Book Review: Reading the Race

reading the race

Reading the Race: Bike Racing from Inside the Peloton by Jamie Smith with Chris Horner

“If you’re serious about performing well, prepare your mind as much as your legs”

There are hundreds, probably even thousands, of books out there for cyclists about training.  Its been a topic covered since the dawn of time, or at least since the beginning of bike racing.  But how often does someone write a book about the other factors that influence racing performance?

We finally have one.

Jamie Smith draws on years of experience as an amateur cyclist and race announcer, as well as the vast knowledge of Chris Horner, to bring cyclists Reading the Race: Bike Racing from Inside the Peloton.

Witty and insightful, Reading the Race covers all the tactics and skills you will ever need to know as a racer.  During their millennia of combined experience, Smith and Horner have seen it all in bike racing and are now sharing it with the hoard of weekend warriors looking to win the provincial championship or just go along for the ride.

There is more to training for racing than just preparing physically.  Cycling has been called a “chess game on wheels” for a reason.  If you want a competition of brute strength, try strongman competitions.  But to do well in bike racing, you will also need to train you mind.

That is where Reading the Race comes in.  So make a spot on your book shelf, right next to your Training Bible, and look at it regularly.

From the basics of cornering and riding in a group to more advanced tactics like blocking and lead out trains, Reading the Race covers everything in between.  Intertwined with humor and personal stories,  Reading the Race is not just some boring playbook, you will probably remember most of what you read.  And of course apply it the next time you race (or at least try).

Unfortunately, most of the content in Reading the Race is aimed at the rider who is part of a team.  Most tactics discussed only work with a team.  There is very little in Reading the Race about racing as an individual.  Sure it talks about making a combine and time trials, but it leaves the solo rider wishing for more.

Reading the Race is also perfect for the cyclist who never plans on racing.  It will help them with skills they need to participate in their local group rides as well as win the town line sprint.  But Reading the Race will also help their understanding of professional racing when they join millions in watching the Tour de France every summer.  Reading the Race explains why and how many of the things we see in pro races happen, especially the early breakaway which happens before the television cameras are on.

Through out Reading the Race, there are little text boxes full of wisdom from Chris Horner’s centuries of racing experience.  Horner gives us a look at how many of the things Jamie Smith is talking about play out inside the pro peloton.  Its a rare bit of insight and makes you feel like maybe we aren’t the different from the pros.  And who better to provide this sort of wisdom and insight than one of the most experienced riders in the pro peloton?

As I’ve said, since bike racing is more than just a test of physical strength but is a “chess game on wheels,” Reading the Race should be your next addition to your library.  Full of wit and insight, Reading the Race is not only extremely helpful it is also an excellent read.

Want more content like this?  Check out my book reviews of Bike Mechanic and Pro Cycling on $10 a Day.

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