementioned Sid) .

Tom and Graham

Graham Briggs heads for France and will ride for VC Beauvais. Greenhalgh is at his best in observing the lifestyle, internal and external pressures faced by the young rider. Team mates and flat mates, Casper from Estonia and Dimitri from Moldovia, are also on the trail of cycling glory, and Greenhalgh has a keen eye to capture the internal politics of three young men in a strange land chasing a dream.

Tom Barras riding for has, on the face of it, a much more cosy home life. He is living with Roger Hammond in Belgium, and the success of Hammond (3rd in Paris Roubaix) is an interesting counter point to the struggles of the young riders.

What Greenhalgh illustrates throughout his book is the sheer hard work, commitment and dedication needed by these riders to succeed, and that without support from the Dave Rayner fund that this task would be almost impossible.

The book is short on glamour, epic rides and legend, rather it is tribute to the lower leagues of cycling which are rarely reported on and certainly not in this intimate style.

Phil Evans

If it was Cheeky Phil Evans who in part inspired this book; then it is fitting that the author follows the former Dave Rayner Funded rider throughout the year. The Fund has transformed his life. He now lives in France working at the local bike shop. Through his cycling and the support of the Fund his life has changed forever.

More than a Dream is ample tribute to the Dave Rayner Fund, for it provides a perfect example that through sport people can realise their dreams and change their lifestyles. The book is a rare account of cycling outside its upper echelons and deserves to be read by those who wish to know more about the sport.


More Than a Dream
Paul Greenhalgh
Paperback 160 pages (September 2005)
Publisher: PAG Solutions Ltd
Language: English
ISBN: 0955091705

Order More than a Dream at Amazon UK.

Visit The Dave Rayner Fund website.

The author will be signing books at The Revolution this Saturday night.

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