Item description for A Dog in a Hat: An American Bike Racer's Story of Mud, Drugs, Blood, Betrayal, and Beauty in Belgium by Joe Parkin & Bob Roll...
Overview An account of extreme bike racing documents the author's experiences within its highly competitive arenas, revealing the sport's darker side, from drugs and corruption to betrayals and the personal price paid by professional athletes.
In 1987, Joe Parkin was an amateur bike racer in California when he ran into Bob Roll, a pro on the powerhouse Team 7-Eleven. "Lobotomy Bob" told Parkin that, to become a pro, he must go to Belgium. Riding along a canal in Belgium years later, Roll encountered Parkin, who he described as "a wraith, an avenging angel of misery, a twelve-toothed assassin". Roll barely recognized him. Belgium had forged Parkin into a pro, and changed him forever. A Dog in a Hat is Joe's remarkable story.
Parkin lays it all out: the drugs, the payoffs, the betrayals, the battles for contracts, the endless promises, and the glory of racing day after day. A Dog in a Hat is the unforgettable story of the un-ordinary education of Joe Parkin and his love affair with racing, set in the hard place in the world to be a bike racer.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 9" Weight: 0.85 lbs.
Release Date Sep 1, 2008
ISBN 1934030260 ISBN13 9781934030264
Reviews - What do customers think about A Dog in a Hat: An American Bike Racer's Story of Mud, Drugs, Blood, Betrayal, and Beauty in Belgium?
Blue-Collar Bike Racing, European-Style Sep 14, 2008
We all have in our own imagination ideas of what pro cycling is all about. When I was at the Tour de France in 2006 I was impressed by the professionalism of everything: the course organization, from barriers to route markings; the television coverage; the team buses-including the one I passed that smelled like a laundromat as I walked by since they were using the on-board washing machines! "A Dog in a Hat," the story of an American professional cyclist racing in Europe from 1987 to 1991, has none of these things and it probably gives a better impression of what pro cycling is really like, even today, than the rarified snippets we get from the top-level teams.
Joe Parkin was racing in California as an amateur when he met Team 7-Eleven racer Bob Roll, who told him to go to Belgium to race if he wanted to get serious. The hard-working Mr. Roll, who also wrote the, uh, colourful introduction to the book, is famous for his cycling work ethic and odd behavior, was right: it is hard to imagine a place where cycling is taken more seriously than Belgium.
So the innocent author makes his way to Europe to Brussels and moves in with the Albert Claeys family in Ursel. Albert, who owned a bar and sometimes drove a truck, was well-known as a sort of godfather to American cyclists in Europe, helping them to get established and find a team, as well as providing a bed.
The book describes in entertaining detail what it is like to be at the bottom of the pro ranks. Mr. Parkin had dreams of becoming King of the Mountains and felt that his talent was most suited to the shorter stage races. But it quickly becomes obvious just how difficult it is to even finish a race, let alone win one. As time goes on, Joe Parkin comes to the realization that he will not be King of the Mountains but has to accept that he is a good worker, a domestique, and that his role is that of a support rider.
Along the way this naive American, who on first hearing Flemish mistook it for Russian, becomes a kind of Belgian-American hybrid, absorbing the language and holding his own in the cycling culture. This is a culture that prizes toughness above all, and in his spare style he talks about the mud, the crashes, the disappointment. At the lowest level the environment is terrible, with talentless teammates, hotel rooms so awful it makes you laugh, and not much money when it actually does get paid. He has not papers to allow him be in Belgium, something that does not trouble team management very much, even when it means he will be deported. He does not shrink from describing the all-pervasive use of drugs in cycling, and the fixing of races.
The description of the drug use would be hilarious except for the ultimate repercussions: riders will take anything with minimal concern: the reactions range from getting faster to getting stupid. Doping controls seem minimal at best and team management does nothing to discourage illegal practices.
But as he improves Joe clearly enjoys being a professional-a European pro. Racing against amateurs in the UK's Milk Race or in races in the United States he is contemptuous of their lack of skill and discipline. When writing to team time trials, he talks of the focus and teamwork needed to succeed. He is proud of being able to control a race, going ahead and setting the pace and hauling back breakaways. Probably his greatest contribution was helping his team leader, Luc Roosen, win the 1991 Tour de Suisse. But in the end there is no new contract forthcoming (even though some of the team leaders consider pooling enough of their own money to let him ride at a minimum wage!) and he returned to the States. In 1992 he watched his teammates ride the Tour de France on television. He never went back to Flanders, and after doing some racing in the United States and then switching to mountain bikes he ended his career in 1997.
This book presupposes some understanding of the sport of bike racing, although explanations are given about race strategy in some cases, but does not require any in-depth knowledge to enjoy.
At the time of his Belgian adventures, Joe Parkin was one of only a handful of North Americans in European pro racing, all in the shadow of the mighty Greg Lemond who was considered such a superior cyclist that he was seen as some kind of freak, beyond any national classification. The title of this book, "A Dog in a Hat," is a translation of a Flemish expression meaning something unusual-Joe Parkin was told while racing to look for changes, to look for the dog, to indicate what was happening in the race. As an American racing for a European team in the late 1980s Joe Parkin was a kind of dog in a hat himself. The cycling public is served up stories about Lance Armstrong's victories over and over again as if the Tour de France is the only race but this plain, self-deprecating memoir has the ring of authenticity at the other end of the sport where even today not all the riders are being paid, the hotels are still bad and the races just as hard.
Autobiography of life as a pro-cyclist Sep 11, 2008
"When a normal situation suddenly changes, Belgians call it 'een hond met een hoed op,' a dog with a hat on." Meet Joe Parkin. An 18-year-old living at home who wants to go to Europe and ride with the pros instead of going to college. Dad's not impressed but Mom takes his side and so off to Belgium he goes. Joe tells his story in a conversational style which makes for easy reading, thank goodness because when it came to the bike jargon I was lost. As he talked about his experience riding and racing I found myself pulling for him but he doesn't win all that many races, instead he's more about the joy of participating. His take on the bicycling world is insightful and like all sports it has the good and the bad. Of course drugs are there, cheating, underhandedness but also sportsmanship, friendship and endurance.
As Joe tells us his story we follow him through training and racing in Belgium along with the rigors of living and working in another culture. It's a coming of age story from boyhood to manhood and the journey along the way. This book is a fun read whether you are a bicycle enthusiast or not.
Worth The Ride Sep 6, 2008
A young American bike racer treks to Europe to compete as a professional. This is a true slice of life story that captures your interest but ultimately doesn't reach its potential. The intensity of the early chapters doesn't hold throughout as the themes become repetitive. The author is a fine storyteller, weaving many interesting vignettes, and those were enjoyable. If you are a cyclist or a competitive athlete, you will probably like this book more than most. Even though it didn't seem to go anywhere, it was a fun read and was worth the ride.
I actually liked it a lot Sep 6, 2008
This is coming from a guy who has no personal experience cycling and normally wouldn't have looked twice at the book except for the free sample aspect and I've been on a big personal story kick recently. The way this book sucks you in is by being so amazingly heartfelt and genuine amazing considering I felt that I would hate the book. The author tells you about the good times and does not (as these types of books often do) gloss over those parts that would be considered less then flattering.
Great story-telling, interesting read Sep 5, 2008
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book! I knew very little about cycling, but Joe Parkin recounted many stories of his cycling career, going to Belgium, the different types of races and the challenges of each, how hard it is to win and how easy to lose.
He tells it like he saw it; his forthrightness was refreshing. I read this not as a strict timeline of his career, but as a lovely braindump for just a chunk of time. I enjoyed this format very much, as we do so much during the day in a linear fashion, and this was "here's a point in time in my career story", nothing more, nothing less.
As an American in Belgium--and he seems to be a very perceptive and intuitive fellow--he also was able to pick up on the nuances of a culture and describe it in a perfectly objective voice. He is not critical or demeaning, just explains it as it is. I mention this as his chapter headings (and title) are translated (mostly) idioms--such as A Dog in a Hat. It's a phrase meaning that there is something common (a dog) doing something unexpected (like wearing a hat!) There are quite a few of these throughout the book, and I really enjoyed getting a different perspective, similar to trying to explain our "as the crow flies" or "when pigs have wings" to a foreign visitor.
If you can enjoy a good braindump story, are not confined to strict linear story movement, can appreciate a 'foreigner in a foreign land' perspective, and would like to learn a little more about professional cycling, you'll find this a good read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!