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Book Review: Joe Parkin's "Come and Gone"
By Stephanie Chase
Date: 4/23/2010
Book Review: Joe Parkin's "Come and Gone"

Book Review: Joe Parkin's "Come and Gone"
“Come and Gone” is an honest and unglamorous look at the effort required to be a professional cyclist and make a living racing your bike

Come and Gone
A True Story of Blue-Collar Bike Racing in America

Joe Parkin’s follow-up book “Come and Gone” picks up exactly where “Dog in a Hat” (his recollection of racing in Belgium) left off. Fresh off the plane and back in the U.S. without a team and contract, Parkin packs his bags for Minneapolis (recommended by an ex-girlfriend) and sets out to figure what the hell a former Euro pro does in the American peloton. From 1992 until 1997, Parkin switches between teams and sports, and “Come and Gone” is a book about his struggle to make it as a professional cyclist both on the road and on the dirt.

At the end of Parkin’s road career, American cycling is in the midst of a transition. Greg LeMond retires in 1994 and there are a couple more years until Armstrong fills the gap as the face of American cycling. In the meantime, mountain biking was quickly ascending and taking the limelight as American road cycling struggled. And right the middle of all this is Joe Parkin, whose road career coincides with the demise of the Coor’s cycling team and starts a career in mountain biking trying to get selected for the 1996 Olympic team.

The book’s story line, however, is a bit threadbare at times. Written very linearly, Parkin’s personal focus edits out quite any extraneous story lines, characters or themes. Which is a shame considering his career could tell us a lot more about cycling in the United States during that the 1990s: its organization, popularity and growth (or decline) in both the road and mountain biking worlds. Also absent from the book is any depth to Parkin’s personal life, and even though Bob Roll shows up, there’s not even a good Bob Roll story to go along with his appearance. Parkin also encounters a young Chris Carmichael, U.S. MTB champ Tinker Juarez and other people central to cycling and mountain biking in the U.S. Maybe over a beer or two, you could get some good stories out of Parkin but they’re all absent from the book. The result is that at the end we know only about Parkin the cyclist and very little about anything else; but that may be enough...

What Parkin does well is capture how heartbreaking and frustrating it can be trying to break out of the amateur ranks.

“Come and Gone” in an honest and unglamorous look at the effort required to be a professional cyclist and make a living racing your bike. In addition to the year-round training, lots of travel time and a paltry salary, Parkin’s story is one of “close but no cigar.” The man is obviously a talented athlete but can’t seem to put together a race resume or career that guarantees him stability. At the end of most cycling seasons, Parkin is shopping for a team and trying to figure out a plan for the following year.

 “Come and Gone” doesn’t romanticize the cycling world. The book’s narrow focus mimics the tunnel vision that can happen with intense training. The outside world recedes and it’s just you, your bike and the passing road and all the scenery that’s come and gone.

Come and Gone: A True Story of Blue-Collar Bike Racing in America
by Joe Parkin
Paperback with color photosection
6" x 9", 208 pp., $21.95,
Publisher: Velopress

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