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Lance: The Making of the World’s Greatest Champion Hardcover – June 29, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

By winning the Tour de France seven straight times (after surviving testicular cancer, no less), Lance Armstrong reached the hallowed status of athletes like Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali. With Armstrong's cooperation, Wilcockson (23 Days in July) profiles the cyclist's rise from a hell-raising Texas kid to a determined, disciplined champion who celebrates the highs of sports immortality while enduring lows like repeated doping allegations and shattered relationships. Wilcockson has tracked down an array of impressive sources-numerous cycling associates, family members, even Armstrong's ex-wife, Kristin. However, the resulting interviews provide little more than inspirational platitudes or fuzzy reminiscences, which are accompanied by ponderous accounts of training regimens and cycling events. With Wilcockson's fawning prose the book consistently reads like a press release (e.g., "Once Lance makes a promise...he always keeps it") a heavy contributor. Armstrong has led an extraordinary life so far, becoming synonymous with a sport and a disease while befriending movie stars and dating celebrities like Sheryl Crow.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Kirkus Reviews, 6/1/09
“[A] detailed…biography of one of the world’s most inspiring athletes…Wilcockson is at his best describing this tortuous 2,200-mile event, which tests athletes to the breaking point, and he ably captures the world of European cycling—the techniques, personalities and overwhelming passion.”

Booklist, 5/15/09
“Cycling fans will enjoy the summaries of Armstrong’s racing triumphs, and there are lots of fascinating insider anecdotes to flesh out the story line. This subject-friendly biography of one of the world’s most famous sports luminaries is sure to get lots of media hype and be in considerable demand.”

Library Journal
“This book offers stories and insights that will make it a popular choice for those who follow Armstrong and/or his sport.”

PW.com
“Wilcockson has tracked down an array of impressive sources…Armstrong has led an extraordinary life so far...”

The Independent (UK), 7/19/09
“[A] fascinating, very well put-together portrait full of insights into its subject's personality…The adult dramas – the rise to cycling prominence and his domination of the Tour, the cancer and the setting up of his cancer foundation, his marriage, fatherhood, divorce, and his relationship with Sheryl Crow – are better known, but in Wilcockson's hands they remain rich in the re-telling, and much is added to our understanding of a tumultuous life.”

The Guardian (UK), 7/19/09
“[S]ceptics might be less surprised to witness Armstrong's renaissance if they had read John Wilcockson's new biography.”

The Texas Observer, 7/10/09
“Wilcockson is able to offer the inside dope (pun intended) on the champ’s training techniques, his rise through the ranks and his triumph over family strife and cancer to emerge as one of the planet’s best-known athletes…Wilcockson certainly knows the business of bike racing, and he delivers a fine primer.”

The Daily Beast
Lance is a compelling story of survival and, above all else, endurance.”

The New York Times, 7/23/09
“Another Armstrong book?...Is there anything left to say or explain? Yes there is and Wilcockson says it and explains it meticulously, even controversially…Confident, confrontational, motivated by anger and a fear of failure — these well-known Armstrong traits are explored at length by Wilcockson in a series of interviews with figures in the rider’s past, including his adopted father, his early mentor, relatives and boyhood friends and the doctor who first diagnosed the testicular cancer that had spread to the rider’s brain, lungs and stomach. Lance lets them all speak as Wilcockson blends their stories into a skillful portrait to detail the book’s subtitle, The Making of the World’s Greatest Champion.”

The New York Times, 7/23/09
“Another Armstrong book?...Is there anything left to say or explain? Yes there is and Wilcockson says it and explains it meticulously, even controversially…Lance lets them all speak as Wilcockson blends their stories into a skillful portrait.”

San Antonio Express News, 7/27/09
“If you're an Armstrong follower, a cyclist or a fan of sports nonfiction, Lance won't disappoint.”

Bike World News, 9/1
“[F]or fans of Armstrong who are looking for a comprehensive look at his life, this book would fit the bill.”

Buffalo News, 9/6
“[Wilcockson] offers a unique biography of Armstrong that intertwines the personal with the professional.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (June 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306815877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306815874
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,366,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Read this book to see how the press was sucked into believing the great myth that was Armstrong. Wilcockson's total lack of objectivity is on display and in light of the USADA report and the UCI's acceptance thereof, it is poignant.
If you want truth, try "Rough Ride" by Paul Kimmage, "The Dirtiest Race in History" by Richard Moore, or "The Secret Race" by Hamilton and Coyle. Better yet, go to the USADA website and download the reasoned decision.
Leave this fanboy drivel on the shelf unless you read it as a cautionary tale.
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Format: Paperback
After reading how the author treated David Walsh, one of many who helped uncover Lance's lies and bullying, I think it is fair to say that this book helped Armstrong perpetuate his myth and should be only used in the dissection of moral weakness.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion is an awesome book. I enjoyed reading it so much that I even read it twice, the second time being 3 weeks later.

To get the biggest complaint out of the way: I'm not sure the book is completely objective. I think the author makes an effort to represent the doping suspicions fairly, but I also think the same author is a big Lance fan. Just like I am. So if you expect a fully objective investigative report, this is not it.

Everything else about the book is absolutely awesome. The writing is clear, crisp, and well-organized, well-researched. There are many, many original interviews and first-hand / primary source telling of stories. The book's author, John Wilcockson, is a familiar figure. If you follow the Tour, even just on TV (as I do), you will know his voice and presence. His knowledge of the industry is very high, and his connections enabled a lot of the first-hand interviews that make up this book.

The book covers Lance's youth, including his formative teenage years. His initial racing success, his battle with cancer, his return. His training regimen with a lot of details, and his big race success, especially in the Tour. It's all there. In glorious detail, if you're a tech geek like me.

Note: I'm not actually a bicycle rider. I can ride, obviously, but I don't enjoy it much. I get bored. I have a lot of respect for people who are real riders, like my friends and colleague Jeremy. But I am not a rider myself and I know next to nothing about what it takes to be one.

Lance's return from cancer is obviously inspiring to a lot of people. But reading how close he was to death, and how hard he's been working to get back in shape and stay there, makes it all the more inspiring.

(Also posted on my blog.)
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Format: Hardcover
John Wilcockson has written quite a few books about the sport of professional cycling, and in particular the Tour De France, as well as about Lance Armstrong, whom the author has known for many years. In particular good is his 2005 book "23 Days in July' (about Lance's record-breaking 6th Tour de France win in 2004). Now comes this book, which purports to give a look at Lance the person.

"Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion" (411 pages, including 16 pages of full-color pictures) brings a straight-forward chronological portrait of Lance Armstrong, from his early days in Dallas, to his eventually move to Austin, where Lance laid the foundation of his professional cycling career. But the book really takes off (and at the same time fails to deliver) when Lance gets testicular cancer, which almost killed him. Retells one of the doctors: "We found mostly embryonal cells, and those at that time were not curable. So I spoke with [a colleague doctor] and we were saying, this is what we got and what should I tell him? And he said 'Well, tell him 20 percent.' I said 'Okay' but in my view the chances were zero, or almost zero." The entire cancer episode is dealt with in a mere 16 pages in the book, and it just seems too quick and too rushed. The next 24 months in Lance's life are an incredible up-and-down, again dealt with hurriedly, although noting that "It was Lance's good fortune to skip the '98 Tour since that was the one devastated by doping scandals". There is very little revealing about Lance's personal life, including his stll-mysterious divorce from wife Kristin, and the equally baffling and sudden end to his relationship with Sheryl Crow.
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2 Comments 12 of 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
This is an outstanding book! Author John Wilcockson has written an absolutely fascinating, wonderfully informative, and totally engaging biography of one of the premier sports figures of our (or any) time, Lance Armstrong. The story of Armstrong's humble childhood (he was the product of a broken family) through his initial successes as a triathlete and eventually, a bicycle racer, is especially engrossing--as is the story of his absolutely incredible comeback after having one of the most severe cases of cancer his doctors had ever seen. One really gets a sense of the incredible grit and tenacity that would lead Armstrong to an unprecedented seven (and at this time, a possible--or probable--eight) victories in the Tour de France. Wilcockson fills out the biography with extensive quotes derived from interviews with all of the major protagonists in Armstrong's life: his family, friends, coaches, romantic interests, professional colleagues--this gives a wonderfully rich texture to the book and lets us really know the man rather than just the sports icon. In addition, Wilcockson doesn't shy away from addressing Armstrong's personal "foibles" (e.g., a certain recklessness and hauteur) and especially, the "doping" controversies that have surrounded Armstrong and many other successful athletes in the sport--he gives a fair and balanced picture of this thorny issue and convinces the reader that a combination of careful and relentless training, unyielding support from family, friends, and teammates, and the almost fanatical will to overcome obstacles has alone propelled Armstrong to the pinnacle of his success. In the final analysis, this book is a real inspiration (whether the reader happens to be athlete or not) and is very highly recommended indeed!
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