Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Belgian Hammer

The Belgian Hammer: Forging Young Americans into Professional Cyclists, by Daniel Lee, is a book that simultaneously makes you want to be a professional cyclist and also shake your head at what they go through.

Belgian Hammer book cover

Lee writes about what young Americans do to make it in professional cycling. “Top-level cycling is still very European, a sport played out in a culture as foreign to Americans as a Friday-night high school football game would be to a Belgian kid.” So our young racers head to Belgium to learn what it means to be a professional. The book follows Lawson Craddock of Texas, Benjamin King of Virginia, Taylor Phinney of Colorado, Daniel Holloway of California, and Tyler Farrar of Washington State as they race over a variety of terrains in different races, enduring crashes, cold rain, cobblestones, crosswinds, and culture shock. Since the book was written both Phinney and Farrar have shown they have what it takes to race at the top level, capturing stages at races around the world.

“Only thirty-six Americans have competed in the Tour de France since the world's greatest bicycle race began in 1903. That's not too many more than the twelve Americans who have walked on the moon. It's far fewer than the hundreds of Americans who have reached the summit of Mount Everest.” Pretty small odds for someone from the United States to make it to the top. One such rider is George Hincapie, recently retired, who wrote the foreword to the book. He first went to France to race with the US national team at 14 years old—that’s young to have to learn your sport in a foreign country.

The Belgian Hammer is a fascinating book and its strength lies in its focus. There are times when Lee appears ready to digress or head out on a tangent, but then he brings it back to the story of these young racers. If you’re a cycling aficionado or dream of being a professional cyclist, this is a good book to read about what it really takes to get to the top.

About the author: Daniel Lee is a passionate journalist and cyclist. In his early twenties, Lee raced his bike across Kentucky horse country, through mountains in Germany and over cobblestones in Belgium. He was even a professional cyclist—for one race—in 1991. He has worked as a reporter with the Indianapolis Star.

Disclaimer: This product was advanced to me for review purposes, courtesy of Breakaway Books. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give it a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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  1. Interesting timing on the book, especially when you think about Johann Bruyneel (sp??) and Lance. I like Taylor Phinney, so that would be a bonus for me in this book.

  2. I never would have guessed that such a low number of Americans have raced in the Tour. Lance made it feel like we owned it.


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