“I wish I could have raced in a sandwich-board sign that said ‘I make $166.66/month, so everyone give me break’.”
Phil ‘the thrill’ Gaimon is an elite cyclist who has won some races. And lost many more. An accomplished time trialler and climber in his late twenties, the American currently gets paid to ride on the UCI ProTour for Garmin-Sharp. Which is a big step up from the majority of his early career in the States, when as a struggling rider on modest NRC teams he was often fortunate to be paid at all. “Pro Cycling on $10 a Day” is the enlightening story of how Gaimon got there – the ups, the downs, the colourful characters, the down-right scumbags and seemingly endless practical jokes. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the most enjoyable cycling biographies I’ve ever read. And I’ve read plenty.
As the author, also a blogger, proudly espouses from the get-go no shadow writer has been used here; the words are entirely his own. Somehow this makes the never-ending procession of humorous quotes and no-holds-barred turns of phrase even more enjoyable. Yes, the guy can ride. But he can also write. Indeed if there was a Tour de France for current ProTour cyclists who can string a few entertaining words together, well, Gaimon would likely be a very short favourite. (Did I mention he also does t-shirts and was once runner up in the Georgia State Yo-Yo Championships?)
Perhaps the greatest appeal of “Pro Cycling on $10 a Day” is that it’s no sanitised Hollywood fairy tale. Rather than rags to riches, it’s more like ‘rags to slightly better rags’ providing a warts and all window into one man’s long and often fraught journey to road cycling’s biggest stage. In short, easy to read chapters Gaimon details anecdote after entertaining anecdote, highlighting years of hard slog on the domestic USA circuit, countless mistakes and missed opportunities, and innumerable sacrifices that, after many false dawns, finally saw him crack the big time when signed by Garmin-Sharp for the 2014 season from Bissell Pro Cycling. He started alright too winning Stage One and finishing second overall at the Tour de San Luis behind Nairo Quintana (Missed that? Probably because most of us Aussies were to busy focussing on Adelaide at the time).
As quickly becomes clear nothing is sacred to Gaimon and, in an age where spin doctors all too often sanitise things to within an inch of its life, I loved the book for that reason. Plenty of familiar names also pop up along the way including a who’s who of American cycling over the last decade or so including:
- Tyler Hamilton – who the book is hilariously and sarcastically dedicated to, or at least his “tragically vanishing chimeric twin sibling” (together with Lance Armstrong’s “famous missing testicle”)
- Frankie Andreu – who guided Gaimon for several years at the US Continental squad, Kenda
- Floyd Landis – who he mischievously suggested had a small manhood during a nature stop at the Tour of California
- Lance Armstrong – who he regrets missing the opportunity to punch in the testicle at the same Tour of California
- Even Aussie riders Will Clarke and Ben Day (who joined Kenda in the aftermath of the Pegasus team debacle) get a mention.
Raw, scathing, colourful, candid. This is a great yarn for anyone interested in what really happens behind the scenes in the unforgiving world of pro cycling. Thoroughly recommended.