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 Franceby Daniel Coyle
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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: the quest for 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. How he manages the exceedingly difficult trick of being Lance Armstrong -- a combination of world-class athlete, celebrity, regular guy, and, for many Americans, secular saint.
But a saint's life it's not. To function at his peak, Armstrong requires what his friends artfully call "stimulus" -- and if it's lacking, he won't hesitate to create some. We see Armstrong operating at the turbulent center of a fast-orbiting cast of swaggering Belgian tough guys, controversial Italian sports doctors, piranha-toothed lawyers, and jittery corporations, not to mention a certain female rock star. We see the subtle mind games he plays with himself and with rivals Tyler Hamilton, Jan Ullrich, and Iban Mayo. We see him through the eyes of his teammates, competitors, and friends, and explore his powerful relationship with his mother, Linda. We see what happens three weeks before the Tour, when he's faced with a double challenge: a blowout defeat in an important race and the release of a controversial book seeking to link him to performance-enhancing drugs. And finally we see it all culminate in the Tour de France, where Armstrong will rise to new and unexpected levels of domination. Along the way, Lance Armstrong's War journeys through the little-known landscape of professional bike racing, a Darwinian world of unsurpassed beauty and brutality, a world teeming with underdogs, gurus, groupies, and wholly original characters, where athletes do not so much choose the sport as the sport chooses them.
Over the season, Armstrong and these characters collide in raw and sometimes violent theater. From the first training camps to the triumphal ride into Paris, Lance Armstrong's War provides a hugely insightful look into the often-inspiring, always surprising core of this remarkable man and the world that shapes him.
The Washington Post
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Read an Excerpt
Lance Armstrong's WarOne Man's Battle Against Fate, Fame, Love, Death, Scandal, and a Few Other Rivals on the Road to the Tour de France
By Daniel Coyle
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 Simeoni - a 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.
What Armstrong wants to be? That's a tougher question.
You can attempt to find out by asking him, to which he'll respond that he wants to (1) be a good dad, (2) fight cancer, and (3) ride his bike. Or you can examine the causes into which he channels his energy: the tens of millions of dollars raised by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Or you can add up his business interests: the $19 million in annual endorsements and his part-ownership of his cycling team. Or you can peruse the family drama: his fatherless childhood, his intense bond with his mother, his refusal to meet his birth father. Or you can look at the topography of his relationships; the walled kingdom of close friends and business associates; the warm, endless expanse of acquaintances; the icy archipelagoes filled with former friends who have been, as one puts it, excommunicated. Or you can look at the range of emotion he inspires. There are not many people whose mailbox regularly receives both death threats and calls for his beatification.
"People find this hard to believe, but he's not a happy-go-lucky, Mr. Smiley, save-the-world-from-cancer type of person," said John Korioth, nicknamed College, who is one of Armstrong's closest friends. "I look on it as almost an animalistic thing. In sports or business or anywhere there's always the question of who's the alpha, who's the meanest, who's the toughest? And it's Lance. Always Lance."
"It is simple, no?" said Armstrong's longtime trainer, Dr. Ferrari, smiling. "Lance wishes to swallow the world."
Two thousand years ago, Greek storytellers told of young commoners who ventured alive into the kingdom of the dead. They survived with the aid of magical helpers, then returned in a kind of second birth to perform a triumphant act, bringing their teaching to the rest of humanity. One was called Dithyrambos, or "He of the Double Door."
Funny thing is, the Greeks were a little fuzzier about endings. Without the escape hatch of "happily ever after," their death-venturing heroes tended to fade into obscurity, or sulk as the world refused to hear their teachings. Now, flying to Spain, Armstrong was embarking on his attempt to break one of the more legendary marks in sport. His first step, as it happened, was also one of the trickiest. He had to be calm ...
Excerpted from Lance Armstrong's War by Daniel Coyle Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Daniel Coyle is the author of Hardball: A Season in the Projects and the novel Waking Samuel. He is a former editor at Outside and a two-time National Magazine Award finalist, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. He lives in Alaska with his wife, Jen, and their four children.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I have read the book of the above title, by Daniel Coyle, and have to assume this is the title used, for publication in England, by Harper Collins Publishers? The book is outstanding, right up to the very last page, with inside information that adds a whole new dimension, not only to Lance Armstrong - the man, but to the sport of cycle racing and to that greatest sporting test on earth, the Tour de France. This isn't just about Armstrong - Daniel Coyle has written a supremely unbiased book about bike racing, including the good, the bad and the really ugly.
Un libro directo que refleja la realidad interior del mundo del ciclismo profesional desde la mirada del equipo de Amstrong donde se ve reflejado el perfil y modus opefanti de uno de los mejores ciclistas de la historia antes de su caida con la demamdo de dopping del 2013
Gives you a view of what life is like in the racing world with Lance. Good read.
This author did an exceptional job in portraying Lance Armstrong as a real person and quite frankly not so nice of a guy at times. I am surprised the aughor was allowed to be so candid. It is an excellent book, very well written and very informative about the world of professional bike racing at the level of the Tour de France. I enjoyed it imensely, even though it shattered my fan's view of one of the greatest cyclisty in history of bike racing. Lance seems a whole lot more credible as a human being from this look at his life and perspective portrayed by this brilliant writer.
This book really devles into Lance's life both on and off the bike. I really learned alot about who he is as a person as well as who he is as an athlete. If you are a fan of Lance, this book is a must have. I was enthralled from start to finish.
Daniel Coyle captures Lance Armstrong like never done before. This book gives us a glimpse into the drive and determination that makes Lance a great athlete and person. There was so much insight into the world of professional cycling and the behind the scenes lives of these athletes. Worth the read. Couldn't put it down.
This book gives you great insight into not only Lance Armstrong's sixth win but what went on behind the scenes with his competitors and within his team. After reading you will have an opinion of cycling that is completely different that when you started. Lance Armstrong not only revolutionized consistency to the largest sporting event in the world but shows what happens when you bring American ingenuity and business practices to it. There is a reason that he is so hated in Europe. He took a traditional European sport and turned it upside down and changed how it will be ridden forever. Will we ever see another six, and possibly seven, Tour de France winner? Yes! He will only have Lance Armstrong to thank for the ability to do this.
I read this book half way through and had to stop because they paid way too much attention to his opponents. I wanted to learn about Lance and his personal struggle's, not about other cyclists.
Deathpaw, well now Deathheart, pads in the forest, weak. She faints and goes into the darkforest. An all black cat with red eyes pads to her. "I have been awaiting you." She looks at him "and you are?" He stares at her. "Darkness." He pads around her, and says, "I can make you the best warrior ever. If you shun Starclan and love and anything but here." She nods her head, not knowing what she got heerself into.