The Secret Race -Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle, a review

Long time Moscaline readers will know I used to write about doping often, but I stopped cold after Tyler Hamilton came clean, see thank you tyler. I considered that, short of Lance coming out and admitting doping, the epilogue on a long ugly period in pro cycling. When I heard that Tyler Hamilton was writing a tell all book with Daniel Coyle, I was extremely eager to read it and boy was I not disappointed. Not a super long read, not spectacular prose, but a really solid gripping rise and fall tale. With lots of the really gritty details thrown in. It shows how unbelievably messed up every aspect of the Lance era was. Even better you can see how messed up high level pro cycling is even without the drugs. Pro tip: Get hella skinny. Nope skinnier than that. Lycra flapping on the arms skinny. Can you see your organs through your pale emaciated skin? Ok good, now you can be fast.

One of my previous favorite books of the Lance Era was Daniel Coyles book Lance Armstrong's War (LAW):

LAW is incredibly well written and a great read. As I have said in the past, there are two possible inescapable conclusions from that book:

1. They are so rigorous and scientific in their training, recovery and medical plans that there is no need to resort to doping.

2. They are so rigorous and scientific in their training, recovery and medical plans that systematic doping is the next logical step in improving performance.

With this new book by Tyler Hamilton and the same Daniel Coyle, you can pretty much any possibility of #1 being the truth. The account of doping is detailed and credible. It follows beautifully as an addendum to the training techniques laid out in LAW. It is not an especially kind portrait of Lance, but it is not especially malicious either, it just includes him in Tyler Hamilton's personal journey through deciding to and completely succumbing to doping as a means to become a top pro cyclist. No doubt it is unflattering to Lance, but he kind of has set himself up for this eventuality. Details of doping methods, evasion of testing, evasion of authorities are presented. Fascinating as a train wreck. Filled with skinny tiny cycling men riding high in the mountains.

I realize that some people are incapable of accepting that Lance doped and think Tyler Hamilton and all the other pro cyclists who have admitted to doping are liars out to get Lance. If you fall in this category you should read this book and enjoy it as a work of exposing the gritty underbelly of Hamilton's personal journey through cycling. It is an entertaining read. As Bike magazine editor Joe Parkin (and former Hamilton teammate) wrote in his review: "But erase every single sentence alleging a connection between Lance Armstrong and doping, and this book is still a must-read for aspiring bike racers and every fan of the sport." After you read it though, I would like you to come by and explain to me how Lance is innocent and/or "level playing field".

However, if you are anything like me and were once a big Lance fan, and then were only slightly happier than nonplussed when he came back after he retired, and now are 100% sick of his megalomaniac innocence claims, his weird martyr syndrome, and his triathlon career, you probably will really enjoy the parts of the book dealing with Lance. Fascinating guy, not really likable at all, but again it is an interesting extension of the portrait of Lance that was developed in LAW.

Anyhow, there was nothing that really surprised me in this book. Go back and read the list of things that moscaline doping hero Jesus Manzano said he took or was given for some background. But "The Secret Race" is comprehensive with regard to Tyler Hamilton's riding and doping history, showing how a rider viewed as the clean cut, honest, nice guy type gets into the heavy heavy shit. It also shows the ludicrous levels that cyclists went to get their dope on. This book does sweep up many cyclists in its wake, already eliciting some recent preemptive doping admissions from Jonathon Vaughters (here, and a by proxy admission of past doping for Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskei and Tom Danielson, and a call for cyclists to come clean like Tyler by great champion and admited doper Johan Museeuw. Cycling has often been an extremely dirty business. It is great sport and spectacle, but the human costs are high at the three week grand tour level. I expect we will see many more confessions coming in the wake of this book. Especially if the UCI gets off its ass and figures out an amnesty program (that they should have instituted a decade ago).

Finally, I will leave you with the most exciting thing I learned reading this book:

I knew that Christian Vande Velde's father John was a former olympian and great track racer.

I knew that he invented the Vandedrome, a portable wooden veledrome.

I learned from this book that he played one of the Cinzano bad guys in the film Breaking Away.


Mind blown.

I bought myself the kindle version of this book last Thursday night and had it read by Saturday.

Update 9/11/12 8pm:

Hey y'alls, check out the Boulder Report's interview with coauthor Daniel Coyle. Just posted today. The boulder report is pretty much the other reason I stopped writing about doping. Joe Lindsey has been consistently excellent on doping (and pretty much everything else). I can't compete with that anymore. Big Dummy Log hauling photos from moscaline from now on. Guaranteed...


Khal said...

I was going to ask you if I could borrow it, but since you got it on Kindle, I can ask Meena to add it to her Kindle. Sounds fascinating.

Scott Loveless said...

It's the triathlon part that gets me. Preceeding the ride with a swim or following it with a run is just, you know, a blatant rules violation.

ssportsman said...

drats.. I wasn't going to bother reading Hamilton's book, but now it's a moral imperative. Thanks Tarik

mindful mule said...

Thanks for the book rec's. In a funny/ironic twist I found this (un)related book in my local library: Organic Gardening Without Poisons by Hamilton Tyler. I'll keep searching for the cycling version.

Tarik Saleh said...

Alas, I wanted instant gratification and books on the book shelf have lost their appeal for me.

Good point,


Mindful Mule,
It is probably the same exact book published years ago, but with thinly veiled gardening based code names for everything.