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Although my cycling habits haven't got to the state of wearing lycra, my interest in the sport has definitely grown recently. During the summer, I cycle most days and I watched the Tour de France for the first time in years this year (the last time I watched Pantani was at the top of his game). I didn't pay much attention to the Lance Armstrong story in the media, always found him quite irritating. After reading some good reviews about this book on Amazon, I decided to give it a go. It was William Hill's Best Sports Book of 2011 and the bookie always wins.
The Secret Race is written by former US Postal team mate of Lance, Tyler Hamilton and his former biographer Daniel Coyle. With friends like those, who needs enemies! It is not particularly about Lance but being the superstar that he was, his career happened to run simultaneously as Hamiltons, they first met at junior level.
Until I read this book, I didn't realise what a big fish Lance was, that many people with cancer had seen him as a beacon of hope and that people had called their children after him. I also didn't know just how much he ruled the cycle world, almost like a mafia boss, how he bullied team mates and others involved and just what a bad egg he was. I have to say that I found the book fascinating from beginning to end. I'm not sure I've read a book quite so quickly this year, a real page turner for sure.
Of course, like most the cyclists Hamilton was at it too and the book deals with the dilemmas that he faced, give up cycling or start doping? Once you're in, there's no way out - blow the whistle and you were ostracised within the community. It seems the authorities knew about it and wanted to cover it up, so coming clean would just mean you were banned from the sport while others continued doping and denounced you as a loon for claiming everyone was taking illegal drugs.
I didn't know much about doping in sport, but from much bigger rugby players than in the past to extremely quick Chinese swimmers and on to the Bolts of the world, I'm now pretty convinced that doping is prevalent in just about every popular sport. (Even Phil Taylor seems to play better when he's been to the loo in darts!).
I recommend giving it a read, regardless of your interest in cycling or sport in general. The one negative I can see, is that it is an autobiography and therefore does seem to sugar coat Hamilton to some extent, although he could just be a thoroughly nice chap.