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Lance Armstrong - Every Second Counts
By Tim Maloney
After his closest ever Tour De France win last July, the title of Lance Armstrong's second book was prophetic, even if the title was chosen months before the '03 Tour even started. In the first chapter of Lance Armstrong's new book Every Second Counts, the five time Tour De France talks about his trips to Dead Man's Hole, a swimming hole sunk deep in the rocks of Armstrong's beloved Texas Hill Country. Leaping 40 feet down into Dead Man's Hole, his own "personal way for checking for vital signs" is just one step Lance takes on his further voyage of self discovery that is woven into Every Second Counts.
Unlike his dynamic bestseller from 2000, It's Not About The Bike, Armstrong has matured along the way to five consecutive Tours De France wins, and his journey to self-realization and fulfilment as a human being, husband and father is more evident in Every Second Counts. Not to mention the interesting episodes as the top stage racer in the word that Lance and his collaborator Sally Jenkins choose to illuminate the inside events of Armstrong's cycling career.
For instance, one gets a fascinating inside look into how serious the consequences actually were from Armstrong's two major crashes in 2000; in training before the Tour De France on the Col de Soulor, and in his run-up to the Olympics. Lance also delivers a dramatic re-telling of his big bonk on the Col de Joux-Plane in the 2000 Tour De France and talks in depth about his struggle with the long, drawn-out French doping investigation.
On a personal level, a more self-realized Armstrong discusses frankly his doubts about organized religion, which makes an interesting contrast to the ancient chapel he restores for his (now estranged) wife Kristen in their Girona, Spain home. He also talks about his inspirational trip to visit Manhattan's Ground Zero soon after September 11th and Carpe Diem Day number 5, when Lance celebrated his fifth anniversary of being free from cancer.
Armstrong talks about his friends Bart Knaggs and John Korioth with affection and appreciation in Every Second Counts, as well as explaining how he took young American pro rider Floyd Landis under his wing and helped the talented yet inexperienced rookie USPS rider to not only adapt to racing in Europe, but how to become a serious pro rider and make it to the Tour De France.
Lance also muses quizzically over just what happened to his marriage during Every Second Counts, relating the stresses and strains of all the various events and spotlight of fame that made the Armstrong's marriage crumble. But his joy and pride in their three children is clearly a major high point for him; Every Second Counts is vivid when Lance talks about watching his children grow up.
Armstrong's collaborator on Every Second Counts, Sally Jenkins, is an experienced sportswriter and columnist for the Washington Post as well as the 2002 AP Columnist of the Year. Jenkins clearly has a special rapport with Armstrong; she worked with the five-time Tour De France winner on It's Not About The Bike, and their connection emerges throughout the 246 pages.
Hard-core cycling aficionados might be somewhat put off by Jenkins occasional lack of familiarity with cycling jargon, or errors like when Lance talks about Stage 14 of the 2001 Tour, to Luz Ardiden; "... Ullrich slipped ahead of me across the finish line to win the stage." Although Euskatel rider Laiseka actually won Stage 14, the gesture between the two main protagonists of the Tour in effect overshadowed the victory by the Basque rider. Therefore, any small errors by Jenkins are forgivable in the larger context of Every Second Counts, which paints an intimate, interesting portrait of the complex man and cycling champion called Lance Armstrong.
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