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Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion

Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion

4.4 21
by John Wilcockson

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Few people know exactly how lance Armstrong became such an amazing force in cycling. Now, in Lance, John Wilcockson draws on dozens of interviews with those who know Armstrong best, to trace his remarkable life, both on and off the bike.

Family members—including his adoptive father, speaking publicly for the first time—recall Armstrong's humble


Few people know exactly how lance Armstrong became such an amazing force in cycling. Now, in Lance, John Wilcockson draws on dozens of interviews with those who know Armstrong best, to trace his remarkable life, both on and off the bike.

Family members—including his adoptive father, speaking publicly for the first time—recall Armstrong's humble origins, the father he barely knew, and his single mom's struggle for survival. His childhood friends and early mentors recall how he also excelled at other sports, including swimming, running, and triathlons.

Known for pushing his body to the extreme and intimidating his rivals, Armstrong accomplished extraordinary feats like winning the world's professional roadrace championship at twenty-one and taking home the Tour de France trophy seven consecutive years in a row. But his many achievements have consistently been dogged by allegations of doping and secrecy.

In Lance, Wilcockson provides numerous details, many for the first time, of how Armstrong's legendary training, near-fatal bout with cancer, and battles with the media drove him to reach the pinnacle of his sport.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
By winning the Tour de France seven straight times (after surviving testicular cancer, no less), Lance Armstrong reached the hallowed status of athletes like Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali. With Armstrong's cooperation, Wilcockson (23 Days in July) profiles the cyclist's rise from a hell-raising Texas kid to a determined, disciplined champion who celebrates the highs of sports immortality while enduring lows like repeated doping allegations and shattered relationships. Wilcockson has tracked down an array of impressive sources-numerous cycling associates, family members, even Armstrong's ex-wife, Kristin. However, the resulting interviews provide little more than inspirational platitudes or fuzzy reminiscences, which are accompanied by ponderous accounts of training regimens and cycling events. With Wilcockson's fawning prose the book consistently reads like a press release (e.g., "Once Lance makes a promise...he always keeps it") a heavy contributor. Armstrong has led an extraordinary life so far, becoming synonymous with a sport and a disease while befriending movie stars and dating celebrities like Sheryl Crow.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Nearly everyone has heard of Lance Armstrong, the imposing bicyclist who overcame testicular cancer and won seven straight (1999-2005) Tour de France races. Wilcockson (23 Days in July: Inside Lance Armstrong's Record-Breaking Tour de France Victory) provides an extensive look at his early life. Armstrong's mother became pregnant with him when she was 16, leading to her marriage to Lance's father, from whom Lance is estranged; he was named after Lance Rentzel of the Dallas Cowboys; Lance's parents came from low-income families and were ill equipped, financially and emotionally, to raise a child. Wilcockson writes of the petty crimes that Lance committed as a juvenile and of how the often unstable domestic environment of his youth would impact his own later short-lived marriage. Through it all, however, Lance became an outstanding athlete, moving from triathlon competitions to concentrating on bike racing. VERDICT Although there are nearly no details of Lance's life provided after 2005, this book offers stories and insights that will make it a popular choice for those who follow Armstrong and/or his sport.—Tim Delaney, SUNY at Oswego

—Tim Delaney
Kirkus Reviews
Detailed, hagiographic biography of one of the world's most inspiring athletes. Sports and fitness journalist Wilcockson-who previously wrote about Lance Armstrong in 23 Days in July (2004)-begins with Armstrong's childhood in Texas, during which he matured under the watchful eyes of a doting mother and a disciplinarian yet generous stepfather. By his mid teens he had become a nationally ranked triathlete and was soon reaping the rewards of his notoriety. Yet, as Wilcockson learned from interviews with Armstrong's friends and family, there was anger in him, possibly stemming from the discovery of his stepfather's infidelity. There was also arrogance-success had come too easily. In 1996, the 25-year-old Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had metastasized to his lungs, abdomen and brain. Given a 50 percent chance of survival, his future looked bleak. But in 1999, after brain surgery and debilitating chemotherapy, Armstrong won the Tour de France-and would win it another six consecutive years, all the while fighting baseless accusations of doping. Wilcockson is at his best describing this tortuous 2,200-mile event, which tests athletes to the breaking point, and he ably captures the world of European cycling-the techniques, personalities and overwhelming passion. The author also outlines Armstrong's personal life, including his failed marriage, relationship with singer Sheryl Crow and the growth of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and its "Live Strong" campaign. Ultimately, though, Armstrong remains a mystery. For all the detail he provides, Wilcockson-perhaps being too close to the subject-never quite penetrates the protective shield of Armstrong's public persona. Serviceablebut not definitive. Agent: James Levine/Levine Greenberg Literary Agency
From the Publisher

Kirkus Reviews, 6/1/09
“[A] detailed…biography of one of the world’s most inspiring athletes…Wilcockson is at his best describing this tortuous 2,200-mile event, which tests athletes to the breaking point, and he ably captures the world of European cycling—the techniques, personalities and overwhelming passion.”

Product Details

Da Capo Press
Publication date:
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

John Wilcockson has reported on the Tour de France for more than forty years. He is the author of 23 Days in July, among other books, and lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Paul2009 More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding book! Author John Wilcockson has written an absolutely fascinating, wonderfully informative, and totally engaging biography of one of the premier sports figures of our (or any) time, Lance Armstrong. The story of Armstrong's humble childhood (he was the product of a broken family) through his initial successes as a triathlete and eventually, a bicycle racer, is especially engrossing-as is the story of his absolutely incredible comeback after having one of the most severe cases of cancer his doctors had ever seen. One really gets a sense of the incredible grit and tenacity that would lead Armstrong to an unprecedented seven (and at this time, a possible-or probable-eight) victories in the Tour de France. Wilcockson fills out the biography with extensive quotes derived from interviews with all of the major protagonists in Armstrong's life: his family, friends, coaches, romantic interests, professional colleagues-this gives a wonderfully rich texture to the book and lets us really know the man rather than just the sports icon. In addition, Wilcockson doesn't shy away from addressing Armstrong's personal "foibles" (e.g., a certain recklessness and hauteur) and especially, the "doping" controversies that have surrounded Armstrong and many other successful athletes in the sport-he gives a fair and balanced picture of this thorny issue and convinces the reader that a combination of careful and relentless training, unyielding support from family, friends, and teammates, and the almost fanatical will to overcome obstacles has alone propelled Armstrong to the pinnacle of his success. In the final analysis, this book is a real inspiration (whether the reader happens to be athlete or not) and is very highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing story regardlesd of the other aspects
Guest More than 1 year ago
Let me start off by saying that I'm not much of a reader. It's not that I can't read, I just generally would rather not. This book, on the other hand, is one I literally could not put down.For the past 6 or 7 years, Lance has been an inspiration to me, and a true hero. This book shows the incredible feats he has acomplished, as well as some of the intense things he has overcome.A must read for any Lance Armstrong follower.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Its Not About the Bike" by Lance Armstrong is a autobiography about Lance and his fight through cancer.The book commences through Lance's childhood when he lived in a small town out of Austin Texas. Then the book skips a decade and a half to his doctors visit that changed his life forever. After learning he had cancer Lance went through years of recovery. The hardships included weeks of constant vomiting or odds of survival less that 25%. The book finishes by describing Lance's first and second amazing victory of the Tour de France. The book tells people that no matter what the situation people must continue through the hardships. Lance wants every one to keep going and most importantly not to give up. Through this book I also think Lance is tying to push people to believe in others and support those people to reach their goals. Just as Lance after his treatment immediately started to help people with cancer through the Live-strong Foundation. Finally I believe the most important lesson is to keep a upbeat attitude towards life. Lance was able to do this through his cancer and then he had a survival rate less than fifty percent. He would say "I'm going to beat this thing." This is what Lance is teaching in his book and what we should all aspire to do. Lance was very good at explaining his struggle through not only his cancer but also his troubles with sponsors or the other bikers. The book was extremely well written. I loved the endless stories about his biking carrier and cancer survival. I also enjoyed learning more about the world of cycling. However the book had a very choppy flow. It would start talking about Lance's bike carrier and then skip to a story of him and his nurses during his recovery. This book was a solid 5 I loved the intimidating sorties of the Tour de France or the explanation of the "poisons" Lances body had to withstand during chemo therapy. The book contains a perfect mix of hope, sorrow, and a little victory hidden in the print. If you love the science behind cycling or a remarkable recovery then this book is for you. I recommend this book to anyone who loves Lance, his awe-inspiring Tour de France victories or his extraordinary fight back to health. I would also recommend other books about Lance such as "Every second counts" a book about cycling or "Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion" his book about the live-strong foundation. Over all this is a great book that covers a wide spectrum of topics. Such as surviving, love and just a touch of despair. I recommend it to every one but especially to people who love a five star book in correlation with a great man named Lance.
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CB007 More than 1 year ago
Lance Armstrong - The Making of THE Champion Author, writer and bike rider John Wilcockson delivers a story that weaves his intimate knowledge of a sport with authority and mastery, delving beneath the surface to deliver the punch of what really makes a champion. I found the writing style and contents to be engaging and insightful -not an easy achievement given the plethora of other writing on this man who has captured the imagination of almost anyone who has watched or read about the incomparable sport of cycling. It has been many years that I have picked up a book and literally read it cover to cover over (more than 400 pages!) in just a few days-the subject matter was compelling as was the writer's seemingly never ending source of reference materials from a spectrum of individuals who whether as family members or close friends, to direct competitors displayed unreserved respect for L.A.'s tenacity in pursuing his goal to prevail no matter what the obstacles that presented themselves. I found Wilcockson's interviews with L.A.s relatives particularly interesting in revealing the underlying reasons for unreserved drive and determination to excel. Whilst it might have been more "entertaining" to read about familial issues that were not directly addressed in greater detail in this book, I think that the writer stayed true to his intent to provide an informative narrative of what made Armstrong the champion that he is. In a world of increasing competition to uncover, dissect and disseminate "the dirt" on icons such as L.A., I found this book a refreshing analysis of what made/makes a champion. The Press today seems to be more consumed in becoming part of the story than reporting it-nothing is truer than what has become almost an obsession of some in the media in Europe trying to tear down this man and his accomplishments with unsubstantiated allegations. An epiphany for me in reading this book was the author's revelation that what drove Armstrong to greater accomplishments was his direct reaction to disproving the invectives and accusations that were leveled at him by subsequent crushing successes! That alone made the book. Beyond such considerations, what really gives me a new (and greater) appreciation for the remarkable accomplishments of what I readily agree is the world's greatest athlete, are the compelling illustrations of the man's dedication and hard work to become and remain the best. The book shows years of sacrifice and preparation as the underpinnings of later, smarter, gruelling training rides in miserable conditions with a team of coaches and managers who understood what drove a champion and his metamorphosis to becoming THE champion. Non est ad astra mollis e terris via : there is no easy way from the earth to the stars. This is what Wilcockson drills down to in his book. A compelling and thoroughly captivating read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cyclinggal More than 1 year ago
This book is well balanced, talks about subjects that I am sure Lance and his mom are not comfortable with, but it is done well, and unbiased. Great information about Lance's life and an honest look at his relationships both in and out of cycling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrific book. The definitive book on Lance Armstrong. An amazing story.
judithatthebeach More than 1 year ago
For anyone interested in the world of competitive cycling, this book is a must. Told with a cinematic touch, it brought to mind more than once Bob Redford's "Downhill Racer". And like what that work did for competitive skiing, Wilcockson's "Lance" does for cycling, as it sublty informs this world with a human angle. Letting us in on just who this champion Armstrong is, and the effect life has had on him. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who breaks a sweat at the mention of the Alpe d'Huez, but also to any parent gifted with a child whose dream it is to excel, so that they better understand what it takes to fulfill that dream. And to anyone facing a challenge, of whatever kind, Armstrong is an inspiration. And with the Tour just around the bend, and Armstrong's decision to go for it one last time, to anyone who will find himself rooting for this extraordinary survivor and champion. What a great way to make that experience even more.
BeardeLyons More than 1 year ago
I loved 23 Days in July but this is even better! This is such an inspirational story told in the words of many people who influenced and were influenced by Lance Armstrong. This is a really amazing guy and the way John tells the story makes him come alive as not just a cycling and athletic icon but as a full rounded person. If you've ever wondered what it takes to be a champion this is a road map fully explored with all the false starts, wrong turns and detours detailed - including the incredible journey through almost fatal cancer. I'll be pulling for Lance in the 2009 Tour de France but win or lose I now know him as a great champion. Thanks John for another great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What I like most about this book is how with focus, simplicity, and clarity it does exactly what it promises to do: show everything that made Lance into the world's greatest champion. Wilcockson highlights the events, the people, the quirks of fate, Armstrong's physical and emotional makeup, his intense training and preparation, and even his tragedies and losses, since they, too, helped him reach the ultimate of his sport. The book begins even before Armstrong does - with vignettes revealing Linda, his teenage pregnant mom, who is woven throughout the book as a leading motivator and manager of Lance; and with a unique look at Lance's biological and adoptive dads -neither of whom he has contact with now. As the story continues, we hear the voices of a myriad of friends, rivals, teammates, coaches and lovers, and their stories are often filled with pathos, humor, insight, or surprise. What amazes me is how Armstrong's life IS a story, a story still unfolding; and the author not only captures Lance's spirit, but also gives destiny its due.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago