The athletes, the competition, the journalists, the history, the mountains, the food. Martin Dugard captures more than the race in his book, Chasing Lance: The 2005 Tour de France and Lance Armstrong’s Ride of a Lifetime. He serves up a taste of the carnival atmosphere that surrounds the greatest cycling event in the world, as he follows each stage of Armstrong’s final grand win.
Dugard actually provides three stories in one. First, he introduces the reader to the sport of professional cycling—how it works and what to watch for. While an effective primer, the quick, straightforward information does not bore the serious fan. Next, the author shares the build-up of Armstrong’s victory and the chronicle of his career to that point. Now years later, it is a reminder of the athlete in his prime, prompting the question, could Armstrong have pulled off an eighth win if he had not retired (then come back, then retired again)? The book also gives a pre-Twitter insight into the smack talk and ego dramas among the players and the multiple stand-out achievements that year. It is not all about Lance.
Perhaps Dugard’s most unique offering is the story of his adventure chasing the Tour around France. He takes us along the precarious mountain roads to the odd little hotels to hear from the French waitress, the English photographer, and the many other characters along the three-week journey. It is the closest thing to being there, explaining why some of us take planes, trains, and automobiles just to see it in person.
Easy-going with a sense of humor and adventure, Chasing Lance is a great read for cycling fans as well as traveling enthusiasts. Dugard is a compelling writer of other books about heroes and adventurers, including Farther Than Any Man about Captain Cook, though his own journey with the 2005 Tour is a true highlight.