Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Reader

Jason depicted with non-ANSI/Snell approved helmet
You know me as a cyclist whose love for the sport sometimes borders on monomania.  You may not know that I am also a reader.  I began a reading program, of sorts, at the beginning of 1997, so I’m nearing the end of my 15th year.  Initially I challenged myself to read at least one book per month.  To go from zero to 12 books a year sounded like a big commitment, but I enjoyed reading so much that I quickly got ahead of schedule.  Currently I’m reading the ancient Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts.  It will be the 323rd book I have read, and that works out to more than 21 books per year.

Now, I should note that in 1997 I was not yet a father and I didn’t own a home or a bicycle.  I was married, had a full-time job and played a little softball, but I had tons of time to fill and books were a great choice.  My reading pace has slowed in recent years as other responsibilities and interests have demanded more time.  In those early years I read a lot of science fiction and a lot of “English class” books that I had failed to appreciate or had entirely missed during my formal education.

The inevitable happened in April 2005: I read my first cycling book.  It was called Fitness Through Cycling and I honestly can’t remember anything from it.  I followed that with LeMond: The Incredible Comeback of an American Hero.  In 2006 I read my first piece of cycling-themed fiction: The Memory of Running, by Ron McLarty.  Then came French Revolutions and Lance Armstrong and the 1999 Tour de France, each of which—I feel sure—also contains a fair amount of fiction of a different sort.  For Christmas I received The Rider, by Tim Krabbe.  It’s an excellent look at the mindset of a road racer.  I also received Bob Roll’s Bobke II, which is a lot of fun.  Then I read Michael Barry’s Inside the Postal Bus, which came off as an attempt to capitalize on Armstrong’s fame.  In 2009 I read Blazing Saddles: The Cruel and Unusual History of the Tour de France, by Rick Yancey—entertaining stuff, and still my most-recent cycling book.

Since 2009 I have gone back to my old habit of filling in the holes of English classes past: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and so on.  But as Christmas approaches I’m counting on Santa to deliver Team 7-Eleven, by Geoff Drake.  Released earlier this year, it’s an in-depth look at the first American team to challenge the European cycling establishment.  That’s a piece of cycling history I don’t know very well.  Must get through Jason and the Argonauts soon to ensure I can unwrap my new book on Christmas and begin reading it immediately.

Jason, by the way, is on a quest for the Golden Fleece.  I suspect he’s going to find it hanging with the skinsuits in Mario Cipollini’s closet.

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