Lance Armstrong: Tour de Force Hardcover – 6 Jun 2005
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Lance Armstrong's achievement (as vividly detailed in Daniel Coyle's Lance Armstrong: Tour de Force) has been one of the most astonishing in recent sporting history, not least for the reasons detailed in the book's strapline: tough guys, flawed heroes and one man's battle for ultimate supremacy. This is the remarkable story of a man who triumphed over all the odds -- a behind-the-scenes record of the 2004 professional cycling season and the manner in which Armstrong landed his sixth Tour de France victory. What makes the book particularly inspiring is the fact that Armstrong is no superman -- he talks about the many strikes against him (his age, the dissolving of his team and -- most of all -- his triumph over potentially lethal illness (his struggle against cancer is, of course, well-known).
Coyle takes us from the cyclists turbulent youth in Texas through his many achievements in the cycling field (notably his near loss in the 2003 tour), and his massive struggles against a series of disasters that would have floored most of us: his difficult divorce and subsequent separation from his children and, finally, the terrifying revelation of his cancer. The section on the various solutions that Armstrong tried (including new age healers and radical Italian sports doctors) makes for particularly fascinating reading: as Armstrong realised that his solutions lay elsewhere, there is a genuinely inspirational note here.
Equally fascinating are the descriptions of his obsessive fans, the mind games he was forced to play (both with his opponents and corporate heavyweights), and, of course, his much-publicised relationship with rock star Sheryl Crow. The climax, his victory in the 2004 Tour de France, rounds out one of the best sport biographies in years. --Barry Forshaw
‘Lance Armstrong is one of those few cyclists whose fame transcends the limits of his sport.’ BBC News
‘His world is not only that of cycling, it is the world of American celebrity: of Super Bowl parties with Elton John, weekends at Kevin Costner's house, lunch with Brad Pitt.’ ObserverSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
This book covers a huge amount of territory including sketch portraits of a number of other leading cyclists and key U.S. Postal staff but it never feels slow or needlessly drawn out. You come away with the idea that you have gained a very believable behind-the-scenes glimpse of Armstrong's character and the workings of the pro peleton.
This is probably not a book for those who worship the ground that Lance Armstrong walks on ...or maybe it is.
Those are the books strengths. However, I was disappointed by the Coyle's treatment of a book by David Walsh and Pierre Ballster. The Walsh/Ballster book makes new allegations against Armstrong but Coyle does not add anything new. I would have liked more evaluation of these claims rather than reportage.
The book also lapses sometimes into tabloid journalism including some astonishing mean spiritedness. Instead of an analysis of how Armstrong's relationship with Sheryl Crow may have affected his performance as a cyclist instead we find out that Mr and Mrs Coyle have been taking bets on whether the relationship will last until the 2005 Tour. Happily the relationship is still going but I think using someone else's potential heartbreak as a form of entertainment tells us more about the author that the subject of the biography.
this wasn't what was known when Daniel Coyle published this book in 2005.
Of course, this is in many ways the book's greatest flaw: for all his emphasis on getting on 'the inside track' of Armstrong, Coyle never actually figured it out. Indeed, there's a whole chapter on David Walsh, who was busy trying to blow the whistle, but at that time nobody was listening: Walsh is a sideshow.
Coyle later published "The Secret Race" based on extensive interviews with Tyler Hamilton in 2011, and only after that did he know for sure: in his preface to that book, he says that before interviewing Hamilton in depth, he was "50-50" about whether Armstrong was a doper. And that was his position at the time of writing this book: he's non-committal. He sees how one can see Armstrong as a doper but also sees how it might be possible that he was for real. He also identifies a mentality difference: Americans think "clean=hero, doper=fraud"; Europeans think "doper=whatever everyone else is doing as well, c'est la vie".
Now this isn't quite fair, as plenty of Europeans were fed up with the doping in cycling, but it's also got some truth.
And I hope this book doesn't get entirely forgotten, because alongside the straight cheating of Armstrong and his coach Michele Ferrari, (plus everyone else, Ullrich, Hamilton, Landis et al...), Coyle has documented brilliantly the training, blood, sweat, method, planning and more that went into winning his Tour de Frances. Yes, these guys did cheat, but it was never a done deal in winning a tour: there was a lot of uncertainty about the result: in 2004, for example, Hamilton's injury robbed him of a possible win to Armstrong's benefit.
Coyle also delineates well the celebrity circus that surrounded Armstrong, his charm, his pettiness, his everything. For about ten years, he was one of the world's great sporting superstars, and he didn't achieve this purely by deception. Read Coyle's chapters on Ferrari's number crunching and Armstrong's response to it all in his training and you see a fine-tuned sportsman-coach relationship at work.
And yet, and yet...
ultimately this book is a testament to a time before our eyes were truly opened, when we could still believe in Armstrong's miracle recovery and be inspired by it. It's a timepiece.
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It's not just about Lance either but also his main rivals and with lots of insights into the science and psycholgy of top...Read more
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