While Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Geraint Thomas set off for the first day of the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia today, it seems apposite to look back on some of the great winners of this beautiful Grand Tour. Artist Richard Long has created a series of portraits of legendary cyclists from days gone by to help us do just that.
Influenced by vintage posters of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s and illustrators like René Gruau, Richard’s portraits capture an essence of the glamour, glory and heroism of these cycling greats from another era. Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali and Jacques Anquetil are just the first of a series of prints that he is working on at the moment. We caught up with him in his studio/bike shed in a village in the New Forest to find out what inspires him.
Richard’s location in the quiet lanes of this part of the world give him access to hundreds of miles of gravel tracks that interweave the entire area and he makes the most of losing himself in the quiet surroundings on his bike whenever he can. He’s moved on from the Raleigh Tomahawk he learnt to ride on as a child, although he has fond memories of those formative years.
“I grew up in Southampton and like every other kid in the 1970s I travelled everywhere by bike. I miss those days when you could just jump on your bike and ride down the local park, a playing card clipped to the rear seat with a peg which made the most delightful sound! No helmets and no concerns.”
Gripped by the mountain bike fever that swept the UK in the early 90s he has since then spent years exploring the hidden roads, tracks and trails of Hampshire and the New Forest as well as taking part in many Trail Quest events. He loves to organise expeditions with friends and has covered the South Downs Way, The Ridgeway, Exmoor, The Isle of Wight and the trails of the Afan Forest.
It wasn’t until Channel 4 began broadcasting the Tour de France that he began to notice road cycling but he and wife Katherine became instantly hooked. He became completely absorbed and immersed himself in books and films, every aspect, past and present of the beautiful sport.
“We were completely drawn in by the excitement, drama, colour and beautiful scenery as we followed its progress. My love of road bikes has kind of just crept up on me since then. I follow as much as I can through the racing season. The spring classics, the Giro, Tour and Vuelta all make for regular viewing in our house…It’s like a drug and I can’t get enough."
His enthusiasm has spread to his work, hence the series of portraits of cycling greats. His technique is to start with a simple pencil sketch which he develops into a pen and ink drawing. He adds basic colour by hand, applying inks, water colours or acrylic paint. Once he’s happy with that he scans the image into a computer to clean it up and add additional colour on photoshop. The process sometimes takes several attempts before he is happy.
The result is a series of stunning giclee prints that we at Ride Velo are delighted to offer for sale. For a very affordable price you can own a limited edition, signed print on quality paper that celebrates cycling’s rich heritage.
Richard is excited about being part of an emerging tranche of talented artists, bespoke bike builders and clothing manufacturers that are making such an impact at the moment as they satisfy the demand for the massive interest in cycling these days.
He’s also looking forward to taking part in a few sportives this summer, especially the Lapierre white roads classic in July set on the chalk roads of the Ridgeway that emulates the famous Strade Bianche in the Tuscan Hills. “I can’t help but be drawn to a bit of off road. Fingers crossed for some Tuscan sunshine!”
With a single speed, road bike and fabulous Pashley Roadster in the studio and a mountain bike out the back, it’s a wonder he’s able to find the time to work! We can’t wait to see further portraits which we will, of course, be offering for sale through our online shop. Look out for Alfredo Binda, Bernard Hinault and the great Eddy Merckx, all to come.