Here’s what I was learning: secrets are poison. They suck the life out of you, they steal your ability to live in the present, they build walls between you and the people you love.
Tyler Hamilton, The Secret Race
It seems frivolous at times: to be so rabid a fan that I would actually take vacation days just to watch the big mountain stages.
It’s true; when Lance was dominating the Tour de France, we would gather at a local bike shop to watch the drama unfold live. It’s hard to put into words how ‘attached’ we bike racers were to Lance’s triumphs. At least I was.
When Outdoor Life Network first televised the Tour live, regular people saw an American sportsman doing what American sportsmen often do. Bike racers, however, saw something more. Words like ‘unbelievable’ got tossed around. Phrases like, “how’s that possible?” were heard frequently. When the entire US Postal team dominated day in and day out, some of us harbored doubts. We looked askance at the TV. Hmm?
You remember the ad: “What am I on?”
“I’m on my bike 6 hours a day; what are you on?”
Oh how sharp hindsight is.
To the book…
Like a good cycling fan, I wasted away almost an entire weekend reading Tyler Hamilton’s The Secret Race.
Superbly written and exquisitely researched by Dan Coyle, author of Lance Armstrong’s War, Tyler’s tell-all story had me entranced.
From a racer’s standpoint: The accurate descriptions of cycling life gave the book credibility. From not wanting to walk with his wife (so as to save energy), to ‘half-wheeling’ Lance in training and obsessing over everything he ate, Tyler’s account of life as a bike racer rings as true as true can be. The other thing about believability: the details seemed…well…just to detailed to be made-up. Tyler’s account was consistent and corroborated. You will feel what I mean after reading the book. Think aggregate.
From a medical point of view: The science behind the doping methods were astounding. I wished they had gone into more detail. One thing that surprised me: Why didn’t they use EPO to get their hematocrit to above 50 immediately before they ‘donated’ blood? This way, the donation would have brought them down to normal and they wouldn’t have suffered so badly in the days after the donation.
From a human perspective: I am a fan of humans. We are so dang interesting–and flawed. For instance, why is it that we think sportsmen (or doctors or lawyers or clergy or anyone) aren’t governed by the laws of human nature? I may be in the minority here, but I like my sports contested by humans, not cyborgs.
The bottom line:
I’m glad I read the story. I came away liking Tyler even more than I did when I watched him race.
Call me gullible; I believe Tyler.
But this doesn’t sour me on the sport. On the contrary, the drama of it all only enhances my interest.
Do I think cycling should strive to clean itself up? Of course it should.
I think of doping in cycling as if it were an abscess. You can’t expect to treat a walled off infection with painless therapies like antibiotics. To get rid of an abscess, one must break down the wall between the infection and the body. And that hurts–but then it feels good. Accounts like Tyler’s, and Johan Museeuw’s, and Jonathan Vaughter’s and yes, even Floyd Landis’ act to lance the boil. It’s a start.
I think you will like the book.