I’ve always been drawn to Lance Armstrong’s story for his struggle against cancer, rather than for his Tour de France wins. So despite the revelations about Armstrong’s drug use over the past year I’m still fond of his books, although not as much as I was in 2007 when I published this review on my old blog.

It’s Not About The Bike

Lance Armstrong, with Sally Jenkins

Every Second Counts
Lance Armstrong, with Sally Jenkins

Every cyclist has hills to climb. Sometimes they are small, like the hills in my hometown. Sometimes they are large, like the hills on the Tour de France. And sometimes they are the climb of your life.

In 1996 Lance Armstrong thought he knew about hills. He’d climbed a lot of them riding his bike as a child in Texas, and then as a professional cyclist. But it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with testicular cancer that he fully understood what it was to climb, and by his own admission, truly be a man. He proved himself by conquering his disease, and returning to life and to cycling changed physically – 15 pounds lighter – and as a person. It’s Not About the Bike is the story of Armstrong’s metamorphosis.

I know people who survived cancer and yet the sheer horror of living through chemotherapy didn’t hit home for me until I read Armstrong’s detailed account. The author’s bravery extends to not only beating the disease and returning to cycling but also to his nothing held back recounting of his illness. Even details that some might find odd in a sports biography – what athlete openly discusses his sterility, for instance? – work in this context. Perhaps we didn’t need to know how his first child was conceived, but winning is about excess, isn’t it?

Armstrong and his co-author Sally Jenkins reunited for a sequel, Every Second Counts, continuing Lance’s story. Unfortunately it’s not just Hollywood that has problems with sequels. Like a novel protagonist without an obstacle to overcome, Every Second Counts becomes a second serving of Lance’s life and career highlights. Sports fans will read it for just such matters, but impressive as seven Tour jerseys look framed on the wall, for me it reads as a long afterward to the real event. Lance won his victory when he returned to life after cancer. Would all such climbs had a triumphant finish.