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It's Not about the Bike: My Journey Back to Life Hardcover – May 22, 2000
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People around the world have found inspiration in the story of Lance Armstrong--a world-class athlete nearly struck down by cancer, only to recover and win the Tour de France, the multiday bicycle race famous for its grueling intensity. Armstrong is a thoroughgoing Texan jock, and the changes brought to his life by his illness are startling and powerful, but he's just not interested in wearing a hero suit. While his vocabulary is a bit on the he-man side (highest compliment to his wife: "she's a stud"), his actions will melt the most hard-bitten souls: a cancer foundation and benefit bike ride, his astonishing commitment to training that got him past countless hurdles, loyalty to the people and corporations that never gave up on him. There's serious medical detail here, which may not be for the faint of heart; from chemo to surgical procedures to his wife's in vitro fertilization, you won't be spared a single x-ray, IV drip, or unfortunate side effect. Athletes and coaches everywhere will benefit from the same extraordinary detail provided about his training sessions--every aching tendon, every rainy afternoon, and every small triumph during his long recovery is here in living color. It's Not About the Bike is the perfect title for this book about life, death, illness, family, setbacks, and triumphs, but not especially about the bike. --Jill Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
In 1996, young cycling phenom Armstrong discovered he had testicular cancer. In 1999, he won the Tour de France. Now he's a grateful husband, a new fatherAand a memoirist: with pluck, humility and verve, this volume covers his early life, his rise through the endurance sport world and his medical difficulties. Cancer "was like being run off the road by a truck, and I've got the scars to prove it," Armstrong declares. Earlier scars, he explains, came from a stepfather he casts as unworthy; early rewards, from his hardworking mother and from the triathlons and national bike races Armstrong won as a Texas teen. "The real racing action was over in Europe": after covering that, Armstrong and Jenkins (Men Will Be Boys, with Pat Summit, etc.) ascend to the scarier challenges of diagnoses and surgeries. As he gets worse, then better, Armstrong describes the affections of his racing friends and of the professionals who cared for him. Armstrong is honest and delightful on his relationship to wife Kristin (Kik), and goes into surprising detail about the technology that let them have a child. The memoir concludes with Armstrong's French victory and the birth of their son. The book features a disarming and spotless prose style, one far above par for sports memoirs. Bicycle-racing fans will enjoy the troves of inside information and the accounts of competitions, but Armstrong has set his sights on a wider meaning and readership: "When I was sick I saw more beauty and triumph and truth in a single day than I ever did in a bike race." Agent, Esther Newberg. First serial to Vanity Fair; BOMC main selection; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Australia, France, Germany, Holland and Japan. (May 22)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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And, Lance Armstrong is definitely not a dead letter. His autobiography, 'It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life,' keeps his legacy, just like his life, fresh and alive.
As I accidentally fell upon this book at the library, I discovered early and often that Armstrong gives plenty of evidence his story is worth retelling. From the first chapter, the narrative is accessible enough for readers to take his journey vicariously: Riding the Tour de France and recovering from cancer was grueling for Lance Armstrong, but while the details take one vividly and perceptively through his life, one never feels that reading about it ever is. Never is there a wasted word, scene, or explanation.
Deciding how this can be so is the crux. My first impression is that Lance has great expression. Even though he's down-to-earth, his color, flair, and personality are conveyed throughout. He's able to elaborate well about his life. He's good with words, and he's closely in touch with his feelings. He's able to describe life events in a fluid fashion, and his choice of what he tells is a constant exercise in good judgment.
Speaking of details, without giving away the store, Lance is great at recounting when he was first diagnosed with cancer, remembering his feelings, the reactions of significant others, and what they said at key moments of his life. He's also an able writer, recalling the challenges of racing in general as well as for each individual race. His memories of dangers, competitors' strengths and weakness, and the fabric of all his personal and career ups and downs are varied and complete.
It is an intimate account (enough to fascinate) without being merely a long, drawn-out addendum or answer to gossip tabloids. Furthermore, he integrates the fossilized charges of "doping" skillfully (including an honest account of what went through his mind before, during, and after his press conferences) and without overdoing it.
Without diminishing his writing accomplishments, one can imagine that whenever Lance faltered in his writing, co-author, Sally Jenkins, reinforced his efforts with excellent feedback and editing. Just like his fellow team members for the Tour de France, Lance has singular achievement, but nothing he has done has been without group support..
As a whole, 'It's Not About the Bike...' is a terrific read, a lucid account by an articulate man who's generous and resourceful with information. This is the best jockography I've ever read (although I`ve only read about six.). The mere fact that he had me in suspense nearly every step of the way for an autobiographical story I've already known is a fact that speaks volumes.
(*My title is a quote from Armstrong himself who is speaking about bike racing during his recollection of his first Tour de France triumph. It's a bit of a misnomer, for, as anyone who has completed the book can attest, all the suffering he recalls is very significant to him.)
One positive feature of this book is its description of cycling races. Not only does Armstrong inform the reader of the competitive nature of the sport, such as the insults exchanged while cyclists are racing, he also describes how a team works together during a race. Before reading this book, I believed that each racer's goal was to win. In reality, racers are part of teams, and each team member works for the good of the whole so that one person from their team can be victorious.
While this book is a stirring read, it has numerous faults. I agree with Bryan Castro's review when he stated that Armstrong is often annoying. While his wife and friends make huge sacrifices for him and are very supportive before, during, and after his battle with cancer, Lance does nothing to alert his reader to the ways he is equally supportive in his personal relationships.
For example, Lance and his wife, Kristin, moved to France so Lance could get back into cycling after he recovered from cancer. His wife had to quit her job, give up her dog, her friends, and her entire life. They spent a few weeks in France before Lance decided to quit biking and moved back home. He then lived like a bum, while Kristin had to find a way to get her life back. This selfish act is one of many which has lowered my opinion of Lance Armstrong.
In the beginning of the book, Lance describes how he excelled as an athlete from a young age by competing with older, more experienced athletes. While part of the mindset of being a professional athlete is being confident in one's own abilities, his cockiness is often overwhelming. I had hopes that after his illness he would become more humble, but that voice did not come through in his writing.
Lance accomplishes his goal of telling the story of living with cancer, and how he overcame this challenge to get back on the bike professionally. Unfortunately, his egomania and cockiness subtracts from the message of the book.