Taking place over twenty-three days in July and across more than 2,100 miles of smooth blacktop, rough cobblestones, and punishing mountain terrain, the Tour de France is the most grueling sports event in the world. And in 2004, five-time champion Lance Armstrong set out to achieve what no other cyclist in the 100-year history of the race had ever done: win a sixth Tour de France.Armstrong had four serious challengers who wanted nothing more than to deny the man the French call Le Boss from achieving his goal. The major threat among them was the only other former Tour de France champion in last year's race, Germany's Jan Ullrich- The Kaiser. But when the race was over, Lance Armstrong once again wore the yellow jersey of victory.
Armstrong's record sixth Tour de France victory didn't cause much of a stir in the U.S., but Wilcockson's account shows why the "Tour has always fascinated writers," even if it hasn't always captured the attention of Americans. The author, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, draws on conversations with Armstrong, his race team and his challengers before, during and after the race for an intimate glimpse of this particular world's friendships, rivalries and scandals. The resulting portrait of Armstrong, from his recovery from cancer to his exhausting training methods, unmatched physical strength and mental toughness, is that of a newly single dad, with no memories of his own father, and a sporting "legend." The book's structure, with its day-by-day account of the Tour, allows readers to appreciate what an arduous undertaking the race is. As the race revisits stages and locations from previous Tours, Wilcockson smartly looks back at some of the Tour's great moments and explores how it has changed because of its recent "Lance-ification." While Wilcockson mostly celebrates Armstrong and the Tour, he doesn't shy away from the doping scandals and accusations that have haunted both Armstrong and the race over the years, and he does give Armstrong a chance to answer his critics. A thorough appendix further explaining cycling's subtle intricacies ends this well-crafted book. Map, photos.