July 18th, 2002


Lance Armstrong - It's not about the bike. My journey back to life (02-020)

While watching the Tour de France I just had to read this book. My dad got it on a birthday, but he is not a reader. I am. And as I am a cycling addict, this book is a recommender. Lance Armstrong has managed to become a huge celebrity in the United States, though his sport is only a small one over there. His struggle against cancer and comeback to win the hardest race in cycling has everything to do with that.

The book is an easy read and the reader gets all the information on his life before and during his illness. Still, after a while into the book, the same feeling creeps into me, as happens when I see Armstrong nowadays. I just do not believe him completely anymore. As everyone else I was well impressed when he won his first Tour de France 3 years ago. Someone, who had a small chance of surviving a terrible disease, manages to come back and wins the highlight of my tv-watching-sports-year.

We get to know the little Lance, the young sportsman, the one I liked. Always on the attack, never one to look at traditions or unwritten rules. Nothing wrong with that. You win one day, the next your last, that is how the sport goes. Then came cancer. He describes the whole process from day one until the end, which must be a huge bright light for anybody in the same position. Doctor's told him afterwards that although they told him he had a 40% chance of living, 3% was more what they really thought.

The psychological problems after being cured seem very understandable. But the Armstrong we get to know as a complete control freak, who had to know everything during his treatment, who considers himself half a doctor for all he knows, then starts telling us the story about his win in the Tour de France. Moreover, there are several mistakes in there. How is this possible? I know he did not write the book himself, Sally Jenkins is the co-author, I assume she wrote the whole thing he told her. But why does a control freak leave mistakes in a book, that any cycling fan can point out? The only reason I can think of is that this is a 'feel-good'-book. Written for the masses, not for cycling fans. It does not really matter if everything is 100% correct, as long as the story is dramatic.

Nevertheless, to me, it means that if that bit is incorrect, so could other bits be. Bits I do not know anything about. But the question the French press asked, ("How can somebody who has been so near to death come out so strong and beat every one else without using dope?") seems very logical. Instead of attacking the press for asking that particular question, he could just answer it. He doesn't. My doubts are there. Insiders say that every single professional cyclist uses. So why wouldn't Armstrong? He had to use EPO during his treatment, nowadays all sportsmen use that exact product. So only Armstrong doesn't? And still manages to beat them all? Too much doubt in my mind. I wouldn't go as far as to ask the question how it is possible that a 25 year old who is very fit suddenly gets cancer, but I have to admit the thought has crossed my mind. Not a nice thought.

Read this book, if you want to read the incredible story of a sportsman who manages to beat cancer. If you're a cycling fan like me, read it critically. It's the only way.

By the way, Armstrong, big favourite to win his fourth consecutive Tour de France this very moment, is second at the time, near yellow jersey Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano. He is still the favourite to win it, but the power he has shown in the last three years, seems to have faded.
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My students (9)

As soon as I arrived last November, she came to me and told me about my predecessor. Everything he did wrong, everything they had to suffer from. As she was the class representative, I heard the complete story, happy to hear what she thought. It could make my life easier, if I had her on my side. I had been warned, before I arrived even. My class was the worst one in the school. But someone had to do it, I only saw it as a challenge.

I soon got to know her better. Anything that could possibly be wrong was blown out of proportion, anytime she felt like it, she criticised school, colleagues, me, my boss and basically anybody that could be hurt. My boss had a soft spot for her. She seemed to voice the problems of the class really well, a new school has to listen to the students, to make sure the product would be good very soon.

She did not agree with the way I conducted my classes. She did not agree with the fact that I chose to ignore some of her comments. She did not agree with the fact that since I became the class tutor, her influence seemed less than before. It seemed that she started a personal vendetta against me. It got out of hand when I deducted points for handing a report late. Not just a bit, but very late. There were several reasons for this, but I decided not to overlook them and deducted a bit. The other three in her group agreed, she didn't. The very same day her father rang me. We needed to talk. Therefore, we did. In that conversation, she told everything very colourful, not showing a hint of self-criticism. She could not admit that in some cases she was wrong. She cried her eyes out, while her father only concluded that we needed to get closer towards each other, find a compromise. At one point, she even told me to sit in with some colleagues, as I didn't have a clue how to teach.

From that day on, our communication was over. Indirectly, through other students, I heard plenty of remarks she had made about me. Also, from several colleagues I heard stories about her misbehaving in their classes as well. The quote "I'm not negative, I'm only critical", became a classic during our coffee breaks. She had one advantage, she was smart enough to get good grades. However, her influence on the atmosphere in class was devastating. During the school trip to Spain, she showed her real self. Away from parental supervision, she went on the pull the first night, only thirty something hours after she kissed her boyfriend goodbye in front of the bus. The language she used in the bus is not suitable for reprinting, let's just say that it was not very ladylike. Nor was her behaviour.

Towards the end of the school year, I heard rumours that she was leaving. The class was fed up with her as well by then. Every time she opened her mouth with some negative remark, somebody would tell her to shut up. I felt relieved, I didn't even have to answer her, the other ones did. The rumours turned out to be true. She did not dare telling me directly, but needed to talk to me for her paperwork. She is going to a different school, same study, different place. Not that anybody is bothered. Contrary, although we hate losing students, it costs us money, nobody though it was a shame she left. Next school year my class will be different. I need a new class representative. I need a different atmosphere. Without her, that cannot be a problem.
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