Saturday, July 29, 2006

Tour de France Books

He's done. He's won. Nope, he's done. Wow! He's won. He's really won. He's standing on the podium. Oops, he's doped. He's done.

That more or less describes Floyd Landis's topographical and emotional yo-yo of a ride at this year's Tour de France. From unheralded contender to frontrunner to his terrible collapse in Stage 16 and remarkable comeback the very next day, Landis has changed from goat to hero to suspect in less than two weeks. And the saga's not over yet.

Whether Landis is guilty or innocent, just think how upset Alexander Vinokourov must be. He was in the clear himself, but couldn't ride because five of his teammates were suspected of doping. And now they've just been cleared. Meanwhile the winner, who used to be in the clear, is now suspected of doping. What a strange year. Better luck next year, Vino. Don't forget to not take your meds.

As Landis zoomed to the finish line in Stage 17, I was thinking he just earned himself a book contract and a place on next year's bestseller list. Sort of like Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike. Perhaps he would've called it It's Not About the Bonk. He still has a book in him, but now it's going to need a new chapter or two. Hopefully it will have a happy ending.

All of this is leading up to a book recommendation: Lance Armstrong's War, by Daniel Coyle. It's more about the race itself and the grueling training that goes with professional cycling than it is about doping allegations, though of course there's some of that business, too. Mostly, though, Lance Armstrong's War is an objective observer's view of an incredibly challenging sport and the personalities and soap operas that accompany it. I'd be rereading the book right now if I hadn't loaned my copy to a friend.

I look forward next year to reading the several volumes that are bound to be written about Tour de France 2006. Ending still to be determined.