Johnson brings at least three things to his account of a year in the life of a pro cycling team that set it apart from any other commentary I've read on the sport (and I've ready plenty): unprecedented access, striking imagery, and crisp, lucid prose. From the get-go it's apparent that Johnson was fully embedded with the Garmin team. As a result, the reader sits in on early team meetings and promotional shoots, joins in on pre-season training rides through the Spanish countryside (with the requisite stops for espresso and replenishment at hole-in-the-wall cafes favored by the pro peloton), and takes in almost every major event in the annual pro racing calendar from the vantage point of the director's team car. Johnson provides more than just a recounting of all that transpired over that time span though; his is a story of a team attempting to transform a sport, and the obstacles and resistance they face in pursuit of that task. Within that major story line, Johnson also captures the human element of cycling more successfully than any other author I've encountered: the brutal demands the sport places on its athletes; the extent to which personal bonds and commitments sustain a team like Garmin-Barracuda (now Garmin-Sharp); the loyal, deep seated, tradition-bound fan base; and the ecstasy and agony that a rider like Johan Van Summeren in particular experiences between his Roubaix triumph and his Vuela D'Espana near-death experience. Finally, Johnson brings a sense of hope and promise that, as I suggest in my title, make this a worthy counterweight to Paul Kimmage's powerful but dark and pessimistic account of his own experience in the pro-peleton circa 1990.
Johnson's photos and the hardcover format will tempt you to leave this on the coffee table, but his witty, vivid insights will likely bring you back to it again and again. I couldn't recommend this book more strongly and actually just purchased another copy for my father's birthday.