Book Review: Life in The Peloton

Life in The Peloton by Mitchell Docker and Tom Southam

Want to terrify a neo-pro set to join the World Tour straight out of the junior ranks? Don’t warn them of the difficulty they’ll have on the climbs against Pogačar or having to rub shoulders with Van Aert on the farm tracks of Flanders. That’s what they’re looking forward to. No, ask them if they know how to collect a full musette while riding at 40km/h, or preferably two in case their team leader wants extra and remind them they need to master this otherwise they might be the guy who wipes out on first contact with a cotton bag, taking down Van der Poel in an early season race and being roasted alive on social media.

There’s a lot to master for neo-pros and Docker’s book is a manual for newcomers making their way in the peloton. This could mean a niche readership even if they’d do well to read it but reading the advice and anecdotes is of wider interest as it touches on tactics and other skills that sofa spectators can enjoy.

This is partly Mitchell “Mitch” Docker’s autobiography. But instead of the usual rise-up-the-ranks-turn-pro-setbacks-satisfaction-decide-to-retire tale, here he uses anecdotes as examples and tips. Take the amusing tale of an Australian rider who decides to take it easy on a time trial during a stage race to save energy for the coming days. Only that day Bradley Wiggins blitzes the course and Docker’s friend is outside the time cut and goes home. It’s a funny story in itself but turned into a parable about the level of effort required for a time trial and comes with advice on pacing to avoid being DNF.

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There’s plenty along the way like, lessons learned and now shared. Some is of this particular to Docker and his career. Plenty can be useful to spectators as tactics explored, from leadouts to fetching bottles. The advice for how to navigate the convoy of team cars is instructive for participants and onlookers alike. Plus there’s plenty of insider tips, take the convoy and how being friendly with photographers can help because one day a rider might welcome the draft of a moto for a few seconds, maybe they are on their way back from the convoy with some bottles. An ally with a camera might decide to line up a front-on shot. It’s a small performance gain but this and other ruses don’t get the same publicity as a new skinsuit and require experience.

It’s co-written with Tom Southam, the EF Education-Easypost sports director, the two share a good podcast with Luke Durbridge. The book feels very much like it’s in Docker’s voice but at times you might be able to detect the work of Southam, such as decreeing that a sprint stage in a grand tour typically has less than 1,500 metres of vertical gain and other technical aspects.

It’s an easy read in more sense than one. The text is spaced apart, pages are not always full and there are many illustrations. Sometimes bullet points are used. Take the page on “Post-race routine on the bus”, this rattles through the tasks to do after a stage and if “take a drink” is obvious, the one about having the fastest shower possible is invaluable for a neo-pro who might want to warm up or scrub away but they won’t win friends if team mates are queuing. Putting this in list format helps and does give it the feel of a manual.

Docker’s pro career ranged from Skil-Shimano in 2009 to EF in 2021 which gives range, enough time to pick up plenty of war stories to tell and experience to share, including of the modern modern era with things like warm-up protocols and the arrival of high carb diets.

The Verdict
Entertaining and instructive. There are books on how to ride in a peloton and their Youtube tutorial equivalents but this explains more of the intricacies of life in the pro peloton as it covers plenty from tactics to logistics, even contract negotiations. It’s not exhaustive, a neo-pro will still have plenty to learn and Docker doesn’t lift the lid on everything but it is educational and fun.

Along the way Docker tells the story of his career and this comes with more focus on the classics and sprints which were his speciality but he does get others to contribute, like Michael Woods on mountain stages during a grand tour. As a domestique his tales are often of helping others and the book is continuation.

  • It’s sold via MAAP’s website, the clothing company who collaborate with Docker and retails for AUD 40 / USD/EUR 27 and GBP 21.

A free electronic copy was sent for review. More reviews at

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Life in The Peloton”

  1. Looking forward to getting my copy of this – it’s in the mail. I was at the launch he held at MAAP a few weeks ago and the anecdotes he shared and sections he read gave a good idea that I’ll appreciate the book as much as I’ve enjoyed his podcasts.

  2. Mitch is back reporting for The Cycling Podcast at this year’s tour, and actually the old hand with François retiring and Lionel staying (mostly) behind a keyboard (Daniel reports for ITV during the tour). Mitch is doing a good job, I’m enjoying his explanations of trials of changing from a pro/podcaster to a podcaster/ex-pro. Not to forget the daily pint of wine!

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