HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The history of a collection
When I was a kid I used to play with cycling figurines. I had a big peloton that I pushed painstakingly with my finger along the corridor. The first figurines I remember were probably made by Sotorres. I have a hazy recollection of playing with them at my grandfather's flat near Montjuic, so that must have been before 1970. Incidentally, I also remember seeing the Volta a Catalunya in Montjuic with my grandfather, the first time I saw a race, probably in 1969. I also remember the day, a few years later, when I saw the big Sotorres box in a downtown store, and how I begged and begged until my mother was forced to buy it. It was one of the best presents I have ever had, and I have never forgotten that day. Until many years later (to be precise, until the day when I was able to buy the Sotorres box again, which was some 40 years later) every time I passed in front of where that store had been, I had to check that it was not there anymore.
However, my peloton was majoritarely formed of unbranded Spanish plastic figurines (now I know that they were an imitation of French Aludos) because (a) they were cheaper; (b) they were more stable and less prone to falls when pushed with the finger; and (c) I did not like so much the idea of a whole peloton eating and drinking constantly during the race (Sotorres figurines, being a copy of the French Starlux, seemed to be hungry all the time). A litlle later my peloton incorporated 4 metal Salza riders bought in France by my father. At that time (around 1975) Spanish currency (the now defunct Peseta) was worth almost nothing and the very few times we went to France we could hardly pay for a cup of coffeee, let alone luxury items as metal cyclists. Still I got four of them. However I did not use them much in my corridor races since they were too good compared to the others. I could push them much farther at every turn, and they rarely fell. That was not fair.
Although I was less interested in it at the time, at my grandfather's home there was also a velodrome board game. It is strange since, as losers of the Spanish civil war, my grandparents were condemned to poverty (my grandfather was unable to find a decent job since he did not even have papers; he spent thirty years of his life without documents and afraid of being arrested at any moment by the fascist regime). They could not afford luxury items, such as board games, so my father grew up with just two games at home, a parcheesi board and the mentioned velodrome. I have tried to find it among my parents things, but unfortunately all my efforts have been in vain. That board seems to be lost, and I have never been able to find another copy of that game. It is quite similar to this one, though, but it is not the same. Not being able to find the game my father had is arguably the biggest failure in my collection,
There was another cycling game in my childhood. As I have written somewhere else, when I was a kid I already had a penchant for inventing games. I once devised a very simple cycling game. I remember that the mountain squares were shorter and the descent squares were longer. It was a purely subjective feeling (you still had to advance a determined number of squares to reach the finishing line, no matter if the squares were long or short), but it was a real cycling game. I used Montaplex riders to play the game, since they were easy to buy in Barcelona in the early seventies and they they were small enough to fit in my board. Needless to say, this board has not survived either.
And then I grew up.
I spent the following twenty five years doing other things. "Sex & drugs & rock'n'roll", they say. (Don't take it literally, it's a joke. Check www.ankitoner.com if you are interested in seeing/hearing what I did).
And then I grew old.
"Too old to rock'nroll, to young to die", they say. (Don't take it literally either, I was not even forty). Probably one day I saw a cycling game in a shop and I bought it. And then I saw another game at a market and I also bought it. But I could not say I was collectiong games Who would ever collect cycling games anyway? Besides, how many cycling games could there be? Probably not enough to form something worth being called "a collection".
And then came the internet.
Suddenly you could buy things from all over the world (and during the first years, even at decent prices). And what was better, you had information about what was being made in different parts of the world. That's how I learned that the Germans were making interesting games, that they even had an award to the best game of the year, and that in 1992 this award had been given to a cycling game. So I bought "Um Reifenbreite". And I liked it, of course I did, but I felt something was missing. Maybe I could change some rules. But before I had to check if there were other games around which had already done the job. I started browsing the web, searching for other cycling games. Anyway, there could not be many cycling games, could it?
Less than year later I was collecting games. The symptoms were:
(a) Paying more than I should for a game. The first time I did that was for Maillot Jaune. Since then I think have learned not to pay more than it is reasonable for a game (although sometimes it is difficult).
(b) Buying different editions of the same game. That started with Der Ausreisser, and I still do it, although I do not need all the variations of a game (specially if the game comes in a big box).
And then I decided to share the information.
In august 2003 I launched this website. At the time it was cyclingboardgames.tk (do not click, it does not work anymore), and it featured around 40 games. It also featured information about games I did not have. Back then I wanted to present every possible cycling game even made, regardless of whether I possesed a copy or I didn't.
I admit I was quite naive. As I started meeting other collectors I realized it was not such a good idea. The late (and much missed) Geert Lagrou, who invited me to his home in Veldegem just to meet me personally and to share our experiences, talked me about some games provided that I did not mention them, since he was still trying to find them and he felt that some collectors would take advantage of the information and bid against him. I eventually decided not to include in the site games that I do not have (or at least, that I did not photograph myself, as I explain in the FAQ section).
Only a couple of years later the website featured more than 100 games and included a "What's New" section for frequent visitors. From that moment on you can follow the history of the website just by checking that section , so I am just going to mention here a few milestones:
As you may have observed, the growth of the website is surprisingly regular. There were 150 games for the 5th anniversary of the website, 300 games for the 10th, and 450 games for the 15th anniversay. I was not aware of that until I counted the games for this text. The problem is that I may expect to add another 150 games to the collection in the next 5 years. As you can suspect, I have a serious problem of storage space. On the other hand, this kinda answers the question I asked above, "how many cycling games can there be?". I am afraid that the answer depends on how long you have been collecting them. The number of games (games created in the past, I mean) seems to grow retroactively. I will have to learn to live with that.
Since we are dealing with numbers, let me say that I do not keep track of the visits to the web. Numbers offered by visit counting software always look suspiciously high to me (what counts as a visit anyway?) and I since do not intend to have ads in the site, I do not see the point in checking the visits. However, in these 15 years, almost 400 different people have written to the website's email address to make questions or suggestions, which means that I have received a message from an unknown person every couple of weeks. Some of these people have written many more times, with some are regular contributors to the site, some have become friends. These I do count as real visits to the site.
Finally, I will try to answer (briefly) to the question that I have been asked many times: "why do I do this?". I am generally satisfied to answer "Why not?", but I can say the same it in a few more words: I try to keep some aspects of my life (as many as I can, in fact) disconnected from this dystopia we are all heading into. Having said that, let me confess one thing I have discovered over the years: I do not buy games, I offer myself the games as a present. To be more precise, I offer the games as a present to the kid I once was. It is important not to lose contact with one's childhood. At least that's my case. Times may change, but we do not change so much. Nor we do want to.
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