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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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Initially, what jumps out is Lance's scrappy writing style. It's refreshing; I loved that he was unafraid to identify the "father figures" in his life for what they were and were not. His devotion to his mom is pure and true. You can hear it in his narrative. His mom should think about writing a book about her own strength, tenacity, and dedication to being a great mom under very difficult circumstances.
The second striking aspect is the man's amazing anatomy. His physiology and his tolerances for pain are unique. It doesn't hurt that he seemingly manufactures less lactic acid than the rest of us poor sods. However, I was struck by his quest for pain as a pure way to leave all the peripheral interruptions behind and to really focus on his job. That is the one aspect that has stayed with me. One can program one's thinking to see pain as focal point rather than a debilitating distraction. What a powerful and liberating feeling.
His frank and story of the surgery and chemotherapy are gut wrenching (literally!) As well, the reader definitely wants the happy ending and is thus rewarded in this biography. His personal reflections of his emotional, physical and spiritual transformations after the cancer motivate this reader to cheer all the more. Good on ya Lance! You make July mornings at 6:00am (PDT) must see tv in this household.
I think there is a wide cross-section of readers who will find many parts of this book totally absorbing. As for me, I love reading about cycling tactics and the drama that unfolds in and around the pro peloton. There are many details about cycling in this book. (Though, of his TDF victories, only the first is described in full. The 2000 tour is described in an "Encore" chapter.) Among the most interesting to me were the few pages about a heated topic that is rarely addressed by the parties involved -- Armstrong's sponsors -- which companies vowed unconditional support, and which company all but abandonned.
Though I didn't expect to find details about cancer and its treatment as interesting as the cycling details, that part of the story is among the most inspirational. It provides another example of Armstrong's intensely competitive nature and astonishing capacity to remain confident in the face of unthinkable pain, suffering, and adversity. In Armstrong's narrative, the story reads like that of some insane, year-long time-trial, cooked up by TDF organizers just to see if Lance will crack.
Finally, perhaps Armstrong's greatest strength as an autobiographer is his willingness to candidly describe his weakest and most desperate hours.
The book is pretty well balanced between describing Lance's cycling and his difficult battle with testicular cancer. There is no doubt that the book is part of an overall effort to capitalize on Lance's amazing Tour de France win in 1999 and after, but the sometimes angry, sometimes cocky Lance may be a little difficult to understand or tolerate by some.
Lance acknowledges a great deal of good fortune in surviving cancer but does so rather disingenuously. The fact of the matter is that over 99% of the population would have never had the instant access that Lance had to specialists all over the country who as it turned made all the difference in his recovery. In addition, Lance was quite fortunate in that a bike store owner in Texas took Lance under his arm when he was very young and developed his cycling ability virtually from the ground up. It is vintage Lance Armstrong when he has falling out with his patron just as he is starting to gain some national recognition of his cycling talent. On several ocassions Lance benefited from the right guy entering his life at the right time to provide the right kind of help with his cycling. It did not have to happen that way.
Some may find the book inspirational and it is to a degree. Others may see just how thin is the thread that separates success and even life itself from failure and even death.