23 DAYS IN JULY
Inside Lance Armstrong's Record-Breaking Tour de France Victory
by John Wilcockson
Da Capo Press, 310 pages, $25
at an outdoor caf� in N�mes the author, a freelance writer who has covered every Tour de France since 1968, reveals how the ambience and beauty of this grand event distinguish it from cycling's other great races. Over a bottle of C�tes du Rh�ne he and three other journalists, two of whom haven't seen their wives in three weeks, become infatuated with their "stunning, dark-haired waitress" and raise a toast to "le Tour."
With the same unabashed ease Wilcockson chronicles Lance Armstrong's unprecedented sixth straight victory: "Winning the Tour is one of the supreme accomplishments in modern sports ... yet Armstrong's repeated victories and down-home demeanor have tended to trivialize an event that is so physically, emotionally and mentally demanding it borders on sadism."
Scandals and intense rivalries are also part of the Tour's appeal, and Wilcockson weaves them all together in an entertaining daily account of the race--20 stages and 2,107 miles of madness and magic. -- Yi-Wyn Yen