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Given what he has achieved and what he has overcome, Lance Armstrong may be the most extraordinary athlete alive. As Daniel Coyle's "Lance Armstrong's War" demonstrates, he is also an intriguing mix of qualities. Armstrong's claim to athletic excellence is indisputable. He has won the world's most famous and challenging bicycle race an unprecedented six times in a row in a manner that has often left his competitors not only beaten but broken. He achieved his singular dominance of bicycle racing after overcoming cancer that seemed very likely to end his career, if not kill him. He has been an inspirational figure to others who've battled cancer, and he has helped to raise millions of dollars for research into the causes and cure of the disease.
But according to Daniel Coyne, Armstrong has come to see the world in terms of two types of people: those who are on his team, and "the trolls" who devote their energies to bringing him down through attacks and lies. That inclination is not surprising. Certainly Armstrong's supporters are numerous and passionate. Just as certainly they are protective and defensive, sometimes to the point of paranoia. But Armstrong has also encountered a considerable number of cycling fans who spit at him and scrawl obscene messages about him on the road the Tour follows. His followers regard Armstrong as saintly; many of his detractors claim he's an arrogant cheat.
"Lance Armstrong's War" will not delight Lance Armstrong, because it does not dismiss as cowardly and vile anyone who criticizes the champ, but readers who want to know more about the strange and insular world of bicycle racing and the man who has dominated that world for the past half dozen years will not be disappointed.
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