I just recently got done reading The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle. Hamilton was on the Postal cycling team with Lance Armstrong, for several years during the time period in which Armstrong raced to the top of the pack at the Tour de France.
The book reads like a confession in which Hamilton unburdens himself by revealing the hidden world of doping that he witnessed starting in 1995 when his cycling career took off. A professional cyclist in their first year of competition was optimistic and naïve about how things worked. By the cyclist’s second year the reality hit that they would be beaten by the competition if they did not follow the crowd and dope up. According to Hamilton, by the third year the cyclist would have to make a choice to either dope or leave the sport of cycling.
One performance enhancing concoction called EPO is given the nickname Edgar (for Edgar Allan Poe) and is mentioned throughout the book. On page 32 of the book it is noted that EPO acted as a “blood booster that added 20 percent to endurance by causing the body to produce more oxygen carrying red blood cells.” Blood transfusions were another way that cyclists could gain an advantage. The elaborate schemes that the cyclists created to have these performance enhancing treatments administered is incredible. Doctors from different European countries (Spain in particular is noted as being a place where Hamilton went to see several doctors) stored cyclist’s blood for a long period of time in refrigerated facilities and then clandestinely brought it to the cycling teams at certain stages of the race. A random hotel room for instance could be the place where a cyclist and doctor met to have transfusions administered. Prepaid telephones and cryptic text messages would allow doctor and cyclist to communicate about the next doping arrangement. Readers will also want to learn about the Motoman, a Frenchman who brought in performance enhancing drugs to certain Postal cyclists in the 1999 Tour de France on a motorcycle.
Another aspect of the book focuses on the very intimidating character of Lance Armstrong. In the book it seems like Lance was a guy who sure dropped the f bomb a lot. In the late 1990s he rattled a French rider, Christophe Bassons, who spoke out against the doping epidemic by writing about it in Le Parisien (see pages 95 to 96 in the book). Bassons was so intimidated by Armstrong that he had to drop out of the race as no other riders defended him. Also see page 115 when Hamilton recounts a scene where Armstrong actually pulls a French motorist out of his car and beats him up since the driver made the mistake of driving too close to Lance while he was on a training ride. Also you will want to find out what terrible treatment Hamilton got at a restaurant in Aspen, Colorado when he accidentally ran into Lance after his tell all 60 minutes interview (see chapter 15 starting at page 254).
This book is a real page turner and needs to be read by anyone who want to know what has happened to professional cycling in the last 15 years.