Posted by: Joe Nuss on Sep 22, 2008
I just started reading (and haven't yet finished) A Dog in a Hat - An American Bike Racer's Story of Mud, Drugs, Blood, Betrayal, and Beauty in Belgium. It's the true account of cyclist Joe Parkin's journey into the whirlwind professional world of Belgian cycling in the late 1980's.
If you're like me (you love to ride, but haven't ever found the inclination to learn much about the pro's) A Dog in a Hat (a Belgian phrase used to reference something familiar, yet decidedly out of place) is a must read to understand some of the history of the sport of cycling.
I referenced the movie and book North Dallas Forty which revealed the darker side of pro-football, because A Dog in a Hat will surely draw lines in the cycling community, like North Dallas Forty did in football. Many will say the things Parkin talks about (like the prevalence of drugs) are simply not true. Some will disagree.
An interest example of the underside of pro-cycling in Europe is a local race called a kermis race. Held daily during the summer and usually about 60-miles in length, the kermis was the bread and butter of many cyclists -- many cyclists who never won a single kermis! In order to earn money, cyclists would fight to getin the lead breakaway and then negotiate a payoff to allow someone else to win uncontested. And of course, most of the cyclists were using performance enhancing drugs to make sure they were "good" for the race.
Regardless of what you believe about pro-cycling and drug use, A Dog in a Hat is a great read... I'll leave it to you to make judgements about its authenticity.