Review: Ask A Pro: Deep Thoughts and Unreliable Advice From America’s Foremost Cycling Sage (Velo Press)
(2017) Unless we’re exuberant about having contact with a professional athlete, most of us only know them as two-dimensional people. Athletes play the sport they were born to play and follow it up with an interview that’s about as insightful as reality television show.
Most interviews follow a dreadful format that goes something like this (with my theoretical responses in italics):
“…how did it feel to be passed in the final meters of the sprint?” I lost. How do you think it felt? I watched an empty road with a finish line turn into a Black Friday charge with me finishing something like thirtieth. I guess my media training tells me to say, ‘I feel great.’”
“…what were your thoughts about today?” I think I showed up and raced my bike. The day’s going pretty well so far.
“…take us through those last few moments.” You just watched it on television right? If you have DVR, rewind it and watch what I did.
These dreaded questions lead me to changing the channel immediately after a race finished or a game has completed. Perhaps only in the Premier League can one find unfiltered responses to post-sport questions.
All of this is what led me to ordering retired professional cyclist Phil Gaimon’s new book, Ask a Pro: Deep Thoughts and Unreliable Advice from America’s Foremost Cycling Sage. I wanted to get a glimpse into the life of a professional cyclist from his/ her point of view. With the goal of getting a jersey mailed to me by Phil Gaimon (a personal favorite request of his), I’ll provide several reasons why this book is worth the purchase.
The book follows Mr. Gaimon’s career in three parts. He started answering questions at the age of 23 for Velonews. This part of his career is called Neo Pro. It is followed up with Continental Pro and finally WorldTour Pro.
What flood the pages are legitimate questions about life as a professional cyclist, frequent freakish requests of his wattage, roadmaps to becoming a professional cyclist, and a few requests for his jersey. (It’s going to happen.) It goes to show that people can’t be on their best behavior even when writing formally to an esteemed athlete of a community.
Mr. Gaimon’s responses are on par with the question. Ask him about his wattage numbers compared to yours and you’ll regret seriously entertaining sending the question to him. Inquire about how to become a professional by eighteen and he’ll sometimes give a candid response. Other times he will advise you to quit cycling. There were even some unexpectedly great questions such as how WorldTour riders shake their legs out after a long flight, or how do the pros stay motivated hours into a ride. This is one of the areas where the book shines.
The rewarding aspect to this book is Mr. Gaimon’s humor. It proves that professional athletes are pretty sensible people once the rehearsed responses are shelved. I genuinely laughed several times while reading his responses. A couple times I laughed at the serious submissions people sent his way. I shudder to think there were questions too stupid to print. Otherwise, as a wise professor once said, “Stupid questions get stupid answers.”
I did have a few déjà vu moments while perusing the questions. Once, in the beginning of the book, Phil "the Thrill" Gaimon admits to combining about sixty questions into one. It would have been nice if he combined a couple other questions into one such as questions about rider weight and power. But these are hardly nuisances and each response provides another level of insight.
This book is absolutely perfect for chipping away one question at a time. I read it in one weekend but it could be used as a bathroom book, too. Some sage advice comes in the back of the book advising host families the optimal situations for cyclists staying over. What is most intriguing is the ridiculously intense cookie recipe in the back of the book that requires over a cup of sugar for twelve cookies. It even asks for crushed pretzels. This will certainly be made post-haste.
In the meantime, the take home message is clear. After Phil (I feel like I can call him that now that I got to know him through his book. We’re on a first name basis, most certainly.) sends me one of his jerseys I’ll know what questions to ask him when he rides up to me on one of the many forays into the country roads. After all he’s from the east coast, so the chances are there. I’m hopeful I’ll have one of his cookies ready to offer him, all warm and gooey from my back pocket.
Ask A Pro: Deep Thoughts and Unreliable Advice From America’s Foremost Cycling Safe (VeloPress $17.95)