Books & Film
American Pro; The Comeback; Afghan Cycles
I’d call Jamie Smith’s American pro his third book in a trilogy even though his works aren’t presented as such. It starts with Roadie: the misunderstood world of a bike Racer, a humorous, illustrated introduction into the world of road cycling. It’s followed by Reading the race, in which Smith and former pro Chris Horner explore the mechanics and tactics of racing. With American pro, Smith chronicles the birth (in 2012) and death (in 2016) of U.S. continental team Astellas Pro Cycling. With each book, Smith takes the reader deeper and deeper into cycling. In his latest, he shows all the challenges that come with running and riding in a team that competed mainly in the U.S. and at Canadian events, such as the Tour de Beauce, Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay and BC Superweek.
Smith profiles the whole team, from founders Matt Curin and Andrew Frey, who managed sponsorships and logistics, to the riders, such as Ryan Aitcheson, Stephen Hyde and Adam Myerson. There are victories and serious crashes. There are characters like the cool host family who housed riders at Redlands in 2014 and the sketchy freelance mechanic who wreaked havoc on the team at the same race two years later. Smith delves into numbers, including riders’ salaries, which can be as low as $6,000 per year. It’s a very honest look at the world of domestic cycling, often with some wry humour. I enjoyed Smith’s thoughts on the wisdom of running bike races that have more participants than spectators. “It’s easy to question why people go to the trouble of putting on bike races,” Smith writes. “In fact, races exist because people ignore that question.”
There should be more books like Smith’s. So much in cycling is ephemeral. A team, such as Astellas, loses its sponsor, and then it’s gone. It’s important to remember these projects, which, like a breakaway in a race, have a slim chance of success, but can build the riders up for something in the future.