It takes me a while to read books. I usually have about 10 books that I look through at a time, and around 3 that I’m reading seriously. I just finished “A Dog In A Hat” by Joe Parkin today, as it was too hot to do much else, and I’ve got to say, I was impressed by it.
You may not know Joe Parkin right out of the gate. He didn’t win the Tour de France, heck, he never raced the Tour de France. This frank, insightful, and very engaging memoir follows Joe’s life as he made the leap, beccoming a professional bike racer in Belgium. His story is one of a second tier professional racer, and you can get the gritty, mud and sweat filled taste of racing within one of the most respected racing countries around the globe. It is a sometimes shocking glimpse into a drug riddled sport, filled with deception, betrayal, spandex, and deceit.
It takes a certain type of person to race bikes professionally. I don’t personally know any professional cyclists, but from memoirs and stories I’ve read and heard, it is unlikely that I would be close with any of them. For one, professional cycling takes up so much of ones time, that they are wholly dedicated to it, and it’s unlikely that we would travel the same circles. It reminds me of the song “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be Cowboys”
“They’ll never stay home and they’re always alone, even with someone they love”
And, well, sometimes they can sound a little cocky, full of themselves, and little bit like a prima donna. This doesn’t prevent me from being fascinated by the sport of cycling, as well as the riders.
A Dog in a Hat is one of the better books I have read regarding racing, and I enjoyed an American’s perspective on European racing. I found out a lot about Belgian racing, and it is pretty gnarly. Kermis racing, new to me before, sounds like a blessing and curse. I can’t help but envy the folks in Belgium, who have so many opportunities to watch racing in their daily lives. The racers give their all for prizes equaling what a mid sized alley cat might offer. I have a healthy respect for people that push their bodies to the limit, it order to excel in their sport. Cycling and doping can often be found in the same sentence, and are rarely found without the other in an article, or even paragraph. Joe’s stories of people’s concoctions, various ways of getting a jump on the competition, and the sometimes comical outcome is well written, and definitely worth the read.
Last I heard, Joe Parkin is now a reviewer for Bike Radar, and I look forward to his expertise and writing style in the future. Great job Joe.
“A Dog In A Hat” 2009 Velopress $21.95