This book is actually titled: The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs. As you probably know, my husband is an avid cyclist, and he raced for a couple years while we were in Philly. I went to a couple of his races, and we always headed out to the Philly International Cycling Race every year - we even dragged my folks to it one year! We are pretty avid watchers of the different Tours, and we checked out the Tour of CA when it rolled through San Jose. I find cycling to be exciting, interesting, and fascinating, not just because of our close ties to it. When Lance Armstrong came out with his doping confession, it appeared there were two camps: the avid cyclists who had known all along that Lance had doped, and the rest of the world, who had been touched by his LiveStrong campaign, or his struggle with cancer, who just couldn't believe Lance could have doped. Our family fell strongly in the first category - Alex knew that the cards were stacked against Lance - it's even more obvious when you look at the times to complete some of the stages in the Tour de France - they steadily fell, year after year. Today, the times are back to "normal", so to speak, although it seems likely that doping is still occurring, at least on a smaller scale.
This book is the sort-a autobiography of Tyler Hamilton, a pro cyclist who raced in the Tour year after year. He was on the Postal Team with Lance, and he was there when all the doping began (or at least in the beginning). In this book, he chronicles his childhood, his love of skiing, his eventual injuries, and then his switch to the bike. This guy is insane. Literally, and figuratively. For example, he broke his collarbone or shoulder during a crash in the first parts of the Tour. He decided to continue racing (which is basically NEVER done, since the collarbone/shoulder is pretty important in racing). He was in so much pain that he literally ground down his teeth while riding. But he finished the race. Insane? Yup, pretty much.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It gave me a glimpse into the life of a professional athlete, shed light on some of the doping practices that were prevalent at the end of the 90s, early 00s, and cemented Lance Armstrong in my head as a complete and utter asshole. It was a fascinating look behind the scenes, and now it's obvious that, sometimes, we put too many expectations on our heroes and our athletes. Tyler was a part of the machine - he was a supporting rider (and a damn good one, at that), but he was just that. A supporter. I think sometimes, we forget about the other people who push along our athletes. Like, the runners who are one the team solely to "pull" the hero along. Tyler was part of the team that "pulled" Armstrong to victory, over and over again. It was great to read about his life from his perspective - that of a supporter, not a star.
If you are interested in sports or athletics, this is a great book. Hamilton is honest, incredibly so, and it reminds you that we are all human. In his desperation to keep his job, to keep doing what he loves doing, he compromised his integrity by doping. However, I think it's something to consider that the majority of us might have done the same thing, to keep riding that wave, to stay on the team, to be a part of history. I know I would. It also reminds me that pro athletes are a different breed altogether from the rest of us. The fact that he's able to push mentally through physical pain is an incredible attribute, and one that doping doesn't really aid. He's still an amazing athlete, and there are a lot of lessons I can learn from his life story.
Plus, it makes me miss riding my bike. Can't wait to get back on it!