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The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France Paperback – May 7, 2013
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“Loaded with bombshells and revelations.”—VeloNews
“The holy grail for disillusioned cycling fans . . . The book’s power is in the collective details, all strung together in a story that is told with such clear-eyed conviction that you never doubt its veracity. . . . The Secret Race isn’t just a game changer for the Lance Armstrong myth. It’s the game ender.”—Outside
“[An] often harrowing story . . . the broadest, most accessible look at cycling’s drug problems to date.”—The New York Times
“ ‘If I cheated, how did I get away with it?’ That question, posed to SI by Lance Armstrong five years ago, has never been answered more definitively than it is in Tyler Hamilton’s new book.”—Sports Illustrated
“Explosive.”—The Daily Telegraph (London)
About the Author
Tyler Hamilton is a former professional bike racer, Olympic gold medalist, and NCAA champion. He raced professionally from 1995 to 2008 and now runs his own company, Tyler Hamilton Training LLC, in Boulder, Colorado. He lives in Missoula, Montana, with his wife, Lindsay, and his dog, Tanker.
Daniel Coyle is the New York Times bestselling author of Lance Armstrong’s War and The Talent Code. He lives with his wife and four children in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and Homer, Alaska.
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Top Customer Reviews
- First, the co-author, Daniel Coyle, knows his way around pro bike racing. He wrote Lance Armstrong's War: One Man's Battle Against Fate, Fame, Love, Death, Scandal, and a Few Other Rivals on the Road to the Tour de France, and his experience shows. More than just a story about Hamilton, "The Secret Race" weaves in all the significant doping scandals of the past 15 years. Although the publicity surrounding this book is driven by the interest in Lance Armstrong, the book exposes a sport-wide culture where doping was expected and the infrastructure to support it was easily accessible to the best riders.
- Second, the level of prosaic detail adds credibility. It's more than just a chronicle of what drugs were taken -- but also detail on how they worked; how they were concealed; how tests were beaten; the logistics of getting to and from the doping doctors; and the strategy of timing blood doping sessions to correspond with key stages of big races. Hamilton even details the bonus schedule he paid to his doping doctors for each major victory. Although I've read previous books on the topic, I was still surprised by the intensity of doping activities outlined here. It's the difference between having the story told by "outsiders" (investigators, journalists, team assistants) vs. "insiders" (someone like Hamilton who is finally willing to tell the story).
- Third, Hamilton's own personal story is believable. He helps explain why bike racers decide to dope, why lying about it becomes so central to their day to day lives, and what it takes to turn the corner and start telling the truth. The co-author's key challenge in this book is to make the reader accept the story of someone who lied for so long, and inevitably we have to wonder, "He lied then, is he telling the truth now?" The context provided here allows the reader to make that leap.
Two other individuals are worth mentioning. The first is David Walsh, the London Times journalist who wrote, From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France, which outlined way back in 2007 what was happening inside pro racing during the "Lance Armstrong era." None of the recent doping scandals has been a real surprise to anyone who read Walsh's book. "The Secret Race" has a lot more detail, since it's told by a true insider, but without David Walsh, Paul Kimmage and a few others continuing to tell this story the facts likely would have never come out (One thing that's clear from "The Secret Race" is that the sport's governing body, the UCI, was never going to blow the whistle on itself).
[Nov. 2012 update: David Walsh's stories that laid out the original allegations against Lance Armstrong have just been released in a Kindle edition, Lanced: The shaming of Lance Armstrong, and coming soon is his new e-book, Seven Deadly Sins ]
The second person to mention is Andy Hampsten, another American cycling hero whose 1988 ride in the Tour of Italy is still legendary. Hampsten was competing at the top level of international cycling before the EPO era but then found himself out-muscled by back-of-the-pack competitors who suddenly transformed themselves, turbocharged by EPO and blood transfusions. For anyone who thinks that it's OK to excuse continuing coverups because "it was a level playing field; they all doped," it's worth reading Andy Hampsten's quotes:
"In the mid eighties, when I came up, riders were doping but it was still possible to compete with them...bottom line, a clean rider could compete in the big three-week races. EPO changed everything...all of a sudden whole teams were ragingly fast, all of a sudden I was struggling to make time limits. By 1994, I'd be on climbs, working as hard as I've ever worked, producing exactly the same power, at the same weight, and right alongside me would be these big-assed guys, and they'd be chatting like were were on the flats! It was completely crazy. As the 1996 season went by...everybody knew what was up, everybody was talking about EPO, everybody could see the writing on the wall."
Hampsten retired from pro bike racing at that time. Other racers made a different decision, and signed up for in-depth doping regimes; their story is told here. To believe that anyone raced clean and then won the Tour de France 7 times in a row at the height of the doping era seems to defy reality. To use a term repeated often in "The Secret Race," it would have to be "extraterrestrial."
It does not make one sympathetic to Armstrong. To the contrary--Armstrong comes across as a vindictive narcissist. Rather than merely defending himself, he has to threaten and attempt to destroy anyone who mentions the truth -- hence his attacks on Betsey Andreu, Hamilton himself, Landis, and scores of journalists. [after first having encouraged Landis to deny doping after Landis' positive test, Armstrong then emphasized Landis' initial denials of doping to publicly proclaim that Landis lacks credibility]. But perhaps the most damning condemnation of Armstrong is that his urge to win and to destroy was so great, that he felt the need to inform on riders who were achieving independent success (and thereby threatening Lance's domination). By 2004, Hamilton had left Postal and then CSC and joined Phonak (while maintaining his own doping program). In the Dauphine Libere that year, Hamilton beat Lance in the Mont Ventoux time trial by a lot. Soon after, Hamilton got a call asking that he visit the UCI headquarters in Switzerland. There he was told that his blood values were suspicious and the UCI would be watching him. According to Floyd Landis, Armstrong had dropped the dime on Hamilton. Armstrong simply could not conceive that with a level playing field (everybody doping), he could lose a race. So Hamilton must be doing something very different and must be stopped.
Anyway--a great and sobering read. It generates some sympathy for the dopers. It generates contempt for Armstrong. A liar and a bully with unlimited drive, significant wealth and few scruples can go very far in this world. Armstrong was the enforcer of the Peloton, the best and most sophisticated doping practitioner with the most resources and most cutting-edge techniques. He also had the most to lose if caught and therefore fought the hardest and destroyed the most people in perpetuating the fantasy of his supposedly dope-free seven Tour wins. Had Armstrong been revealed as a fraud earlier, any number of clean riders might otherwise have seen success. Who knows how many did not receive contracts or lost sponsors because they declined to participate in the institutionalized doping system that the US Postal Team had perfected under Lance Armstrong's leadership.