Generally, sports autobiographies tend to talk about the game the person is associated with, his achievements and records. Not this one though. This one inspires, and it takes us through the joy of achieving the highest glory, to the darkness of going down all the way, far away from the sport. After reading this book, you might probably wonder:
“What if I were to discover today that I am dying? Will I face the tragedy (or is it a tragedy at all?) as bravely and as boldly as the man behind this book just did?”
The book is titled ‘It’s Not About The Bike’. It’s about this man who is regarded as the greatest cyclist ever, Lance Armstrong. A seven time winner of the Tour de France, the most prestigious bicycle race, Armstrong wrote this book through Sally Jenkins, an American sports columnist. The book was written soon after he won his first Tour de France.
Armstrong, in this book, talks about his growing up, his mother, his wife (now divorced), his becoming of a super athlete, and most importantly, a phase in his life that changed him forever- a near-death experience. He follows that up with a sometimes incidental, sometimes rigorous sounding venture to become a star of professional cycling. Well, the title may sound a little paradoxical considering his record as a cycling champion, but I tell you, there couldn’t have been a better title. Here is why.
Lance Armstrong’s life, as we know it today, actually started with a feud against cancer, which was diagnosed in 1996. Before the diagnosis, though he was already a young star cyclist having won various championships, including Tour de France stage wins in 1993 and 1995, our embrace for him started with the story of his cancer discovery. In this book, Armstrong recalls the phase in his life when doctors had given him less than a forty per cent chance of survival. (Those doctors revealed much later that the number was actually less than four percent)
By the time he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, the monster had already sprung to his lungs, abdomen and brain. The book takes us through Armstrong’s conversations with fear, cancer, life, death, and himself, right from diagnosis stage through chemotherapy to remission and beyond. The narration touches the deepest conscience of our realisation of existence. Sometimes honest, and at other times raw, and humorous, Lance narrates his will and determination to fight the disease and the psychological ravages that usually comes with it. The strength he gathers for the combat is really contagious and extremely inspiring.
What’s also fascinating about this book is he gives a great deal of information on cancer treatments and cancer. Some of this information could be vital for treatments of cancer in other countries. It is here that the central theme of the book lies. This is not surprising because when Lance Armstrong recovered from the illness, he became personally engaged with the fight against cancer. He founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation in 1997 an organisation that provides support for people affected by the disease.
Armstrong also shares with us some of his personal relationships along the course of his life. He shares a deep bonding with his mother, Linda, whom he respects immensely. She is undoubtedly the most important person in Lance’s life. The fighter in him, he credits it to his mom. The nurse in the hospital, LaTrice; he describes her as an “angel”. His wife (now divorced) Kik (Kristin) stood by him through his tough times. He also talks about his relation with Nike and Cofidis.
After surviving cancer, Lance Armstrong changed. In a subtle way, he regards the illness as a blessing. He writes, “The truth is that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me, I don’t know why I got the illness, but it did wonders for me, and I wouldn’t want to walk away from it. Why would I want to change, even for a day, the most important and shaping event in my life?”
His second life starts here. This change in him brought by the cancer made him more determined than ever. He began cycling again professionally. The road back to competition wasn’t as easy and smooth. In 1999, the inevitable happened. After months of practise in Europe and America, he won his first Tour de France. Here again, he gives an insight into what goes in to be an efficient and a winner performer, especially in cycling. The patience and the spirit that goes with him in competition and training is one of the many things that can stimulate us.
That was when Armstrong felt his story needs to be told. His main intention for this book is to communicate how he came about fighting cancer. He emphasised on his cancer experience more than anything, quite rightfully. After all, it had been cancer that changed his life and his outlook to life. Thus, it is not about the bike.
The book is a must read for people looking for inspiration and motivation. It is a must read for sportspersons. It is a must read for people on the downside of advantage who purely rely on courage. It is a must read for all the terminally ill people of the world or otherwise. The book is really encouraging, deeply humane simplifies life, in short, it is a beautiful book for all kinds of people. I treasure this book as much as I treasure Benjamin Franklin or Winston Churchill biographies. Read on.