Book Review: The Cycling Professor

Marco Pinotti professor

 “To give an idea of how hard a race that lasts more than twenty days feels, try to remember where you were or what you were doing three weeks ago.”

This simple explanation of how hard a grand tour can be is a good example of the book’s tone. Written by Pinotti himself, there’s no florid prose nor hyperbole. Marco Pinotti is not just a professional cyclist but a northern Italian and a graduate engineer and be brings a concise analytical take to the sport.

He’s good placing himself in the sport. He notices the places he visits, whether the wonder of finishing a stage of the Giro on the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa, observing the landscapes in the Basque Country or Oman or noticing that riding down Paris’s Champs Elysées with closed roads is a privilege normally reserved for visiting heads of state. The awareness is humble at times too, Pinotti knows his accomplishments are extraordinary, to wear the Giro’s pink jersey is something few can do but there’s never any boasting. Indeed despite being a world class rider he seems more proud of being top of the class in his graduate studies.

This is no ordinary sports biography. Perhaps because he’s not a household name the tone has to be different, but this is more a series of observations, a notebook and at times a manual of pro cycling. Yes it starts with childhood and finishes at the end of the 2012 season but narration is not chronological. Instead the logic is theme and experience, for example crashes or diet, or notes on particular races over the years.

At times it’s impersonal. Pinotti mentions his wife and child but only in the context of racing, injuries and the family life of a travelling cyclist; he does not even name them, presumably for family privacy. As such this is the story Pinotti the professional cyclist rather than the life of Pinotti: don’t buy this if you want peloton gossip or Monte Cristo tales of revenge over rivals. There’s still plenty of personal insight – some might be surprised at the mention of Lance Armstrong – and it’s an intelligent guide to the sport and the calendar packed full of detail, such as the warm-up routine before a time trial or notes on what to eat or broader views on technical innovation and globalisation.

Despite the engineering studies you wonder if Pinotti’s second career could involve a press card because his writing looks beyond the route of a race, the textual equivalent of a wide-angle lens as he notes the environment, the economy and more. Some translations can stall at times, especially with the technical language of sport, but this is a clear read and Pinotti’s voice seems as clear in English as it is in Italian.

Where to buy
The book is available in Italian in print – Il Mestiere del Ciclista (“The Cycling Profession”) – and as an e-book in English via Amazon for their Kindle or with the Kindle app for other devices, from PC to tablet.

A engineer by education, Pinotti brings an analytical and observant take to his career and pro cycling. One minute the book is discussing international travel and new foods, the next there are tips on how to cope with jetlag and hot weather and it fits together well. It’s an easy read and rewarding to see Pinotti’s hard work and application pay off and satisfying that he sees beyond the bubble of pro cycling.

Pinotti Mestiere

25 thoughts on “Book Review: The Cycling Professor”

  1. It’s always good to see books from riders that aren’t just “my journey to Yellow” or “winning my race in life” or other general sport/life ghost-written titles. It’s what made David Millar’s book so good, and what made Brad’s first one so boring (and Cav’s enjoyable, as it actually sounded like him).

    Pinotti’s such a respected rider, this should hopefully do well, though how many of the general cycle-loving public would go for it I’m not sure. Perhaps in Italy they’d lap it up. But I don’t have a Kindle so I may have to wait.

  2. It’s really a shame that this whole e-book craze has reached a point where you cannot get a real book! (I can’t read an e-book, my eyes just can’t do it.) I guess that’s the way of the bloody future.
    The work sounds really fascinating though, here’s hoping someone will publish a hard copy in English one of these days…. (I feel like I am begging for a horse-drawn carriage or something… ludicrous!)

    • Despite having a blog and using Twitter, I too prefer a “real” book, you can lend it to friends for example. But maybe the Italian publisher behind this book wasn’t sure about launching an English print edition and funding the costs. This e-book changes things and can support additional publishing.

  3. Having enjoyed ” chats with Marco ” , would appreciate advice of ” links ” to obtain ” downloaded software “!

    Best Wishes for the NEW YEAR to ALL your Readers ,and my thanks to you , for the effort that you have invested in making your Blog so enjoyable throughout the years .

    BEST Wishes for the New Year and looking forward to more excellent Posts .

  4. Dammit. Pinotti is also a graduate engineer who can write books in his spare time? I only have a Bachelors and can barely stitch sentences together in the comment section on a cycling blog.

    I have always aspired to achieve similar powers to guys in the professional peleton. Pinotti and a couple others seem to share the same proportions as I, so I use them as a benchmark for performance. I’m not even close, it is what gets me up in the morning…

    One of the most revealing photos was seeing Pinotti grind it up on one of the climbs in the Giro. He did not look happy. Upon closer inspection of the photo, you can see his power off the SRM. 377. For a guy who weighs ~67 kg. That’s over 5.5W/kg. After hours in the saddle. I can barely put 5.5W/kg fresh on the turbo.

    Thanks for sharing all the unknown books of cycling. Big bookstores are all we have here, and I don’t really have the time to wander the webz for cycling books…


  5. My hope is that Marco doesn’t become a journalist or an engineer. He is the sort of guy this sport needs as a leader / administrator to sort itself out. He comes across as very intelligent, respected by all quarters and is fiercely anti-doping. What a superb role model. Isn’t it ironic that he almost seems the exception in the male peloton but it isn’t at all unusual for the women in the pro peloton to have worthwhile degrees, intelligence, maturity etc etc.

  6. There was a lovely comment from Marco Pinotti on Twitter at the height of the Armstrong affair this year:

    “Sports don’t need superstars. Get passionate about a sport by doing it, playing it, riding it.”

    I might buy his book just because of that.

  7. Reading the kindle version now and it is quite enjoyable and an easy, well written account of what it means to be a pro rider these days. I like his talk about how innovation has had a big impact on the sport – from training, nutrition, bike design, move from heart rate to watts, etc. I would recommend it.

  8. Bought it on Kindle, read the first few chapters. So far it’s pretty dry – maybe aimed at a much wider audience than ours? I chuckled when reading his recounting of his home rides as this is an area I know very well since we have friends there. I used to hear and read about the Bergamo environs being such a great place for cycling based on how many pros lived around there – but visiting and riding there, even 10+ years ago, was far from wonderful. I knew exactly what Pinotti was writing about in the stories about dodging traffic on clogged and narrow roads. Every year the suburban sprawl threatens more great cycling roads, just as Marco describes. Italians need to wake up and protect their cycling heritage before they lose another whole generation. The last big challenge was the availability of cheap mopeds and scooters – our Italian friends still lament an entire generation lost to those stinky things!

  9. Downloaded on to my tablet, it’s a good read and a different perspective on things in the Pro peloton.

    A lot of the stuff in there would be known to a hardcore cycling fan (the type that reads this blog) but I have still found it very interesting all the same.

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