It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong

It�s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 275 pages (plus 16 pages of b&w photos), 2000

Rating: 8/10

Reason for Reading: Constant demand for it when I worked at a bookstore.

Synopsis: In this autobiography, champion cyclist Lance Armstrong explores how testicular cancer halted him in the middle of a successful career, and looks at his struggle to not only recover, but to prosper again.

Why you should read this book: Armstrong bravely lets the reader glimpse the full range of his emotions, from his iron will of survival to the pain of freezing a sperm sample as he had a good chance of becoming infertile. We get an equally poignant look into dealing with cancer and finding out what it takes to race professionally. Surprisingly for the subject of cancer, there are thankfully few moments of sap – this is an attempt to set down the truth, not write a tear-jerker.

Why you should avoid this book: This is still a painful subject to read about, because while even Lance’s outcome is clear, he’s fairly descriptive about things like needles, chemotherapy and IVF.

Opening paragraph:

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.

Fabulous quotes:

As I drew even with Argentin, he glanced at me, vaguely surprised, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Bishop?’

For some reason it infuriated me. He didn’t know my name. He thought I was Andy Bishop, another member of the American team. I thought, This guy doesn’t know my name?
‘Fuck you, Chiapucci!’ I said, calling him by the name of one of his teammates.
Argentin did a double take, incredulous. He was the capo, the boss, and to him I was a faceless young American who had yet to win anything, yet here I was cussing him out. But I’d had a number of promising results, and in my own mind, he should have known who I was.

Deep down, I wasn’t ready. Had I understood more about survivorship, I would have recognized that my comeback attempt was bound to be fraught with psychological problems. If I had a bad day, I had a tendency to say, ‘Well, I’ve just been through too much. I’ve been through three surgeries, three months of chemo, and a year of hell, and that’s the reason I’m not riding well. My body is just never going to be the same.’ But what I really should have been saying was, ‘Hey, it’s just a bad day.’

Also recommended: It’s True! It’s True! by Kurt Angle.

Also by this author: Lance Armstrong: Images of a Champion; Every Second Counts; The Official Tour de France: Centennial 1903-2003; The Lance Armstrong Performance Program (all Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins).

Author’s website:

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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