Days of our Lives!

March 24, 2006

Book Review: It’s Not About the Bike – Lance Armstrong

Filed under: Books,Sports — Santhosh @ 9:30 PM

Book Name: It’s Not About the Bike
Author: Lance Armstrong
Year: 2000
Genre: Autobiography
I want to die at a hundred years old with an American flag on my back and the star of Texas on my helmet, after screaming down an Alpine descent on a bicycle at 75 miles per hour. I want to cross one last finish line as my stud wife and my ten children applaud, and then I want to lie down in a field of those famous French sunflowers and gracefully expire, the perfect contradiction to my once-anticipated poignant early demise.
– Lance Armstrong
I guess the above excerpt should capture the essence of the man behind the bike, his attitude to life in general.
Lance Armstrong – one of the few guys i really feel is a “What a Man!”
Had been bugging Venks to get it during one of his many trips to Bangalore when we were all in college. And the guy stopped short with an IIM. So finally got this when me and Janet were out strolling in Brigade.
The content and the presentation is a giveaway that he is one stubborn guy. No words are minced and no one is spared – he describes his biological father as his DNA donor. He does not seem to care about the fact that he may be almost a superficial hero to many. He unflinchingly tells instances of where he broke down and cried, did pretty stupid stunts that affect the US team itself, of his initial doubts after cancer treatment, his loss of fertility…
This book also confirms the difference in the sporting culture between USA and India. There seem to be too many sports (unlike the ubiquitous cricket that every guy includes in his resume here) introduced at early stages of one’s life so that one can get to know where his interest lies. This in turn results in the guy excelling, rather than people in their 30’s trying to find their “some hidden talent – the number of times the herione wud ask of the hero…”.
Armstrong (actually his first step-dad’s name, who officially adopts him) is introduced to cycling by the local cycling team owner and he gradually converts his natural aggression into performance. He initially dips into to triathlons (winning quite some too) before focussing exclusively on cycling.
There are a lot of people who take him up in their wing and try to control his aggression and temper him. He admits that his rebellious nature is because of the way he had been treated by his step-dad. Initially not a climber and more of a sprinter whose physique and attitude give him sudden bursts near the finish line,he could not even complete a stage in his first Tour De France appearance.
He has more VO2 ratings than most people on earth and his glands secrete muscle straining chemicals (forgot the name) slower than others. In short he can work harder than most and at the same time feel less tired too.
And then comes the cancer. Docs give him 20% chance of survival. And he fights every inch of the way. He cycles during his recuperation after surgery. The chemo sessions start and he carries on with his cycling. He admits that his cycling is more to convince himself that if he can cycle then he is not dying.
Sponsors drop off, medical insurance lapses, and he’s forced to sell his car and possessions. He tells of the anguish and the way he hit the books on cancer (which explains the details). There are then a lot of anecdotes of how he makes life hard for others around him, how others support him, how his coaches stand by him.
It is during his recuperation that he comes to actually like cycling. Before, while competing, he says he never actualy loved the sport. According to him it was just a means to fame and money. He starts a cancer foundation and gets overwhelmed by the support, and the curiosity.
As many would like to believe, his comeback was nothing out of Hollywood. He ‘bonks’ his first race back and gives up and goes home. As far as he is concerned his comeback is a success of sorts and he’s content to retire. His coaches then drive into him the fact that his comeback hardly made any waves and he’s pricked enough to give it another try. And as they say, the rest is history.
A detailed review of his first Tour De France triumph follows. Of the courses and the time lines and the exhaustion and the way his teammates in the US Postal Team helped him (90% of the triumph is attributed to them) and the culture between the other competitors (people sometimes intentionally pull up near the finish line to let another guy win). The anguish he feels at being doubted for drug abuse is felt.
Then follows something that caught me by surprise. He goes into detail about the way procedures and difficulties and his wife have to go through in order to have a baby. Trips to the sperm bank and injections to the syringe-fearing Kik (his wife) and drugs and embarrassments and seminars and sleepless nights follow. His anxiety when his baby boy is delivered…
Then follows a shorter write up of his second win.
Right through all this his mother is ever present.
“U dont quit son!”
The way she nurses him and motivates him and stands by him…
In all it is the story of the extraordinary journey of an ordinary person. Readers will somehow identify themselves with him. Something like the Sherlock Holmes way, where things appear absurdly simple once he explains them. Here too his journey seems somewhat mortal once he goes through all his emotional feelings.
My Rating: 5/5
A must read!


  1. the book is gr8 n the guy even gr8er coz the talk is never abt lance alone…he credits his mom,the person who first introduced him to cycling,his agent,coach at the us post team, national coach…his modest is kinda unbelievable

    Comment by ram — March 25, 2006 @ 2:04 PM | Reply

  2. It seriously is a must read..Cycling & the Frecnch country side will definitely miss him……

    Comment by Venks — March 25, 2006 @ 10:15 PM | Reply

  3. @ramya, seriouslyhe pays his dues to all those who have brought him to herebut i have a problem, how come he ditched Kik and ended up with Sheryl Crow

    Comment by santhosh — March 25, 2006 @ 11:12 PM | Reply

  4. me too inspired by ur review.. will try to read it soon…

    Comment by Sathappan Sathappan — March 28, 2006 @ 3:01 PM | Reply

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