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The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs

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The Secret Race is a definitive look at the world of professional cycling—and the doping issue surrounding this sport and its most iconic rider, Lance Armstrong—by former Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton and New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle.Over the course of two years, Coyle conducted more than two hundred hours of interviews with Hamilton and spoke cand The Secret Race is a definitive look at the world of professional cycling—and the doping issue surrounding this sport and its most iconic rider, Lance Armstrong—by former Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton and New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle.Over the course of two years, Coyle conducted more than two hundred hours of interviews with Hamilton and spoke candidly with numerous teammates, rivals, and friends. The result is an explosive book that takes us, for the first time, deep inside a shadowy, fascinating, and surreal world of unscrupulous doctors, anything-goes team directors, and athletes so relentlessly driven to succeed that they would do anything—and take any risk, physical, mental, or moral—to gain the edge they need to win.Tyler Hamilton was once one of the world’s best-liked and top-ranked cyclists—a fierce competitor renowned among his peers for his uncanny endurance and epic tolerance for pain. In the 2003 Tour de France, he finished fourth despite breaking his collarbone in the early stages—and grinding eleven of his teeth down to the nerves along the way. He started his career with the U.S. Postal Service team in the 1990s and quickly rose to become Lance Armstrong’s most trusted lieutenant, and a member of his inner circle. For the first three of Armstrong’s record seven Tour de France victories, Hamilton was by Armstrong’s side, clearing his way. But just weeks after Hamilton reached his own personal pinnacle—winning the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics—his career came to a sudden, ignominious end: He was found guilty of doping and exiled from the sport.From the exhilaration of his early, naïve days in the peloton, Hamilton chronicles his ascent to the uppermost reaches of this unforgiving sport. In the mid-1990s, the advent of a powerful new blood-boosting drug called EPO reshaped the world of cycling, and a relentless, win-at-any-cost ethos took root. Its psychological toll would drive many of the sport’s top performers to substance abuse, depression, even suicide. For the first time ever, Hamilton recounts his own battle with clinical depression, speaks frankly about the agonizing choices that go along with the decision to compete at a world-class level, and tells the story of his complicated relationship with Lance Armstrong.A journey into the heart of a never-before-seen world, The Secret Race is a riveting, courageous act of witness from a man who is as determined to reveal the hard truth about his sport as he once was to win the Tour de France.


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The Secret Race is a definitive look at the world of professional cycling—and the doping issue surrounding this sport and its most iconic rider, Lance Armstrong—by former Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton and New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle.Over the course of two years, Coyle conducted more than two hundred hours of interviews with Hamilton and spoke cand The Secret Race is a definitive look at the world of professional cycling—and the doping issue surrounding this sport and its most iconic rider, Lance Armstrong—by former Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton and New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle.Over the course of two years, Coyle conducted more than two hundred hours of interviews with Hamilton and spoke candidly with numerous teammates, rivals, and friends. The result is an explosive book that takes us, for the first time, deep inside a shadowy, fascinating, and surreal world of unscrupulous doctors, anything-goes team directors, and athletes so relentlessly driven to succeed that they would do anything—and take any risk, physical, mental, or moral—to gain the edge they need to win.Tyler Hamilton was once one of the world’s best-liked and top-ranked cyclists—a fierce competitor renowned among his peers for his uncanny endurance and epic tolerance for pain. In the 2003 Tour de France, he finished fourth despite breaking his collarbone in the early stages—and grinding eleven of his teeth down to the nerves along the way. He started his career with the U.S. Postal Service team in the 1990s and quickly rose to become Lance Armstrong’s most trusted lieutenant, and a member of his inner circle. For the first three of Armstrong’s record seven Tour de France victories, Hamilton was by Armstrong’s side, clearing his way. But just weeks after Hamilton reached his own personal pinnacle—winning the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics—his career came to a sudden, ignominious end: He was found guilty of doping and exiled from the sport.From the exhilaration of his early, naïve days in the peloton, Hamilton chronicles his ascent to the uppermost reaches of this unforgiving sport. In the mid-1990s, the advent of a powerful new blood-boosting drug called EPO reshaped the world of cycling, and a relentless, win-at-any-cost ethos took root. Its psychological toll would drive many of the sport’s top performers to substance abuse, depression, even suicide. For the first time ever, Hamilton recounts his own battle with clinical depression, speaks frankly about the agonizing choices that go along with the decision to compete at a world-class level, and tells the story of his complicated relationship with Lance Armstrong.A journey into the heart of a never-before-seen world, The Secret Race is a riveting, courageous act of witness from a man who is as determined to reveal the hard truth about his sport as he once was to win the Tour de France.

30 review for The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn Day

    I knew I would have to read this book after I saw this article (http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-...) on Outside Magazine. I bought it the day it came out and have spent every spare moment reading it since. A little background: my dad is a huge cycling fan. He even raced in some small races when he was younger. He taught my sister and I to ride bikes when we were young and it turned into a family hobby—long bike rides to all sorts of places. There was no city too big or any ride too long. We I knew I would have to read this book after I saw this article (http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-...) on Outside Magazine. I bought it the day it came out and have spent every spare moment reading it since. A little background: my dad is a huge cycling fan. He even raced in some small races when he was younger. He taught my sister and I to ride bikes when we were young and it turned into a family hobby—long bike rides to all sorts of places. There was no city too big or any ride too long. We each had our own special mountain bikes…Treks for everyone! They let us buy helmets and gloves that matched our bikes too. Green for me, gray for my sister. We started watching the Tour de France as a family when I was still very young, but it didn’t start to really interest me until I was in high school. It became a big summer event for us. When we vacationed in Nova Scotia and stayed in a cabin on the lake that didn’t have cable, my grandma recorded each stage for us and we jerry-rigged a VCR (!) up to a small TV and huddled around to watch. Of course, we were watching to see if Lance Armstrong could win again. And then next summer, we’d ask: Can he do it yet again? We discussed his rivals in detail—their pros and cons. I knew all the best phrases that Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett (the Tour de France commentators) used when they got excited. “He’s riding like a man possessed!” Turns out, they were sort of right, but in a way that maybe no one imagined…or more likely, that no one wanted to admit. When I was in high school, each summer my dad and I would go on “training rides” in the rural hills around our home in Virginia with the intent of us doing a fast century (100 mile) two-day ride someday. We’d ride in the early morning before the bugs got bad and the humidity became too oppressive. I’d drag myself out of bed, put on something spandex, strap on my clip-in shoes and grab a banana to stick in my jersey pocket. We’d draft off each other on the flats and suffer through the long uphill climbs that never seemed quite so bad when we were driving in the car. At the end of each ride, my dad would compare our statistics to the day before. Did we go faster? What was our average MPH? How many miles did we get in today? Sometimes my sister would go with us too, but she generally favored sleep over a 10 mile ride at 7 am. She was the smart one. I remember we’d watch the Tour after we got home from our bike rides and I’d marvel at how the riders could attack, or accelerate ahead of the group, on some of the largest mountains in France. I’d wonder how they could increase their speed over and over again going uphill. It seemed superhuman. One day my dad and I were out riding and were going up a modest climb, but it was near the end of our ride and I could feel the lactic acid building up. I had been drafting behind him up the hill, but all of a sudden I realized I had more. I passed him and flew up the hill, hardly feeling the incline. All I saw was the pavement flying by under my wheels. When my dad caught up to me, he started laughing. “No fair, you’re 17 and I’m 42.” That experience gave me a tiny taste of the complete rush that cycling can give you. I was in pain, but didn’t mind it. I didn’t feel anything once I started accelerating. I just knew that I could go. Tyler Hamilton’s book begins with him explaining that he has a knack for managing pain. He thrives on it. When things start getting really painful, that’s where he shines. He can push through. He likes pushing through. Cycling was a perfect sport for him. Unfortunately, despite his obvious natural talent, his best barely registered on a sliding scale of doping and performance enhancement that had taken over the sport. He began doping after he realized that he had no chance of a viable career if he didn’t. Everyone else was doing it too. Doping leveled the playing field if everyone was involved, right? Not quite. To really dumb down the science, everyone has a natural level of hematocrit (or amount of red blood cells) in their blood. EPO, the widely-used drug that enhances red blood cell production (and the one that most cyclist mean when they say they were doping), assisted in bringing up a cyclist’s hematocrit level as high as possible without passing 50—the level that the sport’s governing body deemed the maximum allowable. So, if you had a “regular” hematocrit level of 42, you could use more EPO than someone with a natural level of 47—increasing the effectiveness of the drug on your performance. I can’t emphasize to you how well the book is written. Hamilton, with the assistance of Daniel Coyle, tells an incredibly compelling story in a way that’s so earnest and so forthright that you can’t help but believe every single word that’s written. Compare this account to Lance Armstrong’s public statements regarding the doping allegations and there’s no mistaking Hamilton’s honesty counts for a lot more than Armstrong’s sometimes abrasive denials. Reading this book cast the many summers I spent watching cycling in a totally different light. Events I watched live on television that had seemed like supreme athletic achievements were described very differently by Hamilton. When cyclists described each other as doing something superhuman, they really meant “doped up.” His descriptions of Armstrong’s secretive, scientific and wholly integrated doping program that spread throughout the US Postal Team seemed like something out of a spy novel. Secret cell phones, code names and messages, an EPO messenger on a motorcycle meeting the team at predetermined spots. If it weren’t so believable and if Hamilton weren’t so brutally honest, it would almost seem too ridiculous to be true. And, maybe that’s why it went unpunished for so long. The idea that an entire sport could be dominated by superior athletes who could transform themselves into demi-gods was too good and too lucrative to pass up. A one-man breakaway over a hundred miles? Too ridiculous to be true, but damn, that’s good television. A man winning the most demanding sports contest year after year after year post-cancer? Too ridiculous to be true, but look how much money he can make us. In light of Armstrong’s decision not to contest USADA’s doping charges against him and the subsequent stripping of his titles, this book provides a powerful answer to the question many (including myself) have asked: Why would Lance Armstrong—a man near possessed by the desire to win—simply give up? He gave up because he’s guilty. It was better for him to ride off in a cloud of maybes and probablys than lose definitively the only thing cycling fans have left of him: the amazing memories of watching him win.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Kim

    As an avid cyclist who has followed the sport for the past quarter century, I was saddened and moved, but not shocked, by this book. The recent histories of Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton and that of doping in cycling have been well covered in the mass media. Still, this book tells a captivating story of one man's struggle with conflicting and riddling motivations and explores all facets - light and dark - of human ambition. The writing style is fast and highly accessible. I read the book in on As an avid cyclist who has followed the sport for the past quarter century, I was saddened and moved, but not shocked, by this book. The recent histories of Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton and that of doping in cycling have been well covered in the mass media. Still, this book tells a captivating story of one man's struggle with conflicting and riddling motivations and explores all facets - light and dark - of human ambition. The writing style is fast and highly accessible. I read the book in one go, and was totally engrossed by it. Perhaps it was an easy read for me because i was already very familiar with the arcane names and technical cycling terminology. But i'd like to think that the very compelling human story was presented well enough to captivate anybody looking to read a tragic story of personal bravery and morality. When I first read several years ago that Tyler Hamilton had been busted for dope, I was deeply saddened. He had seemed like such a likeable fellow. I think that he has now redeemed himself well by writing this book. As for Lance Armstrong, well, the book did not change my feelings of ambivalence about him, either for better or worse. Clearly, he is a man who has performed deeds that are historically heroic. However, it's sad that such a lifetime of achievement is shrouded in a personality that is so darkened by arrogance, hubris and disdain for others. In short, even heroes can be world-class dickheads.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    This book really does explain how (and how much) doping went on at the time Lance Armstrong was taking the cycling world by storm in winning the Tour de France seven times. It's told in a pretty matter if fact way by one of his team and shows, very clearly, the difficult choices facing top professional cyclists at this time: take the drugs or you won't be picked for the teams. It also makes it clear that, as the cyclists reacted differently to the products and some gained more than others due to This book really does explain how (and how much) doping went on at the time Lance Armstrong was taking the cycling world by storm in winning the Tour de France seven times. It's told in a pretty matter if fact way by one of his team and shows, very clearly, the difficult choices facing top professional cyclists at this time: take the drugs or you won't be picked for the teams. It also makes it clear that, as the cyclists reacted differently to the products and some gained more than others due to certain 'natural state' measures, the fact that virtually all top cyclists were using EPO and other substances did not render it a level playing field. The most fascinating aspects for me were the accounts of how the drugs were administered - in the midst of some pretty basic and flawed testing processes - and the understanding of how this 'secret' was kept under wraps for so long. It also did drive home just how false the results were during this period. A really interesting tale particularly if, like me, you're addicted to the annual July event that draws in more watchers than any other sporting event in the world!

  4. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Marlene♥

    It will be hard for me to read. I have been anti Armstrong since 2000 and knew he doped but nobody believed me but a few cycling friends. On the other hand it will be much better to read about him now that the whole world knows what he is like.......... Hard because I will probably read how he got way with so much for all those years. Never understood the admiration. His bullying ways were so obvious plus he and his team mates all of a sudden became so good. When he won the tour in 1999 I was happ It will be hard for me to read. I have been anti Armstrong since 2000 and knew he doped but nobody believed me but a few cycling friends. On the other hand it will be much better to read about him now that the whole world knows what he is like.......... Hard because I will probably read how he got way with so much for all those years. Never understood the admiration. His bullying ways were so obvious plus he and his team mates all of a sudden became so good. When he won the tour in 1999 I was happy for him, but in 2000 he showed what a despicable man he was in the way he treated others, and yes I started to dislike him, which turned to disgust. OMG. Just finished reading this book. I loved it. The world I thought I knew so much about (Yes I knew about doping and expected Lance and his whole tam to have a trick where they could dope and not be found out) turned out to be even worse! And yes I also wondered if lance would test positively, if the Tour de France would want the world to know. Not just them but also the UCI, because Lance brought lot of viewers of America which means money) It was shocking how right I was. I remember all those years that when I said something negatively about Armstrong, his fans who were always telling me. He has been tested 500 times and never tested positive. (which was a lie) The thing is, I started to dislike the guy not because of suspicion of doping but because i could what a nasty guy he was already in 2000. But because he was a hero according to many they let him bully them. All those journalists that licked his ball. Now they are all apologizing for not doing their work. meaning be neutral! (Respect for Paul Kimmage who went after Armstrong and the UCI and was bullied but is now counter suing the UCI!) Back to the book. Great story although I did feel that Tyler was still making excuses about him doping. Everybody did it. No that was not true. But the story he is telling is really important so kudos to him, and I respect Floyd Landis for finally being honest for a change. One of few that stood against Armstrong.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    So glad I ... finally ... got around to reading this (and, frankly, it's inexcusable that I hadn't read it previously). Yes, yes, my favorite bad weather cycling jacket is now a collector's item - a Tyler Hamilton Foundation eye-catcher (that never ceases to attract commentary ... some good, some not so nice ... out on the bike trails)..... OK, OK, ... I had this on my to read shelf for many years, but every time I went to buy it ... I just couldn't.... [Full disclosure: a while back, I removed So glad I ... finally ... got around to reading this (and, frankly, it's inexcusable that I hadn't read it previously). Yes, yes, my favorite bad weather cycling jacket is now a collector's item - a Tyler Hamilton Foundation eye-catcher (that never ceases to attract commentary ... some good, some not so nice ... out on the bike trails)..... OK, OK, ... I had this on my to read shelf for many years, but every time I went to buy it ... I just couldn't.... [Full disclosure: a while back, I removed it from my to read shelf, because I'd convinced myself I'd never read it...] For many years, I was a denier ... then, frankly, I think I didn't want to know.... then there were the years when it all made me so sad I didn't want to think about it ... Then, slowly, ... I started reading about pro cycling again ... and then, recently, having read the newish Greg LeMond bio/tribute, The Comeback, published in 2018, well ... I kind of felt like I'd run out of excuses... But it was still well worth reading - - no, in reading this, I wasn't expecting a wealth of new material, but ... even stuff you're familiar with tastes differently in intense, large, concentrated, direct consumption.... In that regard, it's a (brave? courageous?) tale well told. Fortunately, this is a very good book ... direct, clear, linear, easy to follow, easy to read, ... and surprisingly compelling.... Yes, it sounds like Tyler Hamilton's voice, but it was a good move teaming with Daniel Coyne (and, yes, it was interesting reading this to the extent I'd read his Lance Armstrong's War a number of years ago). To my mind, the strength of the book derives from its (apparent) honesty, which makes the telling a public baring of Hamilton's soul, and, one hopes, a significant catharsis. It's painful ... but it's easy to sympathize/empathize ... and one of the best sub-themes of the books revolves around the simple question: what would you have done in my shoes? Nicely done ... or ... chapeau! One strange thing, reading the book today, is that the ending feels (temporally) abrupt ... or premature.... Of course, we (today's readers) know more about what came later, but all stories have to end somewhere. One wonders if newer (or subsequent) editions will contain some kind of aftermath or epilogue for folks who have followed the litigation, the players, and the sport.... A (very) good book. I should have read it when it first came out.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Surprisingly well-written! Tyler's voice doesn't come across as whiny or self-pitying. Instead you get a gripping, clear-eyed view into The Decision, The Descent, and The Consequences. I remember watching these TdF mountain top finishes almost a decade ago, and it's fascinating to read about what was actually going on. The actual doping is the least of the story; the cloak-and-dagger machinery to pull it off is a page-turning thriller. That all the top guys doped isn't much of a story anymore, tho Surprisingly well-written! Tyler's voice doesn't come across as whiny or self-pitying. Instead you get a gripping, clear-eyed view into The Decision, The Descent, and The Consequences. I remember watching these TdF mountain top finishes almost a decade ago, and it's fascinating to read about what was actually going on. The actual doping is the least of the story; the cloak-and-dagger machinery to pull it off is a page-turning thriller. That all the top guys doped isn't much of a story anymore, though it's interesting to read about how Armstrong did it more systematically and better than anyone else. And his surprisingly vindictive pursuit of Lemond, Hamilton etc. would make for a great movie.

  7. 4 out of 5

    James

    I'm an amateur cyclist, but follow international pro racing with great interest. Of course, the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs is a hot topic, and the author, Tyler Hamilton was one of the good guys with huge talent and heart I remember watching on TV for years. I must be naive, because I thought it was all talent (it wasn't) and he was a hero of sorts to me. Then, like Icarus flying too close to the sun, he fell into the sea, and this is his tell all. It's not your typical sports mem I'm an amateur cyclist, but follow international pro racing with great interest. Of course, the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs is a hot topic, and the author, Tyler Hamilton was one of the good guys with huge talent and heart I remember watching on TV for years. I must be naive, because I thought it was all talent (it wasn't) and he was a hero of sorts to me. Then, like Icarus flying too close to the sun, he fell into the sea, and this is his tell all. It's not your typical sports memoir; it's really more of a tragedy, and that's why the book should appeal to readers who aren't necessarily cycling fans. I used to be a Lance Armstrong fan too. No more. I don't care how much money he raised for cancer awareness. I stopped following him on twitter.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bren

    “People think doping is for lazy people who want to avoid hard work. That might be true in some cases, but in mine, as with many riders I knew, it was precisely the opposite. EPO granted the ability to suffer more; to push yourself farther and harder than you'd ever imagined, in both training and racing.” ― Daniel Coyle, The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs This is a sort of unauthorized Bio on Lance Armstrong. I must admit to “People think doping is for lazy people who want to avoid hard work. That might be true in some cases, but in mine, as with many riders I knew, it was precisely the opposite. EPO granted the ability to suffer more; to push yourself farther and harder than you'd ever imagined, in both training and racing.” ― Daniel Coyle, The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs This is a sort of unauthorized Bio on Lance Armstrong. I must admit to being fascinated with this subject. And I found the book to really interesting in a rather unpleasant way. While I enjoyed reading it, it did sure paint Armstrong out to be an unmitigated jerk which he very well may be. I've no idea. But what really stunned me in this book, was how NORMAL the doping is. It also made me realize I know nothing about the world of sports. I have always known alot of doping goes in in fields like modeling and in Hollywood. Sports, particularly this sport, always struck me as the opposite. I am not a major fan or anything so I never asked myself how these guys were able to do what they did. This was for sure an eye opener. It isn't a very long read and I'd say the writing is pretty good and seemingly authentic although honestly how in the world would I know? When this scandal broke, I remember I just could not believe that Armstrong, a cancer survivor would be this stupid, as to put this garbage in his body. The book sure opened my eyes and yes I would recommend it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    First I feel like I have to make full disclosure; Before yellow wristbands, before Tour de France victories, before cancer, before the 1993 World Cycling Championships, even before the 1992 Olympics, I did not care for Lance Edward Armstrong. When I bought this book, I did not believe that I would be swayed either way. Secondly, I used to be a huge Tyler Hamilton fan. I remember first reading about him when he won the NCAA cycling championships in 1993 and there was always something likable perha First I feel like I have to make full disclosure; Before yellow wristbands, before Tour de France victories, before cancer, before the 1993 World Cycling Championships, even before the 1992 Olympics, I did not care for Lance Edward Armstrong. When I bought this book, I did not believe that I would be swayed either way. Secondly, I used to be a huge Tyler Hamilton fan. I remember first reading about him when he won the NCAA cycling championships in 1993 and there was always something likable perhaps even honest about him. After he failed the tests in 2004 I was not devastated but greatly disappointed. Since reading this book, I have come back to being a fan because he has chosen to speak out when many others have not and I find that admirable. I find the book well written. Even with the co-author you get the sense that you are hearing Tyler tell the story. There are parts of it that are not perfectly linear as though it is a collection of recollections. At one point while discussing the 1996 season he mentions seeing Bjarne Riis in 1997 and my first thought was, "He is a place where the critics will say his memory is foggy" thus discrediting the whole book. As I read on I realized that in describing what was going on in Europe with drugs that his recollection of Riis was so precise that he used an incident from 1997 to describe what he learned in '96. Although Mr. Armstrong does not come out well in the book, this is not a greedy attempt to, "Get Lance" as some people will say. In the times when he does point a finger at Armstrong he makes it very clear that Hamilton is pointing three at himself. He fully acknowledges that participating in this world was his choice because he opted to be professional (a term meaning do what it takes i.e. use performance enhancing drugs) In this way it makes it clear that during Hamilton's career that making it to the top of the sport meant the choice to use drugs. The story itself is very compelling and interesting even if you do not know much about professional cycling. It tells the story of what it is like to make it in the sport. Hamilton talks candidly about the sacrifices others, such as other riders and support personnel have to make in order to win a grand tour. If you know something about cycling you will feel like you have been there among the brotherhood on a top level team. This is probably the only book Tyler Hamilton will write and I am glad that I read it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Hollins

    After I closed the book (after reading it in one sitting), my final thought was: even if half of it is a complete fabrication, I don't see how any open minded person could come away thinking that Lance hadn't doped. But the really unsatisfying thing to think about is---now what? Every top ten finisher during those years was doped as well. Did that make it a level playing field? Some research indicates that different riders have different results from the same drug, so even that answer is unsatis After I closed the book (after reading it in one sitting), my final thought was: even if half of it is a complete fabrication, I don't see how any open minded person could come away thinking that Lance hadn't doped. But the really unsatisfying thing to think about is---now what? Every top ten finisher during those years was doped as well. Did that make it a level playing field? Some research indicates that different riders have different results from the same drug, so even that answer is unsatisfying. How does the UCI, even if it were so inclined, find the "wronged" cyclist who truly deserves the jersey? If there is a silver lining for those years, it is that those Tours got more Americans interested in cycling, and that interest created opportunities for younger racers who thankfully are racing in a much more drug-intolerant time. As for Lance, he may be a narcissist at heart, but he's given hope to a lot of people at times in their lives when they really needed it. My respect for Tyler (who wrote great articles for VeloNews during those years) has grown; it took courage for him to lay it all on the table. My respect for Lance has fallen, as again, even if half of what I read about his interpersonal skills is true, he doesn't sound like the Cincinnatus of cycling his early PR portrayed him to be. Perhaps by getting it all out there, cycling can more forward with a clean start. If that happens, the uncomfortable subjects addressed in the book will have been worth it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    The important 'human' lesson: "The Truth Sets You Free"! My husband loved this book....(I love him)...I loved reading this book 'with' him.....(sharing and talking about it) The important 'human' lesson: "The Truth Sets You Free"! My husband loved this book....(I love him)...I loved reading this book 'with' him.....(sharing and talking about it)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kalen

    The Secret Race didn't tell me much I didn't already know about bike racing's dark side but it did fill in some details. You got a good teaser when Hamilton appeared on 60 Minutes, but take the time to read this book for more of the story. Anyone who thinks that Lance Armstrong rode clean needs to read this book though to me it is less about Armstrong and more about the culture of the pro peloton overall. But if you read this book and *still* think Armstrong was clean, well, he was the only one The Secret Race didn't tell me much I didn't already know about bike racing's dark side but it did fill in some details. You got a good teaser when Hamilton appeared on 60 Minutes, but take the time to read this book for more of the story. Anyone who thinks that Lance Armstrong rode clean needs to read this book though to me it is less about Armstrong and more about the culture of the pro peloton overall. But if you read this book and *still* think Armstrong was clean, well, he was the only one who was and I've got a bridge to sell you.... What Hamilton and Coyle do well where the subject of Armstrong is concerned is to draw a full picture of the rider. People who don't follow the sport see smiling public Lance, fiercely-determined Lance on the bike. Anyone who follows the sport knows about the outbursts and the infamous "look" but The Secret Race creates a deeper profile, told by someone who lived in close proximity to Armstrong and even roomed with him. The other thing the book does well is explain the complicity of the UCI, especially to those who may not be aware of this dark, dirty secret. "Lance Armstrong" didn't happen in a vacuum and The Secret Race is one of the best explanations I've seen so far of what happened at the Tour of Switzerland and why little seems to change at the sport's highest level. Lots and lots of money was being made by lots and lots of people off the success of their golden boy. (Hamilton included.) The things I learned: John Vande Velde (Christian's dad) played one of the Italian racers in Breaking Away. (Who knew?!) A lot pro bike racers are pricks. The thing I still don't understand: How did Motoman get access to ride through the peloton? Was he working for the team in some official capacity beyond his unofficial capacity? I can't just hop on a motorcycle and cruise through the peloton handing people things. No one can. It's not that I don't believe this piece of the story, it's just the *how* that doesn't make sense. I do believe The Secret Race is more fact than fiction and while it may be fueled by anger, it is also fueled by a desire to finally tell the whole truth (at least as Hamilton saw it)--about Lance, the UCI, and the sport as a whole. I don't think Hamilton is the good guy here--he benefited a lot, financially and otherwise, until he didn't. I'm glad he feels better for having come clean (so to speak.) The culture of lies and deceit in bike racing is so deep and widespread, I honestly don't believe any of them fully--even Hamilton--about anything anymore. Except maybe Jens.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    As a high level amateur and collegiate racer for the last decade, I have followed closely the roller-coaster ride of Lance Armstrong, Postal, and all the rest of it. I was determined not to view Tyler H. as a sympathetic figure going into this book, but the candor and vulnerability he and Coyle show the reader are hard to resist. He does a tremendous job of building up to that now famous question, "what would you do?" As someone who dreamed about doing what he did, my answer is "I don't know." I As a high level amateur and collegiate racer for the last decade, I have followed closely the roller-coaster ride of Lance Armstrong, Postal, and all the rest of it. I was determined not to view Tyler H. as a sympathetic figure going into this book, but the candor and vulnerability he and Coyle show the reader are hard to resist. He does a tremendous job of building up to that now famous question, "what would you do?" As someone who dreamed about doing what he did, my answer is "I don't know." If you are interested in professional cycling this is a must read. It answers so many questions like, how Lance could be so much better than everyone else? How can whole teams dominate major races? How can big guys win mountain stages? How can non-dopers beat known dopers? (Spoiler Alert: they can't). Furthermore, the book goes into excruciating detail about how the drugs work, and how "I never failed a drug test" was meaningless. Everyone knew, particularly after Coyle's first book Lance Armstrongs War, that Lance was kind of a jerk. If you are a kool-aid drinking member of the cult of Lance, you will hate this book. It shows him in all his hyper-type-A asshole glory, and I buy all of it. Overall, I have to admit I can really relate to Tyler. I have known a lot of Tylers during my time in cycling, shy, super-competitive people, who just like to ride their bikes. I don't think he wanted any of this, but when it was thrust upon him I think he did alright. After all, what would you do?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kelli

    this book is crazy. i read it in about 24 hours and couldn't put it down. from the beginning it just takes you on a truth train ride. there isn't a lot of meandering around - it's just beginning to end THE story of what really happens in racing. (of course i always assume there is embellishing and exaggerating in memoirs.) intresting how, really, you have no choice but to dope if you expect your body to edure something like the tour de france. even more so, it's the accepted culure of the sport. this book is crazy. i read it in about 24 hours and couldn't put it down. from the beginning it just takes you on a truth train ride. there isn't a lot of meandering around - it's just beginning to end THE story of what really happens in racing. (of course i always assume there is embellishing and exaggerating in memoirs.) intresting how, really, you have no choice but to dope if you expect your body to edure something like the tour de france. even more so, it's the accepted culure of the sport. from the few things i've read about lance armstrong, i realize he is a huge jerk and majorly selfish and cocky. but i've also somewhat respected that ego knowing that's what it takes to be the athlete that he is. after reading this account and other accounts of those close to him, i realize he is a bit of a crazy sociopath. the major red flag being how he picks up and drops off "friends" so easily with no remorse or regret. he's a complete power freak - likened unto henry viii. anyway, i am a bit of a blow hard here because it's not like i am a huge cycling fan - more like a casual observer - but it's amazing what goes on in the world of cycling. i always knew it wasnt a clean sport, but this has made me leary of the purity in all sports. just one more thing in pop culture for me to furrow my truth brow at.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Deirdre

    Wow. I knew Lance was a bully, but I had no idea how much he worked the system. I suspected it but now some of the details are emerging. As a cycling fan, I'm happy to see the truth come out. It's got to help the sport. I hope. The Secret Race is written in Hamilton's voice with Coyle filling in the details in footnotes. I've read a lot about cycling and doping but this was a new experience. Hamilton's descriptions of procedures, pain, races, and fellow cyclists painted very clear pictures in my Wow. I knew Lance was a bully, but I had no idea how much he worked the system. I suspected it but now some of the details are emerging. As a cycling fan, I'm happy to see the truth come out. It's got to help the sport. I hope. The Secret Race is written in Hamilton's voice with Coyle filling in the details in footnotes. I've read a lot about cycling and doping but this was a new experience. Hamilton's descriptions of procedures, pain, races, and fellow cyclists painted very clear pictures in my head. I could see the faces and expressions of the riders he described, including Lance's famous Look. This is a must read for cycling fans. Let's hope our young cyclists don't have to make the same type of decisions that Hamilton and his peers did. If you have disdain for cycling because you think it's riddled with cheaters, you should read this to understand why cyclists felt they had no choice. If you think Lance is getting a bad deal from the USADA and the press, you should read this to understand why he had it coming.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

    NOTE: Review contains multiple quotes which may contain spoilers. One word. PHENOMENAL Tyler Hamilton was a successful professional biker and one-time friend and teammate of Lance Armstrong, who like Lance eventually got "popped" for his doping. His captivating story, told with the help of Daniel Coyle, not only sheds light on the doping problem in cycling (with a spotlight on Lance) but also fosters empathy for the athletes (even Lance) who ultimately had to decide whether to lose/quit or give th NOTE: Review contains multiple quotes which may contain spoilers. One word. PHENOMENAL Tyler Hamilton was a successful professional biker and one-time friend and teammate of Lance Armstrong, who like Lance eventually got "popped" for his doping. His captivating story, told with the help of Daniel Coyle, not only sheds light on the doping problem in cycling (with a spotlight on Lance) but also fosters empathy for the athletes (even Lance) who ultimately had to decide whether to lose/quit or give themselves a shot (literally) and join the "brotherhood". After the race, I felt a new level of frustration as I watched the white bags get handed out. (view spoiler)[Now I could measure the injustice. Marty used to be a few groups behind me; now he was a few groups ahead. I could count the number of seconds those white bags contained. I could see the gap between who I was and who I could be. Who I was supposed to be. This was bullshit. This was not fair. In that moment, the future became clear. Unless something changed, I was done. I was going to have to find a different career. I began to get more stressed and angry. Not at Marty--after all, he was only doing what a lot of others were doing. He;d been given an opportunity, and he'd taken it. No, I felt angry at myself, at the world. I was being cheated. (hide spoiler)] Here's an interesting number: one thousand days. It's roughly the number of days between the day I became professional and the day I doped for the first time.(view spoiler)[ Talking to the other riders of this era and reading their stories, it seems to be a patter: those of us who doped mostly started during our third year. First year, neo-pro, excited to be there, young pup, hopeful. Second year, realizations. Third year, clarity--fork in the road. Yes or no. In or out. Everybody has their thousand days; everybody has their choices. (hide spoiler)] So what exactly does doping involve? A lot of things, including the uses of testosterone and cortisone, synthetic blood, blood transfusions and the use of EPO, often referred to by its code name Edgar, as well as other things. What does being on EPO feel like? It feels great, mostly because it doesn't feel like anything at all.(view spoiler)[ You're not wiped out. You feel healthy, normal, strong. ?You have more color in your cheeks; you're less grumpy, more fun to be around. These little clear drops work like radio signals--they instruct your kidneys to create more red blood cells (RBCs), and soon millions more are filling up your veins, carrying oxygen to your muscles. Everything else about your body is the same, except now you have better fuel. You can go harder, longer. That holy place at the edge of your limits gets nudged out--and not just a little. (hide spoiler)] The two most effective ways to enhance biking performance are blood transfusions and EPO. Both increase the number of RBCs in the blood and thereby increase the bodies oxygen delivering capability. For years there was no test to detect EPO, and so as long as you maintained a hematocrit below 50, you were safe. Blood transfusions are especially hard to detect since you are essentially injecting your own blood back into your body. The difficulty in proving a biker was doping had to have made it that much more of a temptation. During my career, journalists often used the term "arms race" to describe the relationship between the drug testers and the athletes, but that wasn't quite right, because it implied that the testers had a chance of winning.(view spoiler)[ For us, it wasn't like a face at all. It was more like a big game of hide-and-seek played in a fest that has lots of good places to hide, and lots of rules that favor the hiders. (hide spoiler)] I got to where I could estimate my hematocrit level by the color of my blood.(view spoiler)[ I'd stare at the little drops when Ferrari stuck my finger with a lancet when he gave a lactate test. If it was light and watery, my hematocrit was low. If it was dark, it was higher. I liked seeing that dark, rich color, all those cells crowding in there like a thick soup, ready to go to work; it made me eager to train even harder. Training felt like a game. How hard can you work? How smart can you be? How skinny can you get? Can you pit yourself against those numbers, and can you reach them? And the behind all that, was always the anxiety that drove you, that kept you working: Whatever you do, those fuckers are doing more. (hide spoiler)] I have to admit, even knowing these guys cheated, even knowing that when they got caught they lied, even knowing they often became indignant and attacked their accusers unjustly, I still couldn't help but feel some level of compassion for the lot. It almost seems as if they didn't have a choice. It was either take the drugs like all the other contenders or forfeit their dreams. To win the Tour, you needed only three qualities.(view spoiler)[ 1. You have to be very, very fit. 2. You have to be very, very skinny. 3. You have to keep your hematocrit up. Rule number 3 was regrettable in Cecco's eyes, but ultimately unavoidable, a simply fact of life. (hide spoiler)] Was it possible to win a professional bike race clean during this era? Could a clean rider compete with riders on Edgar? The answer is, it depends. According to Hamilton, drugs like EPO and blood transfusions delay fatigue and decline more than they spark performance. Thus, a clean rider could still be competitive during short races, but once the race exceeded a week, those not doping were at a huge disadvantage. This was the moment, the fork in the road. Everyone who gets popped experiences it:(view spoiler)[ That eerie calm before the storm, those few hours when they can decide to tell the truth or not. I'd like to tell you that I thought about confessing, but the truth is I never considered it, not for one second. Confession felt impossible, unthinkable, an act of insanity. Not just because I'd spent years playing the game telling myself that I wasn't a cheater, that everybody did it. Not just because it would mean the shame of being exposed, or the loss of my team and contract and good name, or having to tell my parents. Not just because confession would implicate my friends, possible end the careers of my teammates and staffers--after all, it wasn't like I'd done all this solo. But mostly because the charge didn't make any sense to me. The UCI was claiming I had someone else's blood in my body--and I was 100 percent sure that I didn't. Should I ruin my life and others' lives by pleading guilty to something I hadn't done? To me, the answer was clear: NO. (hide spoiler)] Ironically, when Tyler was finally "caught", he was accused of doing something he hadn't done, and he spent upwards of a million dollars to clear his name, but lost. At the time this book was completed, his ex-teammate Lance Armstrong, who is discussed at length in Tyler's story, was in the midst of a civil trial and was still adamantly denying the doping charges, while spending a fortune to prove his innocence. Of course, we all know how that turned out. One has to wonder what the future of professional biking will look like in the aftermath of the scandal. Tyler for one is hopeful, encouraged by signs that the sport is finally getting clean as evidenced by recent winning times, which are substantially lower than they were at the height of the doping era. The winning time up Alpe d'Huez in the 2011 Tour was 41:21; back in 2001, a rider would have finished 40th. Would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Tour, and or the pressures facing elite athletes. This is a well written, face-paced book, with lots of substance.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Beinn

    I felt compelled to get through this because I had paid for it, and as a recreational cyclist and cycling fan I was interested in the revelations it contains. The details were satisfyingly pornographic. However, the book hasn't any literary merit. The narrative style is very much your standard sports autobiography. Quite often the story is tediously self-serving. I could have done without any of the details on Tyler's early life as 1. They were boring and 2. I didn't really believe him. There ar I felt compelled to get through this because I had paid for it, and as a recreational cyclist and cycling fan I was interested in the revelations it contains. The details were satisfyingly pornographic. However, the book hasn't any literary merit. The narrative style is very much your standard sports autobiography. Quite often the story is tediously self-serving. I could have done without any of the details on Tyler's early life as 1. They were boring and 2. I didn't really believe him. There are two recurring motifs throughout: 'those famously honest Hamiltons' and 'no job too tough or small'. Every repetition slightly paled me. I started out sympathetic with Tyler, but I eventually lost patience with him. Despite admittedly being a doper, he still at the point of writing felt he had been hard done by when he failed a doping test (and he had been doping) because he claimed that he hasn't done the exact thing the testers claimed (although it seemed likely that he had done it accidentally as a direct result of intentional doping). Years on from this event, he is clearly still bitter. I would only recommend this to fans of cycling - particularly amateurs looking for doping tips. Even then, I imagine the USADA report on Lance Armstrong is probably a better read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    What a gripping page-turner, this was by far the best biography I read about a sportsman, knowing it was written by an athlete himself (with the help of a co-writer) makes it extra special. Most of the facts are common knowledge by now, but seeing the world of cycling and doping unfold from the point of view of an insider was gripping and fascinating. One point I liked was that Tyler Hamilton never points fingers or makes others responsible for his actions. He isn't defending his actions but tri What a gripping page-turner, this was by far the best biography I read about a sportsman, knowing it was written by an athlete himself (with the help of a co-writer) makes it extra special. Most of the facts are common knowledge by now, but seeing the world of cycling and doping unfold from the point of view of an insider was gripping and fascinating. One point I liked was that Tyler Hamilton never points fingers or makes others responsible for his actions. He isn't defending his actions but tries to explain what led to them. I rarely read a non-fiction book that was such a gripping recount of the rise and fall of some of the most famous cyclists in the late 90s, early 00s. I read thrillers that were lame compared to this! It gives a great insight into cycling and doping, but also the dynamics behind the riders. Strings being pulled, blackmail, the way doping gets totally normal in that world. He doesn't dwell too much on his childhood but gets to the interesting bits pretty quickly which I apreciated as well. This also might be something for readers shying away from non-fiction as it is so vivid and gripping.

  19. 5 out of 5

    JDK1962

    Very good, very readable. I finished the book in about a day...but I have to say that it left me feeling pretty sad. I'm not a cycling fanatic, but I did read Armstrong's two books and had a certain admiration for him, despite the rumors. But what Hamilton's book does is explain exactly how the doping took place, and how it was perfectly possible to dope and not get caught. I found it an extremely convincing account of doping in professional cycling, explaining not just the how, but the why. Ther Very good, very readable. I finished the book in about a day...but I have to say that it left me feeling pretty sad. I'm not a cycling fanatic, but I did read Armstrong's two books and had a certain admiration for him, despite the rumors. But what Hamilton's book does is explain exactly how the doping took place, and how it was perfectly possible to dope and not get caught. I found it an extremely convincing account of doping in professional cycling, explaining not just the how, but the why. There's a quote from near the end of the book, of Hamilton talking about Armstrong: "...I found myself feeling sorry for Lance. Not completely sorry--he deserved a lot of what was coming to him; he'd made his bed and now he would have to lie in it. But I was sorry in the largest sense, sorry for him as a person, because he was trapped, imprisoned by all the secrets and lies." I agreed with this, and if you replace "Lance" with "Tyler," I agree with that too. It's just sad that, to compete and win at the top levels of professional cycling for a lot of years, doping was (if this book is to be believed) pretty much required. I think Armstrong has done some pretty amazing things through LiveStrong...but I'd have to say that I'm now firmly in the camp of those who believe he was doping during his Tour wins.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pete Collins

    I watched all of Lance Armstrong's races and victories from 1999 to 2005. I saw his adversaries being dropped by by relentless pressure or being excluded due to drug taking. It was obvious that there was an organised drug taking regime and even teams were excluded but in all that time one hoped and prayed that Lance was clean. Once I'd read "From Lance To Landis" by David Walsh it became apparent that my hopes were being undermined. Having then read many other books on cycling it became obvious I watched all of Lance Armstrong's races and victories from 1999 to 2005. I saw his adversaries being dropped by by relentless pressure or being excluded due to drug taking. It was obvious that there was an organised drug taking regime and even teams were excluded but in all that time one hoped and prayed that Lance was clean. Once I'd read "From Lance To Landis" by David Walsh it became apparent that my hopes were being undermined. Having then read many other books on cycling it became obvious that to win, and do so on a regular basis drugs were necessary. As one rider said you can't ride on "Pain y agua" (Bread and water) Tyler Hamilton's book shows that no matter how determined riders were to stay clean they eventually felt compelled to seek pharmaceutical assistance or lose their place in the team. He describes in depth the measures that teams would go to to ensure that they were using the best and the latest methods to boost their performance. He does however come across not as someone with an axe to grind or pointing fingers at others but someone who realised that what he and others did was to destroy the very sport they loved An excellent, well written book that I can thoroughly recommend to anyone interested not in seeing the downfall of the great but to read an honest admission of guilt.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    A very good and enlightening book. Very compelling and quick read. I learned a lot about the physiology of cycling and how EPO works. Hamilton's story is convincing. It was always apparent to me that Armstrong doped but what wasn't clear was how entrenched this was in the professional cycling culture. If you wanted to win, you and some members of your team must dope. It's that simple. I also didn't know about the level of bullying and intimidation from Armstrong. Hamilton doesn't spend much time A very good and enlightening book. Very compelling and quick read. I learned a lot about the physiology of cycling and how EPO works. Hamilton's story is convincing. It was always apparent to me that Armstrong doped but what wasn't clear was how entrenched this was in the professional cycling culture. If you wanted to win, you and some members of your team must dope. It's that simple. I also didn't know about the level of bullying and intimidation from Armstrong. Hamilton doesn't spend much time discussing this as it pertains to him directly (I get the impression he was trying to avoid the label of whiner or victim. Can't sell books that way); however the few examples were quite telling. This is not to say that this book doesn't go into great detail about Armstrong's tactics, my comment about victimization was specific to Hamilton (which is to say that Hamilton's recounting of events is somewhat strategic). Cycling seems to have somewhat cleaned up it's act as is evidenced by the slower times in the Tour; but even now, it is doubtful that it is completely clean. In fact the times in the Tour are getting faster again quite rapidly. The chemists and biologists are getting better (IMO). As Lance would put it, [many of the performances are] "just not normal". A point of view I didn't strongly subscribe to until reading this book. 4.5 stars

  22. 4 out of 5

    Linda (un)Conventional Bookworms

    This and all my other reviews are originally posted on my blog (un)Conventional Bookviews The Secret Race was lent to me by my very good friend Colleen while we were in Paris to watch the arrival of the Tour de France on Champs Elysées this past July. This and all my other reviews are originally posted on my blog (un)Conventional Bookviews The Secret Race was lent to me by my very good friend Colleen while we were in Paris to watch the arrival of the Tour de France on Champs Elysées this past July.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rishi Prakash

    Fabulous book. I would have given more than 5 stars if there was an option. Smooth and easy read with tons of information and an abundance of inspiration. I remember reading about Tour-de-France and THE Lance Armstrong when i was in college and it was incredible to see one guy(post cancer) winning against all odds at first and then making it a habit of winning again and again bringing the result close to a foregone conclusion making it almost boring! I would have never imagined in my wildest dre Fabulous book. I would have given more than 5 stars if there was an option. Smooth and easy read with tons of information and an abundance of inspiration. I remember reading about Tour-de-France and THE Lance Armstrong when i was in college and it was incredible to see one guy(post cancer) winning against all odds at first and then making it a habit of winning again and again bringing the result close to a foregone conclusion making it almost boring! I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams that all of it was being done by cheating your way through doping and many many performance enhancing drugs of all kind! This book has been written by one of his fellow team mate and also a professional cyclist-Tyler Hamilton, who rode side by side with Lance Armstrong until he became Armstrong's opponent when he went and joined other team. This book is full of incredible truths about Hamilton's doping and his struggles with the shame and dishonesty it came with but more importantly it is a story which tells us how this entire Cycling world was running on dope for almost 20 years before the crack down started happening. The worst part was that even the Governing body kept its eyes closed and conveniently sat quietly to promote the sports and the aura of Lance Armstrong to make a hero and earn lots of money with increasing popularity. In most of the book Tyler points the finger at his own mistakes and wrong doings but you can see the bigger picture which is so disturbing that you feel bad for millions of fans who were following the sports in that era.... This book has guts and fire, it's real and deeply honest. It shakes you up badly and makes your eyes wide open.... I learned a lot about the science of doping and, I now understand the why of it all. The truth is sad, indeed. I look at all sports differently now, that's for certain.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Guilherme Zeitounlian

    This is a fascinating true story about doping and the world of cycling. The book is very well-written, and it is almost impossible not to like the narrator, Tyler Hamilton. I didn't know much about the sport, but the book is so good that it keeps you interested, turning page after page. I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it. This is a fascinating true story about doping and the world of cycling. The book is very well-written, and it is almost impossible not to like the narrator, Tyler Hamilton. I didn't know much about the sport, but the book is so good that it keeps you interested, turning page after page. I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Filip Olšovský

    Fascinating. Both the story and the writing make this one of the best sport biographies around.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kip Hardcover

    Would have given it six stars. Absolutely cracking robin. Fuck you Lance.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Following the tour is a winter ritual at my place. I fantasise about leaving the wet NZ winter to stand on the side of the road on one of those famous mountains shouting ‘Allez, Allez’ at the peleton. But doping has always blighted my enjoyment of the sport – many of my favourites have been ‘popped’ (i.e. found to be drug cheats). Last tour it was Frank Schleck, but nearly every tour I have been disappointed by drug cheats. Tyler Hamilton’s book is an enjoyable ‘warts and all’ confession of his Following the tour is a winter ritual at my place. I fantasise about leaving the wet NZ winter to stand on the side of the road on one of those famous mountains shouting ‘Allez, Allez’ at the peleton. But doping has always blighted my enjoyment of the sport – many of my favourites have been ‘popped’ (i.e. found to be drug cheats). Last tour it was Frank Schleck, but nearly every tour I have been disappointed by drug cheats. Tyler Hamilton’s book is an enjoyable ‘warts and all’ confession of his drug use. It is written by Daniel Coyle and sprinkled throughout with foot notes where Coyle has sort to independently verify Hamilton’s claims. Coyle has written about Lance Armstrong and Hamilton was his ‘lieutenant’ during his time at US postal. The 7-time winner of the tour stairs out from the front cover with that determined gaze cycling fans will recognise and he looms large in this book. I still run into people who say ‘but Lance Armstrong is the most tested athlete in history, and he has never tested positive’ which just goes to show how impressive his PR has been and/or how much people want to believe the story of cancer-survivor-done-good (just this week it was revealed that 11 of his former team mates testified against him for the USDA). The lengths that cyclists went to dope after the ‘Festina affair’ in 1998 were amazing and sometimes farcical. It involved secret code words, unregistered cellphones, special drug couriers on motorbikes and evading out-of-season drug testers by drawing the curtains, lying on the floor and pretending not to be home. Some people will have no sympathy for Tyler Hamilton. He could have quit or he could have resigned himself to cycling in the lower ranks in less glamorous tours. And when he was caught denied everything and ‘lawyered up’ rather than tell the truth. But I was sympathetic. After three years of riding huge mountains paniagua (Spanish for "bread and water”) and watching doped cyclists zoom past it was just too hard to resist joining the club. He was a young man under immense pressure and doping was simply the norm in cycling in the 1990s. His reaction to getting caught is understandable too – he never felt like he was cheating when he was doing the same thing as everyone else. So is cycling clean now? Perhaps…. Times are a lot slower than 10 years ago, but like Hamilton I am sceptical. It hasn’t helped that when faced with scandal after scandal the Union Cycliste Internationale has ‘responded with a time-honoured strategy: spacegoat a few, preserve the rest, and keep moving forward’. I support the calls for a ‘Truth and Reconciliation’/amnesty approach to drug use in elite cycling. Hamilton is a happier person since being forced to confess all and handing back is 2004 gold medal. Perhaps Armstrong would happier too, if he did the same rather than continuing the ridiculous pretense (he’d still be a rich man is he gave back 90% his money to sponsors).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    (3.5) Detailed account of Tyler and Lance doping shenanigans, but depressing in that it seems he'd do it again Recently read Racing Through the Dark, which left me with far more optimism for the sport, but this was almost depressing. Tyler is very open about when and how he doped and covered it up, how pervasive it was in the sport and on the USPS team in particular. It was eye-opening and I'm glad I read it. It shows just how possible it was to beat the doping controls back then (not much has ch (3.5) Detailed account of Tyler and Lance doping shenanigans, but depressing in that it seems he'd do it again Recently read Racing Through the Dark, which left me with far more optimism for the sport, but this was almost depressing. Tyler is very open about when and how he doped and covered it up, how pervasive it was in the sport and on the USPS team in particular. It was eye-opening and I'm glad I read it. It shows just how possible it was to beat the doping controls back then (not much has changed presumably lately). Daniel Coyle obviously took on this project not because it was Tyler's story, but because he was going to dump some serious dirt on Lance and the Postal doping days. He essentially admits as much in the "how this book came about" preface. He said he wasn't interested in working with Tyler (he was too boring), but when Tyler admitted doping (and indicated he'd tell all about Lance), Coyle must've been salivating to incriminate Lance. I can understand that, but it's such a cynical move. I'm really not one to enjoy other people's pain, fall from grace, public humiliation and exposure as liars, hypocrites, cheats. I do like justice, but I feel disappointed in humanity, not happy to see cheaters punished publicly. The bigger problem I have is that I don't think Tyler would've done it differently if he had the opportunity to live his life again. Feels like he'd dope again. He didn't learn anything. He offers no hope to future cyclists to succeed without doping. He seems to be in the "it levels the playing field" camp, even though he discusses the fact that EPO is most effective at slowing the decline in performance over a multi-week stage race...that a spring classic or even short stage race is probably winnable paniagua (a phrase I borrow from Tyler that I kind of enjoy: pan y agua, Spanish for "bread and water" meaning undoped performance). I contrast this with David Millar's book (mentioned above), in which David is more convincing on the same point, and it seems he wouldn't dope if he lived his life again, that he actively encourages cyclists to live and race clean because you can still succeed that way...AND live with yourself.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Bradley

    The Secret Race is a (hopefully) honest account of the rampant doping in the sport of cycling throughout the past twenty years. Tyler Hamilton, once one of the sport's top riders, reveals how doping quickly became a necessity to anyone hoping to compete at an elite level. Along the way, Hamilton divulges information regarding cycling's most prominent figure, Lance Armstrong, including his use, and subsequent cover-up, of performance enhancing drugs. In a sport that has become incredibly clouded The Secret Race is a (hopefully) honest account of the rampant doping in the sport of cycling throughout the past twenty years. Tyler Hamilton, once one of the sport's top riders, reveals how doping quickly became a necessity to anyone hoping to compete at an elite level. Along the way, Hamilton divulges information regarding cycling's most prominent figure, Lance Armstrong, including his use, and subsequent cover-up, of performance enhancing drugs. In a sport that has become incredibly clouded with secrets and lies, Hamilton's book accomplishes a rare thing; it makes you believe he is telling the truth. There are a surprising amount of corroborating stories, anecdotes, and testimonies throughout the book that provide support for Hamilton's story, but they aren't even necessary. Hamilton's writing (with Coyle's help) is incredibly honest, personal, and detailed, and creates such an authentic story that it is nearly impossible to harbor doubts about its accuracy. While I was definitely impressed by Hamilton's book, it did occasionally fall into, and later rely upon, some tedious information (procedures for blood transfusions, lists of different drugs, hematocrit levels, names of former riders and specific tour stages). Personally, I enjoyed even these aspects of the story, as my memories of the Tour are still fresh enough for me to follow the references, but for a broader audience there will likely be some passages that become frustrating to read. I also have a gripe about the cover. To me, this cover feels a bit bland and boring. Largely blank except for two crudely cropped photos of Hamilton and Armstrong on racing bikes, I first thought this was a self-published book before I recognized the title. The book is very good and speaks for itself, but it deserves a larger audience than this cover will draw in. In the end, The Secret Race is a very personal and gripping look into the cycling industry as well as a captivating memoir of Tyler Hamilton's life. Thanks to First Reads and Bantam Books for providing me this copy of The Secret Race.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Terrence

    I must admit, I had a romantic association with Lance Armstrong. I was one of the many who thought (naively) that his seven consecutive wins in the Tour de France came about because of his revolutionary training methods and him just being better/stronger than everybody else. however, reading this account by Tyler Hamilton, as well as many of the damning articles/reports released by USADA, I can't help but wonder if my believe in the Armstrong juggernaut has been shaken to its very foundation. whi I must admit, I had a romantic association with Lance Armstrong. I was one of the many who thought (naively) that his seven consecutive wins in the Tour de France came about because of his revolutionary training methods and him just being better/stronger than everybody else. however, reading this account by Tyler Hamilton, as well as many of the damning articles/reports released by USADA, I can't help but wonder if my believe in the Armstrong juggernaut has been shaken to its very foundation. while Indurain reckons that Lance Armstrong didn't dope, the allegations that are raised in this book points to a serious doping culture that took place in professional cycling through the 90s and into the noughties. systematic doping, schedules to keep track of when to dope, code names, secret visits and pre-paid sim cards.... you'd be forgiven if you thought that you were reading a thriller or a spy novel. but the long story short is, The Secret Race reveals the secret that went on in the peloton, the scale and extent of which doping occurred, and the ruthless efficiency in which some of it was done. I can't help but wonder if Tyler Hamilton felt a little vindicated after coming out clean. all I know is, I...: a) have a different outlook/perspective to Lance Armstrong now b) would dearly like to read Floyd Landis's book c) ditto to David Millar's book d) wouldn't be surprised if doping is still going on in the peloton of professional cycling now, albeit it at a lower/smaller dosage/scale. this is the first book in a while that I've read within a space of 12 hours. it was a very easy to read book, enthralling at times, revealing the life, trials and tribulations of Tyler Hamilton and the people around him. it also cleverly and magically illustrates the depths of which professionals would go to to make a difference in their careers. a definite read for any cycling fan, or anybody who wants to get more than one side of the story to this whole messy and sordid doping affair that has rocked cycling in 2012.

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