Lance Armstrong – what a hero. Specifically, he’s the hero of adolescent Kieran Hodgson, a cycling enthusiast from Yorkshire who has chosen the not-yet-disgraced Tour de France champion as his spirit animal. It’s Armstrong who pushes Hodgson through the toughest section of a Scouts cycling challenge, offering the sage, not at all corporate-sponsored maxim: ‘Just do it.’ It’s advice that also serves Hodgson well when he’s choosing which university to attend – he ends up ditching his local cycling chums, having been seduced by the (quite literal) siren song of the South.
Hodgson is an immensely likeable Lycra-clad presence, bounding about the stage with the open, fresh-faced energy of a Blue Peter presenter and assembling a memorable cast of characters to tell his story. Standouts include Yorkshire cycling chums Matthew (the geeky one) and Simon (the cool one), tragic Scout leader Rob and, when he gets to uni, a condescending and enjoyably irritating ‘Gap Yah’-style rowing club president (sample dialogue: ‘Let the Apocalash begin!’). Not to mention Armstrong himself, the steely-eyed Texan whose inspiring pearls of wisdom are gradually revealed to be almost psychopathically self-centred.
It’s a coming-of-age tale that Hodgson smartly avoids making too rose-tinted. Armstrong’s segments are conducted with knowing hindsight, and the nostalgic narrative is anchored by comically inconsequential cultural touchstones (‘It was 2006, so of course we were collectively still getting over the disappointment of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”’). There’s also a deliciously cynical element to the ending, though it’s not so poisonous that it sours the preceding hour. If you’re still swithering over whether to see the show, take Armstrong’s advice: just do it.