The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France

The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France

by Tyler Hamilton, Daniel Coyle


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“The holy grail for disillusioned cycling fans . . . The book’s power is in the collective details, all strung together in a story that is told with such clear-eyed conviction that you never doubt its veracity. . . . The Secret Race isn’t just a game changer for the Lance Armstrong myth. It’s the game ender.”—Outside

The Secret Race is the book that rocked the world of professional cycling—and exposed, at long last, the doping culture surrounding the sport and its most iconic rider, Lance Armstrong. Former Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton was once one of the world’s top-ranked cyclists—and a member of Lance Armstrong’s inner circle. Over the course of two years, New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle conducted more than two hundred hours of interviews with Hamilton and spoke with numerous teammates, rivals, and friends. The result is an explosive page-turner of a book that takes us deep inside a shadowy, fascinating, and surreal world of unscrupulous doctors, anything-goes team directors, and athletes so relentlessly driven to win that they would do almost anything to gain an edge. For the first time, Hamilton recounts his own battle with depression and tells the story of his complicated relationship with Lance Armstrong. This edition features a new Afterword, in which the authors reflect on the developments within the sport, and involving Armstrong, over the past year. The Secret Race is a courageous, groundbreaking act of witness from a man who is as determined to reveal the hard truth about his sport as he once was to win the Tour de France.
With a new Afterword by the authors
“Loaded with bombshells and revelations.”—VeloNews

“[An] often harrowing story . . . the broadest, most accessible look at cycling’s drug problems to date.”—The New York Times
“ ‘If I cheated, how did I get away with it?’ That question, posed to SI by Lance Armstrong five years ago, has never been answered more definitively than it is in Tyler Hamilton’s new book.”—Sports Illustrated
“Explosive.”—The Daily Telegraph (London)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345530424
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/07/2013
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 169,592
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Tyler Hamilton is a former professional bike racer, Olympic gold medalist, and NCAA champion. He raced professionally from 1995 to 2008 and now runs his own company, Tyler Hamilton Training LLC, in Boulder, Colorado. He lives in Missoula, Montana, with his wife, Lindsay, and his dog, Tanker.
Daniel Coyle is the New York Times bestselling author of Lance Armstrong’s War and The Talent Code. He lives with his wife and four children in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and Homer, Alaska.

Read an Excerpt

As a bike racer, over time you develop the skill of keeping a poker face. No matter how extreme a sensation you feel—no matter how close you are to cracking—you do everything in your power to mask it. This matters in racing, when hiding your true condition from your opponents is a key to success, since it discourages them from attacking. Feel paralyzing pain? Look relaxed, even bored. Can’t breathe? Close your mouth. About to die? Smile.

I’ve got a pretty good poker face; Lance has a great one. But there’s one guy who’s better than either of us: Johan Bruyneel. And it was never so well used as that night at the end of the 2000 Dauphiné, when he told me about the plans for the blood transfusion. I’d heard about transfusions before, but it was always theoretical and distant—as in, can you believe that some guys actually bank their blood, then put it back in before a race? It seemed weird, Frankenstein- ish, something for Iron Curtain Olympic androids in the eighties. But Johan, when he explained the plan during the Dauphiné, made it sound normal, even boring. He’s good at making the outrageous sound normal—it might be his greatest skill. It’s something in his expression, in the certainty of his big Belgian voice, in the supremely casual way he shrugs while laying out the details of the plan. Whenever I watch the likable gangsters on The Sopranos, I think of Johan.

As Johan explained it, Lance, Kevin, and I would fly to Valencia. We would donate a bag of blood, which would be stored, and we’d fl y home the next day. Then, at a key point during the Tour, we’d put the bag back in, and we’d get a boost. It would be like taking EPO, except better: there were rumors of an EPO test being developed for the 2000 Olympics, and word was, they might be using the test during the Tour. I listened to Johan, nodded, gave him my poker face. When I told Haven about it, she gave me the poker face right back (wives get good at it, too). But part of me was thinking, What the hell?

Maybe that’s why I was late the Tuesday morning we left for Valencia. There was no reason to be late—everybody knew Lance despised lateness above all things—but on that crucial morning we were running late by a full ten minutes. I raced our little Fiat through the narrow streets of Villefranche; Haven was hanging on to the oh-shit bars, asking me to slow down. I kept speeding up. It was eight miles to the airport in Nice. During the trip, my cell phone rang three times. Lance.

Dude, where are you?

What’s going on? We’re about to take off.
How fast can that fucking car of yours go? Come on!

We screeched into the airport parking lot; I walked through the security area and onto the runway. I’d never been on a private jet before, so I took in the scene: the leather seats, the television, the little fridge, the steward asking me if I would like anything to drink.

Lance acted casual, as if private jets were routine—which for him, they were. He’d been riding them fairly constantly since the previous July, courtesy of Nike, Oakley, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and the other corporations who were competing for the privilege of ferrying him around. The numbers were unbelievable. USA Today estimated Lance’s income at $7.5 million, he was getting paid $100,000 per speech, and his new memoir, It’s Not About the Bike, was an instant best seller. You could feel the flow of money, the new possibilities it opened. Now we didn’t have to drive to Valencia. We didn’t have to worry about customs or airport security. The jet, like everything else, was now part of our tool box.

The engines revved, the wheels went up, and we were airborne. Below, we could see the Côte d’Azur, the mansions, the yachts; it felt surreal, like a fantasy world. In the plane, my lateness was forgiven. Lance was confident, happy, excited, and it was contagious. The confident feeling increased when we landed in Valencia and were met on the runway by the Postal team: Johan, Pepe Martí, and del Moral. They showed up with sandwiches, bocadillos—it was important to have a little something in our stomachs beforehand.

From the airport, we drove south for half an hour through a marshland as Johan and del Moral talked about the transfusion. It would be so simple, they said. So easy. Extremely safe, nothing at all to worry about. I noticed Johan talked more to Kevin and me than to Lance, and that Lance didn’t seem to pay attention; I got the feeling this wasn’t Lance’s first transfusion.

We pulled up near the village of Les Gavines at a beached whale of a hotel called the Sidi Saler, luxurious and quiet, free of the tourists who’d be arriving later in summer. We’d already been checked in; we took the elevator up to the fifth floor, moving through the deserted hallways. Kevin and I were directed into one room facing the parking lot; Lance got his own room next door.

I had expected to see a sophisticated medical setup, but this looked more like a junior- high science experiment: a blue soft- sided cooler, a few clear plastic IV bags, cotton balls, some clear tubing, and a sleek digital scale. Del Moral took over.

Lie on the bed, roll up your sleeve, give me your arm. Relax.

He tied a blue elastic band below my biceps, set an empty transfusion bag on a white towel on the floor next to the bed, and wiped the inside of my elbow with an alcohol swab. Then the needle. I’d seen a lot of needles, but this one was huge—about the size and shape of a coffee stirrer. It was attached to a syringe that was in turn attached to clear tubing that led to the waiting bag, with a small white thumb wheel to control flow. I looked away; felt the needle go in. When I looked again, my blood was pumping steadily into the bag on the floor.

You often hear “blood transfusion” tossed around in the same breath as “EPO” or “testosterone,” as if it’s all equivalent. Well, it’s not. With the other stuff, you swallow a pill or put on a patch or get a tiny injection. But here you’re watching a big clear plastic bag slowly fill up with your warm dark red blood. You never forget it.

I looked over to see Kevin hooked up in the same way. We could see our reflections on the closet-door mirror. We tried to cut the tension by comparing the speed with which our respective bags were filling: Why are you going so slow? I’m dropping you, dude. Johan shuttled between the rooms, checking on us, making small talk.

Every so often Pepe or del Moral would kneel down and take the bag in their hands, tilting it gently back and forth, mixing it with anticoagulant. They were gentle because, as they explained, the red blood cells were alive. If the blood was mishandled— shaken or heated, or left in a refrigerator beyond four weeks or so—the cells would die.

Filling the bags took about fifteen or twenty minutes. The bags plumped up until the scale showed we were done: one pint, 500 milliliters. Then, unhook: needle out. Cotton ball, pressure. Bags taped closed, labeled, and tucked into the blue cooler. Del Moral and Pepe headed out; they didn’t say where, but we guessed it was to the clinic in Valencia and the refrigerator there, where the bags would be stored until we needed them three weeks later at the Tour.

Table of Contents

The Story Behind This Book Daniel Coyle 3

Chapter 1 Getting in the Game 15

Chapter 2 Reality 30

Chapter 3 Eurodogs 40

Chapter 4 Roommates 63

Chapter 5 Bad News Bears 78

Chapter 6 2000: Building The Machine 100

Chapter 7 The Next Level 120

Chapter 8 Life in the Neighborhood 135

Chapter 9 New Start 154

Chapter 10 Life at the Top 171

Chapter 11 The Attack 186

Chapter 12 All or Nothing 200

Chapter 13 Popped 219

Chapter 14 Novitzky's Bulldozer 241

Chapter 15 Hide-and-Seek 254

Chapter 16 The End-Around 266

Where are They Now? 281

Afterword 285

Acknowledgments 301

Further Reading 303

Customer Reviews

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The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Cajun_Observer More than 1 year ago
I had been a naive admirer of Lance Armstrong for years and would not believe he had doped. This book opened my eyes. I read it because the news over the years made me suspicious about doping. Hah! The joke was on me! About 99% of the Tour cyclists have been dopers for many years. The level of detail provided by Hamilton is too much not to believe. The corraboration by several others seals the deal. Armstrong has been dishonest, to say the least. He is not a true friend to his teammates. He discards them about like he would a worn out bike. Tyler Hamilton has to be admired for coming clean. I hope many more will do so now. I know I will watch the Tour again next summer, but it will never be the same for me. That being said, I can't really blame the cyclists. If I had been in that situation, I would have either done the same or dropped the sport altogether. Money corrupts. They lead you into the doping scene one tiny step at a time. It is sad. I would like to know how Armstrong would have fared if the entire Tour had been clean. Probably very well. He was a powerful and gusty competitor. Baseball? Roger Maris still holds the home run record at 61 and Hank Aaron's title is secure in my book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't mean Tyler finally telling it...but rather me. finally believing it. I feel like i owe Tyler & Floyd an apology. I've been a cycling fan for years...but now realize I was a very typical Armstrong a cancer survivor from 2006 it was easy to buy in to what he was selling and believe his lies. Now I feel the fool for not paying more attention...for having way too much faith in the story we all wanted to believe. Timing sure helped Tyler with this and I'm glad for it....the guy deserves a break...I hate that so many of these guys had to forfeit their lives & livelihood and were misled & corrupted by their managers & mentors, by people they trusted. I know ultimately theses riders decided to play along, rather than forego their Tyler asked "what would you do?" If you been following Lance's demise ... and have read some or all of the Usada report.. this is a great, more in depth look at one mans take on the lies that now will forever be Lance's legacy. Thanks Tyler...i'm so happy to know you've survived the "Lance Era" and time will show that you are the true American hero & icon we should all seek to emulate.
lawmarine32 More than 1 year ago
Well, first off, I think Hamilton did a great job exposing how the riders were able to beat the system. It was detailed and very informative. Hamilton also does a great job describing how the cycling hierarchy functioned as well as the pressure it placed on the riders. There are no victims in this twisted story, all the riders who doped did it voluntarily. They made the decision to dope in order to compete with those who were already doping.The desire to win and reap the rewards (money,fame etc) outweighed their honesty and integrity. The book does paint a very disturbing image of Lance, one of arrogance, revenge and just nastiness. Lance had resources that other riders did not, connections and wealth. He was able to manipulate the system, a system and culture that was looking for heroes and Lance was one of their heroes. They did not want to tarnish the sport. Perhaps the greatest villains in this saga are the medical doctors. Men who chose to use their intelligence and skill to help corrupt an entire sport. Overall, a very good book.
NJ_Dad More than 1 year ago
Probably like many Americans, I really got into cycling during the Lance years. I was able to not only just follow it during the Tour de France, but make it part of my own life by becoming a weekend bike racer in masters divisions. Like many, I was inspired by the stories of Lance, Tyler, Floyd, George, etc. It's deeply disappointing to find out find out that my inspirations were all based on cheating; probably like finding out your best friend just screwed you by cheating. The only way for me to get over this disappointment is to hear those who cheated say "I was wrong and I am sorry". This book is an excellent step in that direction. I guess I take some consolation in knowing that "cheaters never prosper". I commend Tyler for coming clean and wish him well in the next chapter of his life. My feelings are a lot less charitable to Mr. Armstrong.
sheep More than 1 year ago
Brutal telling of brutal truth. Ego gone mad in a world of ethical depravity. Proof, as though we needed it, that for enough money people will do anything.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the David Millar book, immediately followed by this book and was very intrigued by the detail and well organized underworld of cycling. It's a storyline that has plagued cycling for years and hopefully now people will wake up and understand why these riders did what they did. I'm a fan of Lance although its tough to believe he's innocent, Tyler Hamilton is no angel but its unlikely he fabricated this story to simply make money off of it, if he did lookout James Patterson
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little too focused on Lance but I guess that's what it takes to sell books. Still, it comes across as genuine and truthful. The insights into the details of the pervasive doping scene at the top levels of cycling in the 90's and 2000's are eye opening. It really seems true that pros had two choices if they wanted a shot at top finishes - use dope or find a new profession. If team owners, directors, doctors and cyclists would have put as much energy into fighting doping as they did finding ways to cheat they could have cleaned up the sport a long time ago.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thanks Tyler for standing up to Lance
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hamilton methodically paints a picture of institutionalized sell-out to PED. Sad and enlightening.
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
The rise and fall of Lance Armstrong was a spectacular story on both ends. The doping scandal that was rampant in the sport of cycling ensnared not only Armstrong, but many of his teammates and competitors. One of those cyclists, Tyler Hamilton, shares his story about his time in the sport and with Armstrong (called “Lance” throughout the book, not “Armstrong) in this outstanding memoir, co-written with Daniel Coyle. What especially struck me about the book was Hamilton’s attention to every detail about the doping that goes on in cycling. Not just the substances used, but the nicknames given, the undercover nature of communication between athletes and doctors, the methods of taking the drugs and the benefits a cyclists gets during the races. Whether it was Hamilton’s description of taking “Edgar” (Erythropoietin), the details of his “BBs” (blood bags) when getting a transfusion of his own blood, or the conversations between racers on the trail, this is a book that is a page-turner, no matter what the reader’s level of interest may be in the sport of cycling. The stories of how racers would either avoid or outsmart the drug testers read like spy novels. This level of deceit, lies and evasion could only be told by someone who lived this type of life and Hamilton does it well. This is true when not only talking about his own doping, but also that of Armstrong and other Postal team members. He at times seemed in awe of Armstrong (before Lance’s eventual downfall) because he was always able to find a way to talk his way out of a tough situation. Hamilton’s story itself is also very interesting, with his own climb from riding for various smaller teams to getting a spot in the prestigious US Postal team, the one that Armstrong raced for during his record stretch of Tour de France wins, wins that have since been stricken from records. Hamilton himself has had the same thing happen to him with his 2004 Olympic gold medal in doubt because of a positive drug test. While relieved he was able to keep his medal when the validity of the second positive test could not be verified, he eventually came clean on his doping. If a reader wants to learn about the actual sport, this book is a great source to do so. Hamilton’s description of the riders who have to set the pace for the leaders, those who ride in packs or those who have to keep pace with the lead cyclist so that leader can maintain the speed he needs to keep the lead, is full of details that make a reader feel like he or she is on the bike. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the doping scandals in the sport of cycling or learn about the story of this Olympic champion whose personal and professional life took many drastic turns. Be forewarned – once you pick up the book, you will not want to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didnt think I would like this book. Didnt like Tyler Hamilton that much. I have alot more respect for him now.
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The greatest cycling book ever written - fascinating, engrossing and scary!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The truth behind Tour de France, all the good times and bad times in the (former)corrupted world of cycling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put this book down. Filled with great stories, honesty, and brokeness.
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I really enjoyed this book. It helped me understand the culture of the cycling world.
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MassageWorks More than 1 year ago
Wow, what a great book! Tyler did a wonderful job explaining the life behind professional cycling...It's so easy to say "Hey, I would never have doped" but after reading this I understand the pressures they endured, though I don't condone it! I admire Tyler for coming out and finally telling the truth and allowing people to understand the dark side of cycling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago