The collector: Mark Smith, Senior Research Fellow in Sustainable Design at Birmingham Insitute of Art & Design (UK).
The collection: Scale model, die cast cycling figures, designed and manufactured in France since the 1950s.
Tell us the story behind your collection...
I have always been keen on the great outdoors, so it is no surprise I enjoy cycling. If you are a bike nut, you are in a tiny minority despite recent the Olympic success that has raised the profile of pro cycling in the UK. Road racing represents the epitome of the sport, and grand tours offer a spectacle unmatched by any other sport. I have travelled to France to see the Tour de France on several occasions, and this is where I spotted the figures in a shop.
Why collect these?
They seem like an unusual piece of cycling memorabilia. The first one I bought is the spotted jersey figure, or King of the Mountains. This is arguably the most romantic jersey, awarded to the rider who proves to be the best at climbing. Grand tours can be won and lost in the mountains, and the greats of the sport are typically those that have proved their worth in the big hills. Multi stage races are a mix of tactics, alliances, luck, stamina and mental strength. There are races within races; only a few riders are capable of winning the whole event (in the tour de France depicted as the wearer of the yellow jersey). To keep interest, sponsors introduced other jerseys, hence the spotted jersey for mountains and the green jersey for sprinters.
What is it you like about them?
They are unusual and represent a sort of evolution of the sport in the post-war years. Some have national jerseys, others sport commercial sponsors. The one in yellow with the legend ‘Molteni’ is presumably the great Eddy Merckx. Other jerseys are also represented, including the king of the mountains. In addition to various yellow jerseys, there are world champions, green jerseys and so on. Other races get a nod; in the Giro d’Italia, the race leader wears a pink jersey. The bike designs have also clearly changed.
Do you have a favourite?
The spotty jersey; it was the first, and the best one to find. If I can be reincarnated, I’d like to win that jersey. I know what it takes to get up hills, and admire these guys.
Mark's recommendations for further reading:
The website of Fonderi Roger - the original manufacturere since the 1950s.
Images © Graham Powell with the kind permission of Mark Smith.