“Strickland’s lyrical prose and swift pacing lighten the material’s weight . . . his book is honest, and he doesn’t waste our time with banal observations or facile psychologizing
. . . every page is powerful and rewarding . . . a masterly piece of reportage . . . about cycling the way A River Runs Through It is about fishing . . . is to cycling what The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is to running: a story of grit and determination that transcends mere sport . . . heart-wrenching honesty . . .”
“In a strange way that is almost embarrassing to discuss, I think that deciding to be honest about who I am, for the first time in my life, opened up my writing in a way that changed it. I realize this sounds precious or maybe makes me sound like a sophomore in a creative writing class, but I now believe that I was always holding something back in my writing, what I gave to my writing, or the chances I was willing to take with language and sound and rhythm and image.”
“As a fan — and I readily admit to being a ‘fanboy,’ one of the accusations thrown at me by some critics — who is also a writer, I think of the experience of being so immersed in the sport as a little bit like hanging around the circus. At first it’s all about what happens in the ring, and eating some peanuts and laughing at the clowns. It’s great! It’s a spectacle! Wow, look at all this! But then one day you get to go backstage and see the lions eat, and go in the trailer where the married bearded lady and Mr Electrico live together and you sit down at chipped Formica fold-out table have a drink with them and find out they are deeply in love, and you see the gypsy acrobats arguing violently, and you even spend some time talking to the laborer who sledgehammers in the stakes that hold the tent ropes taut. You can’t ever really go back and sit in that seat in the bleachers the way you once did, but, man, you find out you love the whole circus more than ever.”
“I laugh with my friends on a bike, and I talk about whatever we want to talk about, and I ride out to eat at some restaurant or to drink at a bar, and I race now and then, and I see if I can’t break myself on some cycling adventure or dare, and I play dumb games on bikes (coasting races, or granny-gear sprints, or to see who can catch the most falling leaves), and I take my shot at figuring out existence and how to pray or why, and I meet people I otherwise never would, and I ride off hangovers, and I ride off frustrations, and I ride just to feel the wind some days or the sun or the rain, and I ride to feel like a kid, and I ride because I am aging, and I ride because after all this I have some sort of wisdom about the ride I can share now, and in a life of riding for so many reasons I can see now that sometimes I ride just to ride. That seems like some big philosophical statement but it is pretty much just putting words to what I did when I was a child and have never stopped doing.”
“I was so ashamed of that scene that I took it out. Then, as I kept writing the book, I realized, ‘Wait—this is a book about shame.’ So I put it back in. That was a key moment for me, when I realized: Everything you’re ashamed of has to go in here. Because that’s the big—that’s the monster.”
“I rarely line up thinking I have a chance to win. I always look for a moment when I can affect the race, or when I can contribute something to the outcome, or when I can make somebody quit or help somebody win. For me, that’s what racing is about at the level I can achieve. And I think back to my life: What were those moments when I could have done something, and what were those moments when, no matter what I did, things were just happening to me, and the most we can do is try to survive them as best as we can, try to hang on. Racing helps me understand who I am, good and bad.”
“Any bike ride you take could be the ride of your life. You never know. The next…the one you take tomorrow, the one you take later today, that could end up being the experience that sticks with you forever.”
“Cyclists are the brunt of a lot of misplaced rage. When a driver sees a bike, they think, ‘The bike’s in my way.’ What they should be thinking is ‘That’s one less car in my way.’ If they pass fifty bikes, that’s fifty cars that aren’t on the road.”
I’ve appeared on Good Morning America, Today, The CBS Morning Show, Jim Lehrer News Hour, Entertainment Tonight, with Larry King, Anderson Cooper, and Erin Burnett, on CBS Sports and various versions of ESPN broadcasts, and a bunch of other, smaller television shows. Here’s a sample from AC 360, during the second night of Lance Armstrong’s two-part confessional with Oprah. I like it (though confusingly the camera turns to me when Dan Coyle is mentioned in the intro) because we got to talk instead of having to spit out soundbites.
Alex Gibney thought I might have something interesting to say and asked me to be in his documentary, The Armstrong Lie. Alex is one of the best storytellers I know. And he put me in the trailer.
I think it’s kind of cool to have worked on some VHS projects. It’s like telling people I started my career composing stories on a typewriter. I spent some time doing compilations for World Cycling Productions. This is from one that was called Greatest Climbs of the Tour de France (1990-1999). Sometimes you can still find it. The advice still pretty much holds, anyway.