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Staff Review: Wheelmen

Originally posted on Wednesday, 05 February 2014 at ROPL.org.

By Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell
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Review by Sarah Nagelbush, Adult Librarian

If you know nothing about the sport of professional cycling, you know the name Lance Armstrong. During the late 90s and early 2000s, his name was everywhere. He endorsed everything from Nike to ESPN to the USPS. You also knew he’d won seven yellow jerseys at some race called the Tour de France. If you were a casual fan of cycling and and American, chances were you were also a fan of Armstrong. If you were a hardcore cycling fan (as your reviewer was), you probably weren’t a fan — but you could respect what he did for the sport.

Over the past few years, since Armstrong’s final retirement from professional cycling, he’s had a rather spectacular fall from grace. Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell, journalists for the Wall Street Journal, spent several years trying to get to the truth of Armstrong and what would be his eventual downfall — doping. Their book, Wheelmen, is the fruit of their efforts. They gathered all sorts of evidence, conducted many interviews and poured over transcripts, court proceedings and everything in between. What results is a spectacular story that could only ever happen in the sport of professional cycling.

You need not know a thing about professional cycling to read and appreciate Wheelmen. Albergotti and O’Connell do an excellent job striking a balance between those of us who know and understand professional cycling and everyone else. Their book is less about the sport than it is about Armstrong, but it’s not even just about Armstrong. It’s about how doping shamed one man’s career and how it brought down the sport of cycling n the United States (it’s still going strong elsewhere in the world).

If you like a good sports conspiracy or you like exploring the at times seedy underbelly of professional sports, Wheelmen has a lot to offer. If you’re looking for the truth — about Armstrong and about doping, Wheelmen will also be just what you’re looking for. But you don’t have to be a cycling fan, or even a sports fan, to appreciate the work that went into the book or the book itself. It’s a good, if depressing, read and well worth your time and effort.

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