A review of "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 France" in the July 25 Sports section misspelled the name of the book's author, Daniel Coyle. (Published 7/27/2005)
The book "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 France" by Daniel Coyne takes a little while to get going. The first couple chapters highlight over and over that Armstrong can be vicious to those who cross him -- he calls such people "trolls." Brief glimpses into his rivals -- Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton and Iban Mayo -- make them the ones for whom the reader thinks he could cheer.
Soon after, however, Armstrong takes over, and the book takes off with him. We learn any number of fascinating things about Armstrong -- that his practices are derived partly from the training done by Kenyan distance runners.
That his rivals, the other cyclists, are loathe to say anything bad about him in public, or even when alone with the author in private; it's as if Armstrong has some hold over them.
We also learn part of what it takes to compete at that level. When Armstrong stays on the second floor of a building in Spain, he takes the elevator up and down to conserve energy. Other cyclists do the same.
"Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down," Coyne said of the cyclists' beliefs.
While Armstrong clearly is the focus, the book is strong because Coyne has fascinating portraits of his rivals.
It isn't perfect -- there's a rather bizarre scene about Armstrong in the Tour de Georgia.
Coyne also doesn't pull a lot of punches. He gives nearly two chapters to David Walsh, the Irish journalist who believes Armstrong, through one of his doctors, is guilty of doping.
But otherwise it is so fascinating that by the time Armstrong reaches the Tour de France -- nearly two-thirds into the book -- it's almost a disappointment, because the lead-up is so vivid and well-written.
-- Christian Swezey