Phil Gaimon, climber, auteur.
I’d planned on writing a fabulously complimentary review of Phil Gaimon’s book Pro Cycling On $10 A Day. From Fat kid to Euro Pro but immediately screwed up.
You see, I had decided to take detailed notes on the book as I read it, noting the themes, best stories, funniest anecdotes, salient passages. I’d hoped to do enough research to talk about the book on a higher plane — so I could sound like a real cyclo-literary authority.
This plan evaporated starting on page one and for this I blame Gaimon. His book is so entertaining and funny and honest and insightful that I could not stop to make notes, mark pages or even begin to build a more thoughtful review. I was too hooked to break the spell for even a moment.
Gaimon, as some may know, rides for Garmin-Sharp but his story is about the long, long journey it took to get to that rare and lucky ride that very few obtain. He chronicles his struggles to survive in a sport that he loves while driving to races all over the country on a salary of $5000.
You can only imagine the kinds of stories you get when you mix ambition and poverty and the craziness of bike racing and a cut-throat environment where riders are pretty expendable. In Gaimon’s skilled hands, those stories are comic gems and his conversational writing style makes you feel you’re right there with him at all times.
So I didn’t take a single note while reading and finished the book in two days despite every effort to slow down and savor the adventures. I suspect most people will have the same experience. Just to give you a flavor for Gaimon’s style, here are four almost random passages and really, there are another hundred I could have chosen.
Our recommendation is, don’t bother with yet another book expose on Lance Armstrong. Instead, take a raucous and wild ride with Gaimon as he jumps off that fat boy couch and fights his way — with great humor — to his dream. For our quick bus-side interview with Gaimon at the Tour of California.
On Taking A Break From Racing
I walked around with a goatee as my disguise and stood holding a rubber chicken in the feed zone between all the soigneurs and their bottles. It was fun watching Healthnet and all the big teams buzz by screaming for Cokes and Gatorade and then notice the rubber chicken. Maybe it reminded them to stop being so damned serious.Someone at the back grabbed the chicken and I was afraid I’d never see my fake pet again but it came back a few months later. It was funny that in my time off from bike racing, I still went to a bike race. I’d grown to like the atmosphere and all my friends were there. Besides, it wouldn’t feel like a weekend if I didn’t have to wait in line for a port-a-potty.
On Getting His CLEAN Tattoo
We explained our idea to a heavily pierced female tattoo artist with a shaved head. Pale and overweight, she wore a leather jacket filled with silver buckles and spikes and her teeth looked like a box of crayons. Her work was shaky; maybe she’d never dealt with an arm as scrawny as mine. Nick and I both had to get our tattoos touched up a few weeks later. but we’d joined a club with Adam Myerson and the three of us made a pack. We’d do our best to spread the word and convince other athletes to get clean tattoos. And if anyone doped, the rest of the club would come and scrape it off with a cheese grater.
On Negotiating A Contract
“You two would be co-leaders,” Thompson assured me. “But there’s no way we could pay you that much. Mancebo only gets 55K.” “Mancebo gets $90,000,” I told him. I’d done my homework and I was starting to enjoy this. Negotiating is fun if you don’t want the job. “Okay, you’re right. He makes more than 55K. But you don’t have the name recognition he does. You didn’t finish top five at the Tour. We just can’t pay you the same.” I screamed into the phone, “I ALSO NEVER GOT PULLED OUT OF THE TOUR FOR OPERACIÓN PUERTO! DOES THAT COUNT FOR ANYTHING?” Osama bin Laden has great name recognition. Would he be getting a generous offer? I took a deep breath. “Fine. I’m riding for BISSEL, and that’s that.” I hung up.
On Riding The Tour Of California
After years of fighting for wheels at NRC races, it was refreshing to be among real professionals. American directors always tell their guys to ride at the front of the field but it’s usually just a waste of energy and that mentality leads to a lot of crashes. There’s just not room at the front for everyone. The Europeans, in contrast, don’t bother to go up there without good reason, which makes riding conditions very civil in the group. Or did, until we approached the base of a climb. Then it was more like Best Buy when they open the doors on Black Friday.