Friday, July 30, 2021
HomeOtherBook ReviewsBook Review: "Oh, THAT Tour!" by Paul Jesson

Book Review: “Oh, THAT Tour!” by Paul Jesson

-

May 1980 and Splendor professional Paul Jesson becomes the first cyclist from New Zealand to win a Grand Tour stage; Burgos to Santander, Stage 10 of the Vuelta a Espana in front of huge, entertainment starved crowds in post Franco Spain.

Paul Jesson
Paul takes Stage 10 of the 1980 Vuelta, and the possibilities of a great career become clearer. Photo©supplied

He’d also made the podium, earlier in the season of the hard man’s semi-classic Nokere Koerse.

But just a few weeks after his Vuelta triumph he was riding the prologue of the Dauphine Libere, the Tour de France ‘warm up’ stage race and as he explained to me a few years ago when I interviewed him, this happened; 

I was round the circuit three times before the start to familiarise myself with the parcours, that’s about all I can remember. 

I hit a parked car during the race – a Lancia, apparently – with my knee and was unconscious for a couple of weeks after. 

I learned later that I was unlucky with the medical care: I was admitted as the shifts changed and there was no proper control of my circulation.

With an injury such as that you have to make sure that the blood keeps moving – if there’s no blood circulation for a period of six hours then that’s a real problem. 

“I was operated on by a specialist in Belgium who operated on the likes of Michel Pollentier and top moto-cross riders but eventually the leg had to be removed, it was black, dead.”

His youth, form, and solid contract with one of the best teams of the day meant nothing, he’d gone from being one of the best bike riders on the planet to a ‘cripple’

NZ Cyclist, Paul Jesson competes in the Men’s Individual Pursuit (LC3) Qualifying Round at the Olympic Valedrome, Athens, Greece on Saturday, 18 September, 2004. Jesson qualified to the next round with a time of 4:16.25. PHOTO: Hannah Johnston/PHOTOSPORT

Jesson has recently finished his autobiography; ‘Oh, THAT Tour!’, the title coming from his introduction to the pro ranks, as he explained: 

Because of the results I’d been getting I received a few offers from pro teams and in ’79 Splendor contacted me. 

They came to see me and said; “we want you to sign a contract with us, we have a tour we want you to ride.” 

I asked how long it was and they replied; ’23 days.’

I remember saying; ‘Oh, that Tour!’ So that’s how my first race as a full pro came to be the Tour de France.”

Paul Jesson
Paul Jesson in Splendor colours. Photo©supplied

The book isn’t a conventionally structured tome, starting with a short chapter about the Paralympics time trial/road race bronze medal he came back and won in Athens some 24 years after his Vuelta stage win.

Then we go back to his roots; in fact, way back to his ancestors, in perhaps a little too much detail for cycle race information obsessed me – but if you’re into genealogy then you’ll love this section.

Paul Jesson rode for Watties in his youth. Photo©supplied

The young Jesson’s development as a person and rider comes next and then a couple of very thorough chapters on his New Zealand race career; he was 1976 New Zealand cyclist of the year.

That same season he won his home races, the Dulux Tour and the Tour of The Southland, which is still a major race in the southern hemisphere season. 

Jesson won the Southland twice off four starts and on the other two occasions he was second.

Paul Jesson. Photo©supplied

Season 1976 was also the year, the by now 21 year-old from Christchurch won the five day Etoile Hennuyere in Belgium, the previous year the race was won by Paris-Tours, GP des Nations and Barrachi Trophy winner, Jean Luc Vandenbroucke.

Jesson recalls;

I was in the New Zealand national squad; we were really just there for training for the Milk Race in Britain. 

We went with no expectations but I ended up winning overall and my team mate Blair Stockwell took the last stage. 

“I used to race the New Zealand road season then go to work to get money together so as I could come back to Europe to race in the northern hemisphere summer. 

“I’d ride a full programme in Belgium, from stage races down to the kermises.” 

Paul Jesson
Paul (on the far right) shares the Vuelta podium with Sean Kelly, Faustino Ruperez and Miguel Lasa. Photo©supplied

Despite Jesson’s major successes in ‘76, he failed to gain selection for his big goal, the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada – where the road race was won by Australia’s Phil Anderson. 

Jesson explained to me;

I had back problems in ’77 and didn’t have the same kind of form as I did during the previous year. 

I was made ‘non travelling reserve’ for the Games but I was going well in Europe.

“I was second in the Tour of Liege and second in the Tour of Wallonia.

“They were both five day stage races with just a few days between them and I was the only Belgian based rider to compete in both of them.”

Paul Jesson on the attack. Photo©supplied

And going back to his, ‘Oh THAT Tour !’ book title – when Splendor signed him they gave him the security of an 18 month contract and made him only the second rider after Lucien Van Impe to ride the Tour de France as their initiation to the professional peloton.

His Splendor pro career is dealt with in some depth up to his dreadful crash.

Paul Jesson with Danny Clark. Photo©supplied

His long fight back from his horrible injury and battles with depression and personal problems come next.

Then there’s his comeback and build up to his Para-cycling Worlds and Olympic medals – which are dealt with in some detail.

And without giving anything away, it’s always good to have a ‘happy ending.’

Photo©supplied

Two nice features of the book are the plethora of good images from all phases of Jesson’s life and career and the appendices which many other cycling books would do well to emulate.

Appendix One covers all of Jesson’s major results; amateur, professional and para.

Appendix Two lists the team mates, friends and rivals he encountered during his career.

Whilst Appendix Three lists all of New Zealand’s Grand Tour participants 1928 to 2018.

If you’d like a copy, Paul explains: 

At present while trying to cover printing and photo copyright costs only Des Williams and I have copies and we are sending them out by mail.

“Price of the book is $39.50nz 

“Postage in New Zealand is $5.50

“To UK Europe and US postage is $25 and Australia $12.50

“All this info is on the last post I put on the Facebook ‘nzcycling remembered’ page.

So people need to contact Des Williams or myself by Facebook messenger if they want a signed copy.”

We’d recommend you do. 

Photo©supplied

“’Oh, THAT Tour’ The Paul Jesson Story” by Des Williams
240 pp., softbound
Publisher: Last Side Publishing Limited, Hamilton, New Zealand.
ISBN 978-0-473-46989-4
Suggested Retail Price: $39.50nz 
Postage in New Zealand is $5.50
To UK Europe and US postage is $25 and Australia $12.50

CoverDesign
Last Side Publishing Limited.
Front cover image: John Coles PhotoSport International.
Back cover: Paul Jesson Collection (top) and Paralympics New Zealand.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

A night at the races – Belgian style!

Friday night, at this time I'm usually battling to get over the Forth Bridge before the traffic goes critical mass. Not tonight though, we may be battling through the tail-backs, but it's on the motorway out of Ghent, headed for a night at the races, Oosterzele and a 70 kilometre criterium. And besides, the reverend Al Green is on the car stereo telling us that; "Love is the message!" For sure, Al.

Michael Nicolson – Back to Blighty with Starley Primal

It’s a sad day; VeloVeritas has lost our man in the Flatlands front line - Michael Nicolson. He’s back in the UK for 2014 and signed up with new team, Starley Primal – new home too for fellow Scot, Davie Lines. We thought we’d best have a word...

Evan Oliphant – Looking forward to Ghent-Wevelgem

We caught up with Scottish professional Evan Oliphant shortly after he returned from a winter spent racing in Australia, and just prior to his new DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed team's official launch in Holland.

Joshua Cunningham – “I just need to get my arms in the air”

With our Flatlands boys Douglas Dewey and Llewellyn Kinch heading south to race in France for 2013 we decided we’d best have a word with Rayner Fund rider Joshua Cunningham to see what’s happening in Belgium?

The Escape Artist by Matt Seaton

"The Escape Artist" by Matt Seaton, the critically acclaimed memoir about his obsession for cycling and how that obsession was tamed. For a time there were four bikes in Matt Seaton's life. His evenings were spent 'doing the miles' on the roads out of south London and into the hills of the North Downs and Kent Weald.

Giving It A Go In Belgium

Giving It A Go In Belgium; In part four of our (irregular) series on racing as an amateur in Belgium, VeloVeritas own web manager and editor, Martin, talks about when he had some time in the mid-80’s between completing a college course and starting a new job, and decided to head off to Flanders for the season...

At Random

Patrick Sercu

After a long illness, former Olympic Champion Patrick Sercu, holder of 58 other titles at World, European and National level, undisputed Six Day king with 88 wins and Tour de France green jersey, passed away today, 19th April in Belgium.

Dan Patton Blog – Getting Back On It

So I thought it was about time I posted another Dan Patton Blog update, I've been rather quiet of late and the reason being quite simply there's not been much to talk about. I've been plagued by misfortune after misfortune this winter which ironically gave me lots more time to update the blog, yet I was short of anything really interesting to say - until now that is...

Il Giro d’Italia 2014 – Stage 5; Taranto – Viggiano, 200 km. Diego Ulissi Outsprints

It took six days but we got there in the end – the Giro has finally started; no gimmick locations, horrible transfers or rider protests. Simply hard racing in the beautiful Italian countryside and sunshine at the finish – that’s more like it. But before we look at Stage Five we have last words on the Stage Four debacle from our resident sage and prophet, Vik. He couldn’t be contacted after the stage, retreating to his cave high in the Pentland Hills to ponder the ‘semi-neutralisation’ of the Stage Four due to rain.

Jason MacIntyre – British Circuit Time Trial Champion

We make no apology for interviewing Jason MacIntyre again. It's not every day that a Scotsman pulls-on a British champion's jersey and the Fort William man did that very thing after Sunday's British circuit time trial championship near Farnborough. In second place was multiple time trial champion and fourth-placed in last winter's Commonwealth Games TT, Michael Hutchison.

Kyle Gordon – Big Plans for 2020 and Life in the HUUB House

But we’re pretty sure that no 100 mile time trial champion has ever been on the keirin podium? Enter, that man Kyle Gordon – quality time tester, ever-improving pursuiter and now sprinter. We caught up with the man from Alness just before he jetted off to Australia and a round of the UCI Track World Cup.

Paul Jesson – Winning at La Vuelta and the Paralympics

After strong amateur results Paul Jessonhad been offered a two-year deal with Splendor in the Spring of 1979, and although he was eliminated in that 1979 Tour, his promise was confirmed in the 1980 Vuelta, then held in Spring, when he won the stage to Santander.