Book Review: Pro cycling on $10 a day by

From the publisher:

Pro Cycling on $10 a Day chronicles the racer’s daily lot of blood-soaked bandages, sleazy motels, cheap food, and overflowing toilets. But it also celebrates the true beauty of the sport and the worth of the journey, proving in the end that even among the narrow ranks of world-class professional cycling, there will always be room for a hard-working outsider.

Presented here as a guide—and a warning—to aspiring racers who dream of joining the professional racing circus, Phil’s adventures in road rash serve as a hilarious and cautionary tale of frustrating team directors and broken promises. Phil’s education in the ways of the peloton, his discouraging negotiations for a better contract, his endless miles crisscrossing America in pursuit of race wins, and his conviction that somewhere just around the corner lies the ticket to the big time fuel this tale of hope and ambition from one of cycling’s best story-tellers.

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I read a lot of books, but rarely do I find a book that lives up to the hype. Case in point both the 7-11 book and Mark Cavendish’s second title, At Speed,  proved interesting in content but fell short on delivery. So I was excited to open and finish Phil Gaimon’s first title, Pro cycling on $10 a day. Overall, I found the book entertaining from the outset and filled with some kernels of wisdom for the aspiring pro, as well as the seasoned veteran. I also found myself recalling so many parallel memories of my own racing careers; still, I could have used a lot of this insight myself 15 years ago!

Based on the book jacket, I’d say the book delivers on exactly what it is advertised to be. It is a no holds barred account of one cyclist’s crawl to the top of the pro cycling world. While the book is largely a reorganization of Phil’s blog from Velo, I won’t fault him for it, because he’s not the first to do it, but he actually does it well. His stories are funny many times over, yet filled with great pieces of advice on training and living the life of a $5000/year pro. I’m certain there are a couple pro team managers (mentioned in the book) who probably wish the book was never written, or at least their names stayed out of it. But the truth is, many developing pros are getting screwed big time by teams taking full advantage of the rules and the fact that riders are desperate for a chance to make it to the big leagues. It is akin to arguing that minimum wage employees should feel lucky to just have any job. Phil opens up this dirty little secret to newbs, who can know what to expect, and managers who can perhaps be a bit more ethical!

Here are a few bits I liked:

I’d like to dedicate this work to the memory of Tyler’s [Hamilton] tragically “vanishing” chimeric twin sibling and to Lance Armstrong’s missing testicle. May they rest in peace.

Jeremy [Powers] caught me weighing myself which earned me another dose of tough love, “Phil, its December! You need to eat when you train and get that power up. Feed the beast! Take that scale out again and we’ll see what your teeth weigh! It’s time to get serious!

Somehow, despite the fact the team had only won two races all year…The plan was to outclimb all the world-class pros the last time up Paris Mountain…Danny [VanHaute] wasn’t specific…So the plan was to win, and the rest of the meeting was devoted to a more important topic: the design of the star-and-stripes jersey.

There’s so much to like about this book, but if you don’t like vulgar language, or immature behavior (yeah, thats bike racing) then this book might not be for you. However, if you are looking for a humorous yet serious look at the bottom rung of pro bike racing in the US, I highly recommend this book. It should be a fast read.

Verdict: A
A great light read for anyone interested in learning about the real world of entry level pro racing in the US.

Those interested in hearing more tales from Phil Gaimon should listen to his interview from the Semi-pro cycling podcast.

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