Another book response, of a different nature. This time by a former road cycling racer.
It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins
Just done reading the first memoir by Lance Armstrong (you know, the American bike rider who won the Tour de France seven consecutive times after recovering from cancer, yes, that one) and must admit that I started it not expecting much. I borrowed it from the Indus library mainly because it was a book that had some cycling in it and being the cycling nerd that I am, even a bit of it in a book is better than nothing. Most of it was fairly predictable – description of his childhood, how he got into bike racing, his early career as a racer, what happened after his cancer diagnosis and his long and difficult road to recovery. There’s definitely the inspirational aspect to it about how one can overcome all difficulties and such but it wasn’t quite that which made me think about things and want to write this entry.
Armstrong often referred to his battle with cancer as a journey and a race that required every ounce of his strength to overcome. While I do feel unqualified to comment on that, I do feel that we all have our races and our difficulties and that whatever they may be, they are journeys that we have to undertake, each with a destination that may or may not be excessively clear. In Christian terms, we all have our own Calvarys and crosses that we have to bear, some lighter than others but they’re there nonetheless. Just as many say that the journey is often more important, how we carry the crosses that we have makes all the difference.
The transformation that Armstrong went through from a brash young racer to a more measured stage racer also helps put things into perspective. I liked the almost self deprecating honesty with which he described his early racing days and how he often got into trouble due to his arrogance. The candour with which he wrote about the weaknesses and many discouraging points of his journey were also quite refreshing as the Lance Armstrong that one has seen for the past years is the bike racer who often demolishes his competition quite easily. There are flip sides to everything and being able to speak about both seems pretty important here.
I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest Armstrong fan (I tend to root for the Euros more) but I did like the book and its general tone. It was personal (as memoirs should be) with a good mix of self-effacing humour and triumphs to make one want to read on. What made it even better was the fairly detailed description of the ins and outs of bike racing which the inner cycling nerd in me really liked.
On a more personal note, reading this book made me realise how much I missed biking. Sure, the running’s great and I’m getting some nice runs out on the village roads here and the weather’s great too but there’s something to be said about zipping round the countryside at over 30 kilometres an hour with the cool wind in one’s face. Yes, I miss cycling. (I don’t cycle here because of the crazy traffic – trust me, it’s a little too daunting even for me.) What I like most about cycling is the fact that it’s often a journey in itself and cycling transforms the act of getting from place to place into something more than just transit. We are reminded of the road with every bump that we feel, of the air with the wind in our faces and of things around when pesky insects decide to crash into our faces (or worse, open mouths). Be it a short ride to the market, a training ride in the rain or a 2000 kilometre race around France, riding a bike remains a quintessential representation of a journey taking place. So maybe it is about the bike after all. A little at least.