Boys on Bikes

Inside the Postal Bus: My Ride with Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Cycling Team by Michael Barry

I’m a total sucker for behind-the-scenes books, so reading this one was a sure thing. 

The place where Barry excels is in giving a sense of the life of a professional cyclist. And while, yes, this book could have used some more editing (because it didn’t always flow well), I was sufficiently wrapped up in the behind-the-scenes story that I was able to get past the rough patches.

Speaking of rough—this is a sport where athletes get hit by motorcycles, open their eyes to see the motorcycle on their chest, and then get back on the bike to finish the day’s stage. It’s crazy like that. (This exact thing happened to Barry in the 2002 Vuelta a España. Those skinny dudes are tough.)
This account focuses on the 2004 season for U.S. Postal. But I’ll confess that my favorite section of the book was the chapter near the end, titled “A Day in Spain.” It’s a day in the life of a professional cyclist, and it’s pretty fascinating. You could pick up the book and read only this chapter, which reads like a nicely crafted essay.
Other highlights:
I’m heartened to find that professional cyclists do things like this: “…Max was still talking about the race. He had been talking about it for longer than the actual race lasted.” (p. 116) 
Barry is generous in including more photos of his teammates than of himself. You have to actually search in this book to find out what the guy looks like, which I’m reading as humility, which I like lots.
And, finally, my number one favorite passage in the book (thank you, Michael Barry!) is this one: “The Spanish guys on the team wear pajamas whenever they get a chance… They love pajamas printed with little bears or other animals. José has a wicked pair of blue PJs with white ghosts all over them.” (p. 28) I simply adore this image: big, tough, world-class cyclists in their animal jammies. Thus is the allure of the behind-the-scenes account…

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