Book Review: Pro cycling on $10 a day, by Phil Gaimon

This book is a must-read if you want to learn what it takes to make it in the World Tour straight from the horse’s mouth.

Pro Cycling on $10 a Day is a refreshingly personal account of a not-quite-pro rider’s journey from struggling domestic racer to struggling World Tour pro, and it’s a great insight into the evolution of pro cyclists that continues into the present.

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Phil Gaimon is not a traditional World Tour superstar. For a start, he never won a World Tour race (sorry Phil). In fact, he only spent two years (2014 and 2016) on a World Tour team before retiring, and he never had a controversial fall from grace brought on by a doping violation. So what’s the deal?

You’ve probably heard more from Phil now that he’s retired and is doing a YouTube series (the Worst Retirement Ever – check it out!). However, this is just a continuation of what really made Gaimon stand out among hundreds of other World Tour riders – his accessibility.

While other riders are often rarely seen outside of post-race interviews (if they win) and sponsor appearances that are equally hilarious and cringe-worthy, Phil spent the majority of his career writing pieces for VeloNews, as well as releasing three books (so far).

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Now, obviously it’s nothing new for a professional sportsperson to release an autobiography – although Pro Cycling on $10 a Day ends as Gaimon is offered his first World Tour contract – however, what really sets Gaimon’s work apart is how un-ghostwritten it is.

Normally, you’ll find that professional athletes (and many other personalities) suddenly become exceptionally literate in their autobiographies. Obviously, the reason for this is that they didn’t write the book and, for me, that always sort of ruins things. I bought the book to learn more about the character who is supposed to have written it, and they’re just not present, or their voice is so censored it just sounds like any other press release.

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That’s not the case with Pro Cycling – throughout the book, it’s clear that we’re hearing Phil’s telling of his own story, and that’s exactly what I wanted. An insight into cycling from a cyclist. Yes, he’s in a fortunate (for us) position of being able to write well, and his own voice is present throughout.

Best of all, this book comes from a younger, dumber Phil Gaimon. The book was written just as Phil had transcended his US racing career to become a World Tour god, set for fame and fortune, and it’s pretty clear that once he’d achieved that goal, he was happy to speak frankly about the racing scene he’d left behind. Some of it is funny, some of it is depressing and frustrating, but all of it really nicely captures what it’s like to be a struggling racer.

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Throughout the book, in spite of the crappy conditions Phil is living in, we’re reminded that it could be worse. Yeah, he’s sleeping on an air mattress again, and he’s left some skin behind again, but he could be sat in an office all day. The trade-off is the world travel, being paid to ride a bike, and making memories that’ll last a lifetime. Obviously, it’s not for everyone, but it makes a great read, and hopefully it reminds people to get their life’s priorities in order. Even if their priorities may not be cycling.

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