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December 18, 2010

It's Not About The Bike (Book Review)

'It’s Not About The Bike' is a super autobiographical work which takes us through cyclist Lance’s pre-cancer life, cancer-intensive life, and post-cancer life.

The overriding theme is Lance’s struggle with his stage-4 testicular cancer and his determination to fight it out big time. As a matter of fact, the very term ‘testicular cancer’ might make us giggle, but I tell you, once your health takes an awful twist – in whichever awkward form or shape – you won’t even mind what you are organically deficient of. All you would realise is ‘life’ is the most precious thing and you would appreciate why it is called ‘The priceless gift’. Lying there on the deathbed while undergoing a ‘demoralising’ treatment, all you would crave for is nothing but a ‘benefit of doubt’. A second chance.

Précis (Spoilers!)
Lance is a world-class cyclist and becomes a renowned cycling champion at a very young age. His ultimate goal is to win the Tour De France. Unfortunately, when he is diagnosed of testicular cancer, which eventually metastasized his lungs and brain, he loses hope on life, obviously his cycling career too. To make matters worse, he even loses the support from the sponsorers, compelling him to sell everything to cover his cancer treatment. During the 4 months of gruelling-cum-intimidating treatment, he comes across abled men and women whom he draws inspiration from and teaches himself (while sharing with us) his take on ‘life’. Post-recovery, albeit he resumes cycling, he runs across situations which oblige him to resolve to give up cycling for ever; events take a different twist for Lance thereafter, eventually helping him win the Tour De France for the first time.

The best portions you would enjoy reading are: his brutally honest recounting of thoughts while undergoing treatment, the growing skepticism about his survival after disease diagnosis, the interpersonal chemistry between him and his wife, and the emphasis on human yearning for survival. What moved me the most is how platinum (used to treat cancer) mercilessly screwed up his endurance via a therapy called ‘Chemo’. While reading, I felt, such gruelling treatments would indeed demoralise a human being even with a humility of the highest magnitude.

The book was very well narrated with an impressively subtle sense of humour, ultimately making the book a fairly interesting, inspiring and worthy read. As it happens with any autobiographical piece, this book too distracts a reader by radiating intermittent boredom and by inducing some degree of mental fatigue through too many technicalities of the cycling profession. Nevertheless, I was glad that I learnt a few good things about cycling and the nuances involved therein, including some useful enlightenment on the Tour de France.

Happy reading!

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