Richard Williams

Author's posts

Sep 16

Anquetil, Alone by Paul Fournel review – no one ever looked as good on a bike

A delightful evocation of the first man to win the Tour de France five times, and of the author’s childhood infatuation with him

No one ever looked as good on a bicycle as Jacques Anquetil. The first man to win the Tour de France five times – in 1957 and from 1961 to 1964 – seemed to have been manufactured in the same factory as the machines he rode, every ounce of superfluous weight pared away, streamlined to perfection and running on frictionless bearings. Frozen in motion by the still camera, he revealed an aesthetic perfection that would have brought a light to any sculptor’s eye.

On the first page of his slender memoir of devotion, Paul Fournel captures his subject’s essence: “Anquetil pedalled blond, with supple ankles; he pedalled on points, back bent, arms at right angles, head straining forwards … He was made to be seen alone on the road, silhouetted against the blue sky; nothing about him suggested the peloton, the crowd and the strength of being united. He was cycling beauty out on its own.”

I don’t, have never, and will never love the bike

With this little masterpiece, the coolest and most enigmatic of champions is given the biography he deserves

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/16/anquetil-alone-by-paul-fournel-review

Aug 25

Team Sky’s magic bus an unnecessary flexing of their financial muscle | Richard Williams

Articulated race hub for the Vuelta a España shows not only the disparity between teams but also how far cycling has moved away from its more rustic past

In these troubled days, we’re learning that you can watch a bad thing developing in front of your eyes, in real time, and yet feel utterly powerless to stop it. Fill in the blank with your own choice of contemporary socio-political phenomenon. But it can happen at a much more modest level, too, even in something as essentially trivial as sport. Which is how we come to the appearance of Team Sky’s “race hub” at the Vuelta a España.

The race hub is a large articulated vehicle decorated with the team’s logo and those of its various sponsors. It travels each day from one stage finish to another, where it is reconfigured – a little like a Transformer toy – into a two-storey building complete with facilities for (to quote from the official announcement) “communal eating, team briefings, pre- and post-race relaxation” and “guest hospitality and media”.

Related: Tomasz Marczynski sprints to maiden grand tour win in Vuelta stage six

Related: Will Chris Froome become the third cyclist to win the Tour-Vuelta double?

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/aug/25/team-sky-bus-race-hub-cycling-vuelta-espana

Jul 21

Team Sky rule the Tour de France again but will remain unloved | Richard Williams

Chris Froome’s impending triumph cannot mask the unpopularity of a team tainted by the increasing bullishness of Dave Brailsford in the face of legitimate questions

When Team Sky changed their jerseys from black to white for this year’s Tour de France, it was a fairly transparent attempt to rebrand themselves as good guys. A line of eight or nine riders in pitch-black uniforms stretching out at the front of the peloton day after day, squeezing the life out of the competition, was never a sympathetic look.

So now, as Chris Froome closes to within one 22.5km time trial around the sights of Marseille and one ceremonial parade into Paris of his fourth Tour win in five years, did it do the job? On an aesthetic level, perhaps it did. The Sky squad still rode on the front, all eight of them en bloc after an accident forced Geraint Thomas to withdraw, but the sight of that crushing might was less oppressive.

Related: How Stephen Roche ruled cycling in 1987 | Steven Pye

Related: Boasson Hagen breaks clear to win stage 19 as Froome tightens grip on Tour title

Related: Orica-Scott: 24 hours on the road with the Australian Tour de France team

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/21/team-sky-tour-de-france-dave-brailsford

Jul 07

The punishments for Peter Sagan and Sebastian Vettel cast F1 in a poor light | Richard Williams

The Tour de France took the brave decision to disqualify the world champion but the FIA chose the expedient option on Vettel’s clash with Lewis Hamilton

Did Sebastian Vettel really steer into Lewis Hamilton on purpose? And was there malice in Peter Sagan’s mind when his elbow flew out and Mark Cavendish was pitched into the barriers? The evidence of the last fortnight in top-level sport supports what any junior reporter will tell you, which is that an incident witnessed by more than one person almost invariably produces conflicting interpretations.

Related: Lewis Hamilton asks FIA for explanation over Vettel decision

Related: Tour de France will miss Peter Sagan’s star power but safety must come first | William Fotheringham

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/07/peter-sagan-sebastian-vettel-lewis-hamilton-mark-cavendish-discipline

Jun 30

Mont Ventoux casts shadow on 2017 Tour de France despite absence from route | Richard Williams

The Giant of Provence may only glower in the distance this time but 50 years after Tom Simpson died close to the summit many will be thinking of himThe riders of the Tour de France will not be required to climb the Mont Ventoux this year but they will …

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/30/mont-ventoux-cast-shadow-tour-de-france-despite-absence-route-tom-simpson

May 19

Vote Paris and keep the Olympics out of Donald Trump’s sticky little fingers | Richard Williams

The IOC has the choice of Paris or Los Angeles to host the 2024 Olympic Games and both have relatively sensible proposals

With the contest for the right to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games down to the last two contestants and nearing a final verdict, there may be several good reasons for giving Paris the right to stage the 2024 Olympics while postponing the return of the Games to Los Angeles until four years later. The most compelling of them must surely be that such a decision would put the Olympics out of the reach of Donald Trump’s sticky little fingers.

The two-term limit of the recently inaugurated US president will end in 2025 – unless, that is, Trump decides to follow the example of Julius Caesar and declare himself dictator perpetuo. He might even emulate Caligula by pronouncing himself divine before presiding over the Games on a golden throne. And then why not go all the way? In the Olympics of 67AD, Nero awarded himself an entry in the 10-horse chariot race. Having persuaded the organisers to insert the event into the schedule, Trump could then invent a local rule forcing all competitors who are not heads of state of the host nation to blindfold their horses.

Related: They smashed my face and demolished my home – all for the Rio Olympics | Maria da Penha Macena

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/19/paris-los-angeles-olympic-games-2024-donald-trump

Aug 26

Cal Crutchlow’s MotoGP triumph in Brno deserves Olympian acclaim | Richard Williams

The first British MotoGP win for 35 years went under the radar but he and his sport deserve a wider profile

For some, the imminent blizzard of damehoods, knighthoods and other honours for Britain’s medal winners in Rio will serve as a sharp reminder that John Surtees – the only man in history to have won world championships on two and four wheels – continues, at 82, to be denied the title bestowed upon Sir Jackie Stewart and Sir Stirling Moss, not to mention Sir Philip Green.

Silverstone’s grandstands and grass banks will be full of enthusiasts to witness next week’s MotoGP meeting, but motorbike racing has never enjoyed much in the way of status in Britain, even though the top international formula was dominated for several decades not only by Surtees but also by Geoff Duke, Mike Hailwood, Phil Read and Barry Sheene. So it was no surprise when Cal Crutchlow’s success at Brno last weekend – the first for a British rider since Sheene’s win in Sweden 35 years ago – went widely unnoticed, drowned in the acclaim for various homeward-bound tumblers, pedallers, trampolinists, divers and dressage artists.

Crutchlow’s success reminded me of watching Keke Rosberg at Monaco in 1983 when Nico’s dad gambled on starting on slicks

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2016/aug/26/cal-crutchlow-motogp-brno-richard-williams

Nov 23

Lewis Hamilton joins F1’s very best after becoming serial title winner | Richard Williams

Second drivers’ crown sets 29-year-old Briton on path to becoming one of the great champions
• Hamilton wins Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to take title

Next to Lewis Hamilton’s brilliance at the wheel he is noted for his mood swings. He is the grand prix driver who does not appear to have had Kipling’s lessons about triumph and disaster recited to him from the cradle onwards. Whatever is going on in his life tends to be reflected in his face and in his performance.

His mood will never have swung higher than after the result that finally, at the end of his eighth season in Formula One, sets him on the path to becoming one of the great champions, a status that is earned only by winning the title once and then going back and winning it again.

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2014/nov/23/lewis-hamilton-sweeps-away-doubts-serial-title-winner

Nov 21

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg rivalry as team-mates nothing new in F1 | Richard Williams

Merecedes’ reliabilty has increased the chance of both their drivers aiming to be crowned world champion after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

From Cain and Abel via Hamlet and Claudius and Michael and Fredo Corleone to the Milibands, fratricide always pulls a crowd. And in Formula One there is nothing as exhilarating, and at times as blood-freezing, as a battle between team-mates with identical machinery at their disposal and the stakes at their highest.

Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a floodlit event in a billionaires’ neon playground spiced by the unprecedented contrivance of the award of double points, promises a hot-blooded brotherly tussle to match the epic confrontations of the past: a showdown between the two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who have been racing each other since they were schoolboys and are now competing for the biggest prize in their sport.

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/nov/21/lewis-hamilton-nico-rosberg-team-mates-abu-dhabi-grand-prix

Oct 31

F1s meritocracy undone by letting richest teams write the regulations | Richard Williams

Money always talked but once you could rise from sweeping the floor to running teams built from scratch. Now, as Marussia and Caterham teeter, the best-funded have all the powerOne by one, the legendary figures of a golden era Stirling Moss, John Surt…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2014/oct/31/f1-richest-teams-regulations-marussia-caterham

Oct 10

Why Formula One should improve safety without removing risk | Richard Williams

Almost all accidents contain some element of the freakish and unforeseen, and close analysis of their individual features has become the way F1 improves its safety standards F1 drivers to demand safety assurances F1 safety heightened at Russian GP in w…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2014/oct/10/formula-one-safety-risk

Aug 30

Cal Crutchlow takes Ducati gamble to follow Barry Sheene dream | Richard Williams

British Grand Prix gives Yamaha rider chance to end 32-year wait for a GB elite-class win but the long game is the world title

Silverstone hasn’t been the luckiest of places for Cal Crutchlow. Two years ago, in his rookie season as a MotoGP rider, he crashed in qualifying for the British Grand Prix, broke his collarbone and was forced to miss the race. Last year he had another spill in practice and broke an ankle but made it on to the grid and finished a brave sixth.

It had a nasty surprise for him on Friday, too, when he set off in the morning’s free practice session only to discover that a wasp had found its way into his leathers. “I was beating my chest to try to kill it,” he said. “The crowd must have thought I was pretending to be Tarzan but it stung me three times. Quiet painful.”

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2013/aug/30/cal-crutchlow-ducati-barry-sheene