To the moon and back
Go well, Buffalo
The soundtrack to most summers is a bouncy new pop anthem. Something like Rather Be - fresh, full of hope, uplifting & carefree. But for the last half decade or so, my summer has been defined by the same tune; Amaraterra’s Cozze. Always at full volume, always at 8AM, always southbound on the A1.
As soon as I started listening to The Cycling Podcast, it defined my summer routine. The daily Grand Tour diary on the way into work, then the highlights on Youtube once I’d sat behind my desk.
Prior to TCP, through a combination of student life, lack of occupation and convenient holidays, I’d always been able to watch the stages live. But once the bitter reality of every day life got in the way of my ability to watch European countryside roll by for hours on end, it gave me my little daily fix - a drug that is injected straight into your ears, soaking through your brain and storing itself permanently in your bloodstream. Not so much chasing the dragon as chasing the peloton.
Once I started listening, I suddenly found video highlights mechanical, and watched them with an almost disinterested, robotic air. That was because for 45 minutes, TCP would transport you to race, right there in the thick in the action. I could almost feel myself jostling with the world’s best climbers, willing on the breakaway from a cafe at the side of the road, searching for a bar after it was all over to sit and summarise. The cycling was always front and centre, yet it somehow became secondary to the sense of place TCP conveyed.
Every Grand Tour, taking in racing through TCP was almost a process of osmosis. It has an almost unbelievable ability to make you feel in the white heat of the race, feeling the dirt the peloton kicks up as it hits your face. You were no longer a distant fan, spectating from thousands of miles away. You were breathing in the race by the roadside, soaking in the local culture and slowly going native. That is, I think, why TCP is so successful. It gives us the chance to experience cycling in a way that suits it best; secondhand, through the lens of brilliant journalists.
It's important to remember that cycling was created to sell newspapers. In the days before TV, those listening on the radio or reading the day after in the pages of Gazzetta dello Sport and L'Équipe relied on the skill of writers to lay the scene, to create Shakespearian dramas amidst the soaring heights of monstrous climbs. It was romantic, melodramatic, sometimes fantastical. Part of the reason cycling’s ‘heroic period’ coincides with the pre-TV era is that journalists, unshackled by what people had seen with their own eyes, were able to use their skill to create legends and epics that we retell today.
It’s a world many of us never got to experience- that is, until Richard Moore and The Cycling Podcast came along. His work helped turn me from the casual cycling fan eager to know more I was when I first subscribed to the fanatic I am now, the man who scrabbles to find highlights and will watch them regardless of the language I find them in. I have Richard Moore to thank. For thousands of TCP listeners, his ability to convey not only the romance of cycling, but the surroundings, the personalities, the inconsistencies, intricacies and vagaries transformed it from spectator to participation sport.
Podcasting is a new media form. Our favourite hosts have direct, unfettered access to us that’s more akin to family than it is to broadcasters. They accompany us at spaces and times that we normally would only be accompanied by friends – when we’re cycling, sat in our cars in traffic, doing the laundry, enjoying a beer in the garden. That one-way pseudo relationship is why, although I never met him, his death feels like the loss of a personal friend. Reading comments in the various cycling groups I’m in, I realise I am joined by thousands of others.
But the direct access podcasters have means listeners require more from our favourite hosts than just technical journalistic skill. There are many podcasts that, in theory, do what TCP does but aren’t nearly as successful - either in terms of sheer numbers of listeners or the ardency of those listeners. That is because Richard Moore created an audio space in which you were greeted and involved like an old friend. He was a brilliant journalist, but here he was head and shoulders above all else. There are the obvious jokes about a face for radio, but the Buffalo had a personality for podcasting. His humour and warmth simply sang through the microphone, free from the forced blokey humour so many podcasts with three blokes talking about sport suffer from.
His death cannot take away the joy and spark he bought to cycling. The tributes and genuine grief that I’ve seen expressed by people, like me, who had never met Moore yet feel his loss personally, shows that his persona behind the microphone had the same influence on thousands of others as it did on me. Yet the tributes from those who actually knew him go to prove that Moore’s warm, friendly persona wasn’t a persona. It was his personality.
To those who knew Moore our sorrow is poor, poor comfort. We cannot bear, as you do, the full sadness of this loss. But our thoughts and prayers are yours.
Looking back on those glorious summer days, where the highlight of my day was listening to the voices of three men I’d never met discuss a race I hadn’t seen in the balmy morning sun, they are now suffused with sadness. Little did any of us know we’d never hear a warm, soft Scottish brogue ask ‘Where are we, Lionel?’ again. In such a position, I can think of fewer better words than those of Percy Shelley;
‘We look before and after,
And pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught’