Just after Christmas someone in the shop mentioned The Secret Race: (Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Dopping, Cover-ups and Winning (by Tyler Hamilton and Dan Coyle) as an interesting read. Indeed it is. Some might say a sickening view of the world of elite cycling, sickening or not it is interesting.
It is not Tyler Hamilton’s sour grapes about the sport blaming everyone except himself. Rather it appears to be an open, pretty honest account of how he (and presumably many other riders) slid into doping in order to remain competitive in that elite world.
It provides insight into how common EPO, testosterone and transfusions are (hopefully were) and how necessary it was to anyone who dreamt of achieving in that elite world. If this account is to be believed, doping was part of all the top competitors and teams. Since Tyler Hamilton was such a part of the “Lance times,” there are also some insights into that dynamic. That said, the book portrays the incredible drive and dedication of these athletes.
Reading The Secret Race, brought to mind another story of an earlier era from the inside of cycling. A Dog in a Hat (by Joe Parkin) is the story of an American rider in Europe in the late 80’s and early 90’s. A dog in a hat is a Belgian phrase meaning roughly that things are out of place, that is an American in elite cycling. It is an open, often funny portrayal of a world that seems insane by outside standards.
Both of these books are great reads for anyone with even a passive interest in elite cycling.