I've never really followed professional cycling. I knew the name Greg LeMonde, but that was about it. Then in 1999, Lance Armstrong became the first American to win the Tour since LeMonde, after almost dying from cancer. Winning the race is impressive, but having the guts and determination to reach that goal after beating cancer is amazing to me.
After reading the book, I am no less impressed with his athletic abilities, or his courage in dealing with the cancer treatments and aftermath. I don't know if I would like him personally. Some of the personality traits that make him a champion cyclist would appear make him a difficult person off the course. The flipside of tenacity can be stubbornness. The flipside of focus can be self-centeredness. The love of speed on the bike causes him to disregard the safety of others when driving a car. I'm sure that most elite athletes who perform at the highest levels must be similarly focused on their goals, sometimes to the exclusion of others. But Lance's charity work and large numbers of friends would seem to indicate that there are perhaps depths that do not come out in the book.
His story is inspirational and the book is very readable. Recommended for sports fans and readers who enjoy "triumph of the human spirit" true stories.
From the book:
"I had learned what it means to ride the Tour de France. It's not about the bike. It's a metaphor for life, not only the longest race in the world but also the most exalting and heartbreaking and potentially tragic. It poses every conceivable element to the rider, and more: cold, heat, mountains, plains, ruts, flat tires, high winds, unspeakably bad luck, unthinkable beauty, yawning senselessness, and above all a great, deep self-questioning. During our lives we're faced with so many different elements as well, we experience so many setbacks, and fight such a hand-to-hand battle with failure, head down in the rain, just trying to stay upright and to have a little hope. The Tour is not just a bike race, not at all. It tests you physically, it tests you mentally, and it even tests you morally." (70-71)