Cycling books for summer reading

Books on reviewSummer is the time to slow down and crack open a book. And the way this heat is smothering the Southeast, reading a book about cycling might be the best option.

Recently four books made have occupied the bed stand at Carolina Cycling News: The Happiness of Pursuit by Davis Phinney, The Belgian Hammer by Daniel Lee, Not Dead Yet by Phil Southerland and John Hanc, and Life in the Slipstream by Andrew Homan.

The Happiness of Pursuit: A Father’s Courage, a Son’s Love and Life’s Steepest Climb
The Happiness of Pursuit is the story of Davis Phinney’s battle with Parkinson’s. It’s a good read that gives a deeper insight into Phinney the person, rather than Phinney the racer. Not to say Phinney’s book is entirely devoid of cycling stories. I like the story when he moves in with his then girlfriend, now wife, Connie Carpenter and she returns to racing, wins gold in the 1984 Olympics and then retires. Personally, I like to read these types of books as they give inspiration and a peek behind the curtains to see some of our most famous athletes. It turns out they are often a lot like us – at times scared and wondering what the future contains. I wish nothing but good fortune for Davis.

Not Dead Yet: My Race Against Disease: From Diagnosis to Dominance
Phil Southerland’s story is one that tells of how he is living with and managing his Type 1 diabetes. Southerland was diagnosed with Type 1 at a young age, and yet went on to become a professional cyclist and start his own foundation.

His story has more of a cycling focus than Phinney’s, but still conveys the message of living with Type 1 diabetes. One common thread I see with all elite athletes is how competitive they are – even off the race course. Southerland relays a story about a competition he had with friend and fellow diabetic Joe Eldridge. It was a bet to see who had the lowest blood sugar level. It’s just a small anecdote from the whole book, but I often think the smaller stories within the narrative reveal a bigger picture. Again, the personal behind the scenes looks are what makes these books a good read.

The Belgian Hammer: Forging Young Americans into Professional Cyclists
Speaking of a behind the scenes look, Daniel Lee’s book gives a great introduction to the new generation of American cyclists. Everyone knows that becoming a professional athlete is a one in a million shot – but succeeding in a sport in foreign country as well? That’s a challenge that I think few are capable of. His story takes us into the US National Team house in Izegem, Belgium and the struggles the young Americans find themselves in. Lee just doesn’t call over for a few interviews with the principals in the book. Lee went to Belgium and saw first hand what it was like for these young men.

While the book focuses on Taylor Phinney, Ben King, Daniel Holloway, and Lawson Craddock, to name a few, it’s a nice overview of USA Cycling’s junior program. I’m sure we’ll see more success stories in the future. The Kindle version of the book is available for immediate download, otherwise you’ll need to pre-order it.

Life in the Slipstream: The Legend of Bobby Walthour Sr.
Admittedly, my historical knowledge of track racing is very limited. I know the career of Major Taylor, the first African-American track racer who became a world champion on the velodrome. I had never heard of fellow track racer Bobby Walthour Sr.

Believe it or not, track racing was huge in the US around the turn of the century. And like the description on the inside flap states, it was a rough and tumble time in cycling. These riders were truly gladiators. Death and injury were only an elbow flick away. An interesting aside is it’s believed that Walthour may have been Coca-Cola’s first athlete endorsement, which made sense as both the company and Walthour were from Atlanta, Georgia. Amaze your sport friends with that piece of trivia.


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