But Lance Armstrong didn’t even know professional cycling existed when he grew up in Plano, Texas, according to John Wilcockson, author of Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion.
And his mother, Linda, was pregnant with Lance when she was only 16 years old. She dropped out of high school, got married and worked at a grocery store while her husband delivered papers. Their marriage didn’t last two years and soon Linda was a single mother, raising a future champion.
Lance first dabbled in football and baseball – your typical all-American sports. Soon he got involved in BMX racing, running and swimming. And so the tri-athlete was born.
When he finally made the switch to cycling, he quickly became known as the cocky American. But some might say that bravado is a necessary evil when competing on such a high level, taking on national and world champions.
What kept me reading Lance was the way author John Wilcockson’s gripping biography didn’t deify Lance. He showed the vulnerable side of the athlete and shared his troubled upbringing in suburban Texas.
Critics say Wilcockson should have looked more thoroughly at the doping accusations that marred Lance’s past, but seeing as Lance never failed a drug test, I’m fine with the way Wilcockson handled the claims.
Wilcockson also delves into the severity of Lance’s cancer diagnosis, revealing he only had a 20% chance of surviving the advanced testicular cancer that had spread to his brain.
I enjoyed reading about Lance from the perspective of those who knew him best – his mother, ex-wife, friends, mentors, trainers and doctors.
“I interviewed more than 50 people and one of the most surprising interviews was interviewing Lance's adoptive father, Terry Armstrong, the guy who gave him his name, who's barely mentioned in Lance's autobiography or Lance's mother's autobiography. Although Terry split with Lance's mother when Lance was 16, I believe that the 14 years he was Lance's dad was a very interesting period. That's when the making of Lance as a champion happened. It was fascinating,” Wilcockson told USA Today. “There were a few people who wouldn't talk for some reason or another and one was Sheryl Crow," Wilcockson said. "Even though Lance talked about her extensively and I talked to other people about that relationship, I was disappointed that Sheryl didn't want to talk.”
Armstrong, who ditched retirement at the age of 37 and came in 3rd in the Tour de France this past weekend plans to form his own team for the Tour next year. So you've got plenty of time to pick up Lance before then. And you will finish the book feeling humbled and inspired.
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