Watching the Tour de France was great fun when Lance Armstrong was zooming past all his European competitors. I remember him bursting away from the pack, slogging up steep mountain roads that seemingly went on forever. I remember him riding too close to the crowd, contacting a spectator, going down, then getting up and continuing, winning again, wearing the yellow jersey, and I remember my awe and respect, agreeing with a friend, “The man’s a machine!”
Of course, we didn’t know at the time what a flawed hero Lance Armstrong was and what a brutal, win at all costs, sport bike racing was. But I do now, after reading The Secret Race – Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle. As the title clearly states, the story goes much deeper than one of training and determination. Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle weave together the fascinating true story of Hamilton’s rise in the biking world and his relationship to Lance Armstrong and the Postal biking team. It reveals the intricacies of bike racing as a team sport rather than individual riders. Loaded with verifiable documentation, and intriguing anecdotes, The Secret Race is a great read and poses a pertinent question under the circumstances: Would you have “doped?” After reading Hamilton’s account, I would say yes, probably I would have.
This book was published just prior to Lance Armstrong’s highly publicized “confession” on Oprah. Its inevitability was clear by the end of the book. I’m sure that later additions will have an addendum.
Five stars, especially if you were at all even remotely interested in the spectacle of long-distance bike racing.