Lance Armstrong: It’s Not About the Bike (review)

Lance Armstrong. Probably one of the most well-known athletes in the world. A 7 times Tour de France champion. Founder of Livestrong. A dedicated fighter against cancer and for cancer treatment. This is his story – from childhood to cancer survivor.

First of, I have to say that I am a fan of Lance Armstrong. I enjoyed watching him win his many Tour de France victories and these days, I follow him on Twitter. Still, while reading this book I definitely didn’t like the young Lance. There’s no doubt that he had a troubled childhood in some ways but still, boys setting balls on fire and then playing catch are just not my cup of tea. Anyway, this is not what this is about.

Lance details how he started biking and shows how he was very focused, even as a young boy and how huge an influence his mother has been on both his life but also 0n the way he views his career, teaching him to never give up and always fight. Two abilities, that was hugely important to him when he was diagnosed with cancer.

There’s no doubt that he was lucky to survive. As a professional cyclist, Lance was used to dealing with pain and ignoring it and so he did too with the fact that his testicles changed both color and size. This meant that his cancer was discovered very late, it meant that it had spread to both his lungs and his brain and it meant that he had to endure some very tough treatments to be able to beat it.

I really like how candid he was about the toughness of the disease, how hard he had to fight to just endure the treatment and how far out he was before it turned and he started getting better. This is definitely a book that shows how tough cancer is. I also liked how he seemed to have changed as a human being, becoming much more sensitive and having more empathy after the disease and being able to see clearly, that he had not always behaved very nice before he was ill. I know that some will say that he still don’t behave very well and that he’s arrogant – I don’t know if I would like him if I actually met him but I think that to win Tour de France and to do well in (almost) all professional sports, you have to be arrogant.

I also liked how he is very open and candid about his and his wife’s trouble with having children. Of course, he had to freeze his sperm before being treated for cancer and this means, that his wife have to go through a lot to get pregnant – as all women/couples have to if having trouble getting pregnant. I know several couples who have had these issues and I know that it is a struggle for all, and therefore, I am glad that Lance addresses this and shares his and his wife’s story.

Of course, it’s a bit bittersweet to read about his relationship with his wife and how perfect she is, when you know that they are no longer together and that Lance has been having a bit of trouble finding the right partner since.

There are a few things I don’t want to discuss – or even talk about. It’s kind of a joke, but still – just don’t go there. One is that Sir Cliff Richard has never had any plastic surgeries – the other is that Miquel Indurain and Lance Armstrong never used doping. My boyfriend challenges all these three – but I don’t care. I just don’t want to discuss them. Being that as it may, you can’t really mention Lance Armstrong without talking doping – even though that’s really not what this book is about.

Lance mentions doping a couple of times. As with other professional cyclists writing biographies and talking about doping, you really have to hope he is telling the truth – with the claims he makes, he will loose all credibility otherwise and with the current doping investigation against him, doping is once again rearing it’s ugly head in Lance’s life (for what it’s worth, in my opinion, they should just stop investigating the doping in professional cycling in the 90s and early 00s. If Lance is found guilty, well, then they can start investigating the rider who finished second – and so on and so on. Just stop and focus on keeping cycling clean now!).

Anyway, back to what Lance himself says: ‘Doping is an unfortunate fact of life in cycling, or in any other endurance sport for that matter. Inevitably, some teams and riders feel it’s like nuclear weapons – that they have to do it to stay competitive within the peloton. I never felt that way, and certainly after chemo the idea of putting anything foreign in my body was especially repulsive.’ (p. 205) This of course sounds like Lance could never even dream of doping – the only thing is that this argument is not the best one since a lot of the drugs riders are using to enhance their performance, are the same drugs being used by doctors to battle cancer – which means that these drugs are not foreign to Lance.

Still, he has never been tested positive. The newest tests that have been made public, does not necessarily mean that he was doped – according to doping experts. I hope he will never be found guilty in doping because I cling to my belief that Lance won because he could fuel his body with anger – and Lance was a very angry man!

This is not a book about cycling per se – as the title also says. This is about one man’s battle with cancer and it is a very fascinating account. The writing is rather plain as it is in all sports biographies but the book is worth reading if you’re interested in Lance, cancer or – to a lesser extent – professional cycling and Tour de France.

  • Title: It’s Not About the Bike. My Journey Back to Life
  • Author: Lance Armstrong
  • Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press – Random House
  • Year: 2001
  • Pages: 294 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars:  4 stars out of 5

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