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A Dog in a Hat: An American Bike Racer's Story of Mud, Drugs, Blood, Betrayal, and Beauty in Belgium Paperback – September 1, 2008
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"A Dog in a Hat is the most authentic book ever written on making a living as a pro cyclist in Europe." -- Bob Roll, Versus TV cycling commentator
"A slice of literary badassness. I've had a lifelong struggle maintaining an attention span for reading books, but this is a page turner that's been hard for me to put down. A Dog in a Hat is truly captivating." -- HowtoAvoidtheBummerLife.com
"I loved A Dog in a Hat. Once in, I couldn't put it down. The book rings of truth, youth, and passion." -- Andreas Hestler, former professional cyclist
"I loved A Dog in a Hat. Joe's stories bring back many memories of racing in Belgium, where I learned how to fight for position in the echelon, to suffer in the gutter while jumping curbs and dodging potholes, and to pound out my guts when it really mattered. Belgium is a hard place to learn bicycle racing and Joe's story proves how tough he was." --Ron Kiefel, former pro cyclist
"Joe Parkin is a beautiful piece of work, and he turns out to be a better writer than I am a bike racer." --Bill Strickland, Bicycling magazine
"Joe tells his story straight. It's not pretty but it's not bitter." --BikeRadar.com
"Parkin has written an eloquent and historic volume. In the very uniqueness of his story, Parkin realizes a universality that gives his recollections a resonance with any cyclist. Do not miss this book." -- BelgiumKneeWarmers.com
From the Back Cover
"The most authentic book ever written on making a living as a pro cyclist in Europe." -- Bob Roll, Versus TV cycling commentator
"I saw my first pro kermis race during my first week in Belgium, and it felt like trying to escape a hall of mirrors but not being able to read the exit signs. Everything was larger than life and more grotesque than I had imagined. But kermis racing was not all about the drugs. If the grand tours are like classical music, kermis racing is punk rock, Belgian-style.
At some point during the season, our team was invited to a stage race in France, but our team director had made an agreement for us to race a big kermis in Brugge. My buddy Cocquyt decided that we should go as hard as we possibly could from the gun in the kermis, team time trial style, and then peel off at the end of the 11-kilometer lap, laughing at all the guys we had tortured as we took off for the other race. Of course, we all coughed up blood for the entire trip to France, but it was strangely worth it, as if we had smashed our guitars, poured beer on the audience, and walked offstage before the end of the first song."
Joe Parkin's life changed when he left America to become a professional bike racer in Belgium. In this brutally frank memoir, Parkin celebrates the glory of racing but doesn't flinch from the cold reality of that life--the drugs, the payoffs, the betrayals by teammates, the battles with team owners for contracts and money, the endless promises, and the sheer physical pain of racing day after day.
Set in the hardest place in the world to be a bike racer, A Dog in a Hat is one rider's story of his love affair with professional cycling.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
The book is completely linear, with no real theme or fabric that would make it more than the sum of its parts. Each chapter just tells what happened during one particular race, season or training period.
On the positive side, this book just reeks of authenticity. It's neither a whitewash nor a "tell-all." In fact, controversial subjects like doping and buying/selling race wins are discussed a flat way with very little moralizing. I came away with a real sympathy for the plight of racers, and an appreciation of the grim reality of the racing world.
After reading the book, I feel that a much better book would have been possible if Mr. Parkin's editor had made him discuss bicycle racing's current status through the lens of his own career. In fact, this book reads more like a time capsule journal that some other author will use as source material.
Bottom line: it could have been funnier, more insightful or more introspective. It couldn't have been more authentic. There's value in that!
For Joe Parkin, that date provided special fireworks, as he signed his first professional cycling contract after a year of showing his stuff in the European amateur ranks. It was a start of wild ride of chasing dreams as - what the Belgians call - "a dog with a hat on" (something familiar, yet decidedly out of place).
The sketches in the memoir chronicle the five years that Parkin rode in the professional peloton as one of the few Americans competing full-time in Europe. Parkin mixes the craziness of the mobile road show with the controversies and tragedies that continue to grip the sport. "The European teams of that era (in Belgium especially) didn't think highly of goody-two-shoes riders," he writes. "Like the vaunted Blue Code of Silence among police, pro bike racing definitely had the Lycra Code of Silence."
But some initial impressions cover the entire course. Parkin was not impressed with the already bitter cyclist, Paul Kimmage, which was several years before he published a controversial book - Rough Ride - that exposed the shadows within professional cycling, including the illegal drug use on teams.
Parkin says he mostly avoided the performance-enhancing drugs of the day, only once taking a mixture of pop and a chalky substance during a particularly tough spot in a semi-classic event. It was given to him by a team official when he complained of an upset stomach.
"Many of the team managers, teammates, friends, and fans I had while living in Belgium would have looked at not taking the drugs as a failure to give 100 percent to being a cyclist," Parkin writes.Read more ›
As an autobiography, I really have to wonder how he ever got it published: I'd never heard of Joe Parkin before picking up the book, and now that I've read it, other than the Tour de Suisse, it didn't sound like he was even on a winning team. In fact, most of Joe's stories are about NOT finishing races, forget about winning them. What he talks about all happened in the late 80's & very early 90's, so if you're looking for stories about pro-cycling as it exists today, sorry. (You'll be able to understand why everyone keeps getting popped for doping today though! Drugs seem to be very prevelent in the cycling culture.) He doesn't really have any stories about the one cyclist from that time that I have heard of: Greg LaMonde besides riding next to him in one race and telling him to pack it in! He has funny stories about other cyclists and coaches who I never heard of, maybe someone with more cycling background would know them all right off.
All that said, I was suprised to find the book a fun read - a bunch of little vingettes that each sounded like I was having a Coke with a guy who was telling me stories about racing in Europe way back when. Because he was sort of an extra, a "helper," and is one of those guys you really would never hear of otherwise, he brings an interesting perspective.
The writing tone is very conversational and easy to read, even with some confusing foreign words thrown in there.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating intro to a world of bike racing, from carnival to classic. How an American forms connections to teams through mechanics and soigneurs is amazing to those accustomed to... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Millicent Hughes
Well told . good story . Articulate Cyclocrosser gives readable heartfelt description of chasing the sport.Published 4 months ago by ohsolomia
Great read of a NoCal expat making a living in the hardman style of Belgium in bike racing. Cycling fans can appreciate his old school insight of how they got through the days of... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Dennis Fernandez
Interesting. A little unfocsed. Some good stories. Lacks substance, but if you are into cycling you pretty much need to read this, just to give you some insight into Belgian... Read morePublished 7 months ago by KB
Excellent read! If you're an avid cyclist, this is a great story of the ups and downs of road racing.Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer