Re-finding Greatness

Another book review, you say? Well, I did do a lot of reading while I was home for Thanksgiving, because as you know, no TV! This was a book I started a bit ago, but got distracted by library books with deadlines on them.

Tour de Lance, by Bill Strickland, is a fabulous book that follows Lance Armstrong as he comes back to the sport in 2009 after a 4 year absence. Now, Strickland is quite a fan of Armstrong. He says so himself. But he’s not super keen to hear that Armstrong is coming back, as comebacks historically only serve to tarnish the legacy left behind from the first retirement. And, he was looking forward to a new generation of cycling stars! (such as, oh I don’t know, Alberto Contador!) Despite his trepidation at Armstrong’s un-retirement, he decides to chronicle Armstrong’s journey, as an outsider, as objectively as possible.

This is a great book for someone who’s new to the sport, just interested in learning more about how the Tour works, or looking for a different perspective on Armstrong. Unlike The Rider, it was written with cycling novices in mind, and there is a lot of explanation of race tactics, team tactics, race and team politics. However, as the book progresses further into 2009 Tour de France, there is a reflection of Strickland’s increasing  obsession with Armstrong’s success, as Strickland loses some threads started early in book. Not only is there less explanation and description of race tactics, stories of cancer survivors/fighters who relate to or are inspired by Armstrong are forgotten on the sidelines as well. Although I can’t say I minded losing that thread too much, as it doesn’t appeal to me, it is an important part of who Armstrong’s public persona, what he’s done, and the justification for his comeback. (btw, yeah right. He just missed racing- the cancer research and awareness mission was just a good cover. Not that I blame him. When you’ve been competitive since 15, you can’t just turn that off.)

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The Most Exciting Race You’ll Ever Read

I shall start by saying that I am an avid reader. I’m pretty sure this stems from the lack of TV in our house growing up – there wasn’t anything else to do except read! However, I am not used to reading books which require me to think too hard. I’m pretty sure this stems from wanting to read as fast as possible. I viewed every library/school reading incentive program as a competition with the winner (me) crushing the enemy under the sheer size of their reading list. (I was not unique in this respect – all of my siblings approached these incentive programs with the same no-mercy attitude.) Once I started reading The Rider by Tim Krabbé, I wasn’t sure how this “thinking” book would go down. However, the further I got into the book, the slower I read. I became more willing to take my time, as I realized it was a book best enjoyed at a slow pace.

For those who are unfamiliar with this book, Krabbé tells the story of a 137 km race over 140 pages. Krabbé (the author) recounts how Krabbé (the racer) really wants to win Tour de Mont Aigoual and spends the next 150 pages detailing every attack, every pedal stroke, every painful breath. While telling the story of the race, he deftly weaves in tales from his early career and the careers of champions past. I won’t dream of ruining the ending, but I will say I spent the last 100m as tense as I do while watching a sprint on TV!

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