Lance Armstrong's War : One Man's Battle Against Fate, Fame, Love, Death, Scandal, and a Few Other Rivals on the Road to the Tour de France
Lance Armstrong's War is the extraordinary story of greatness pushed to its limits, a vivid, behind-the-scenes portrait of Armstrong -- perhaps the most accomplished athlete of our time -- as he faces his biggest test: a historic sixth straight victory in the Tour de France, the toughest sporting event on the planet. Made newly vulnerable by age, fate, fame, doping allegations, and an unprecedented army of challengers, Armstrong fights on all fronts to do what he does like no one else: exert his will to win. That will, which has famously lifted him beyond his humble Texas roots, beyond cancer, and to unparalleled heights of success, is revealed by acclaimed journalist Daniel Coyle in new and startling dimensions. We see how Armstrong rebuilds after his near-loss in the 2003 Tour, discovering new strategies to cope with his aging body. How he fills the holes in his life after his painful divorce from his wife, Kristin, and the ensuing time apart from his three young children.
When an athlete is as celebrated as Lance Armstrong, journalists tend to approach either with staggering awe or malicious schadenfreude. Refreshingly, Coyle (Hardball) displays neither. The journalist moved to Armstrong's training base in Spain to cover the months leading up to the cyclist's sixth Tour de France victory in 2004, and the resulting comfort level of Coyle with his subject is palpable. Armstrong emerges from these pages as neither the cancer-surviving saint his American fans admire, nor the soulless, imperialist machine his European detractors hate. Instead, he comes across as a preternaturally gifted athlete barely removed from the death-defying hellion he was as a teenager, fanatically disciplined, gregarious and generous but with a legendarily icy temper. Coyle sweeps over the basics of Armstrong's Texas childhood and fight with cancer, concentrating on his obsessive training-this is a sport where results are measured in ounces and microseconds. He's sometimes too loose with his writing, digressing as though he had all the time in the world, but he tightens up for the grand finale: the Tour. This work is honest, personal and passionate, with plenty to chew on for fans and novices alike. Agent, David Black. (June 14) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 13, 2006
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Excerpt from Lance Armstrong's War by Daniel Coyle
He of the Double Door
Each morning, even in winter, the European continent looks as if it is simmering over a cookfire. Not one big fire, but a thousand tiny blazes exhaling threads of smoke and steam until everything is bathed in a white-gray haze. The haze rolls over the countryside, concealing borders, filling hollows, flowing over the steeples of the thousand sleepy villages that float in and out of view like so many ghost towns, half-dissolved in the heat of the modern world.
Over the simmering haze, screaming eastward at five hundred miles an hour, came a silvery white Gulfstream aircraft, with its wings turned up at their tips like a fighter jet. Inside its sleek cocoon, Lance Armstrong was peering down into the mist, trying to spot the trolls.
That's what Armstrong called them, the sneaky lowlifes who tried to snare him, to pull him down into the muck. The landscape was crawling with them. A month ago, a troll had swiped his Visa card and gone on a spree at JC Penney's ("They must not have known which Armstrong they had," he said). Then, a couple days later, some troll had jimmied his way into a cabin on one of his properties outside Austin, and had set up camp there. Dozens of media trolls were whispering that Armstrong was too old, too distracted, washed up. An Italian troll named Filippo Simeonia cyclist, no less-was suing him for libel. The biggest trolls were David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, journalists who were writing a book claiming that Armstrong may have used performance-enhancing drugs. Trolls were down there in the mist, creeping around, grasping at him with hairy fingers, daring him to fight. All of which made Armstrong happy.
"Fucking trolls!" he said when he watched Walsh, Simeoni, or any of the others on the liquid-crystal display of his handheld personal organizer, which sent him constant updates on their activities. "Little fucking goddamn trolls!"
Well, perhaps "happy" is the wrong word. "Enlivened" is more like it. Others might have been tempted to ignore the trolls, or at least pretend to ignore them, but not Armstrong. He watched them obsessively, getting ready to fight, to go to battle, to take the bastards on. Armstrong is fascinating for many reasons, but mostly because he's our purest embodiment of the fundamental human act to impose the will on the uncaring world an act that compels our attention because it seems so simple and yet is secretly magical. Because at its core, will is about belief, and with Armstrong we can see the belief happening.
It's etched on his face, in that narrow-eyed expression Armstrong's friends warily refer to as The Look. His is the latest rendition of the gunfighter's squint, a look made more powerful because the weapon Armstrong brandishes is no more or less than himself. He is a living fable, the man who had cancer and who came back to win the hardest athletic event on the planet five times. He's been fighting from the start, starting out as Lance Edward Gunderson, the willful son of a seventeen-year-old mother in Plano, Texas. He fights to survive, to win, and also to show us his force, and he has been successful enough that his face, like that of Joe DiMaggio in the forties or the Mercury astronauts in the sixties, has become America's face, a hero who embodies many people's best idea of what they want to be.