The Secret Race, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
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There’s little doubt that the Tour de France’s 2,000-mile route is one of sport’s most gruelling tests. Riders spend three weeks in the saddle tackling all manner of terrain from flat coastal roads to mountainous tracks; steep, heart-in-mouth descents to flat-out 40km time trials.
That professional cyclists even contemplate taking this on is commendable, although as this brilliant book confirms, not every TDF rider has always competed ‘clean’, ie completely free of drugs.
‘What a shock,’ you may declare, but Coyle and Hamilton finally lay bare an awful truth and back it up with hard forensic evidence. When read alongside the report from the United States Anti-Doping Agency which explains why it stripped Lance Armstrong of seven Tour titles (being considered by the Union Cycliste International this week), perhaps cycling’s omerta, which prevented writers and journalists from revealing the extent of drug-taking across the professional ranks can finally be shot to pieces.
In fact, Coyle himself had previously encountered a closing of ranks when he covered the 2004 Tour from the inside, mixing for a year with Armstrong’s US Postal cycling team. Eight years ago, Coyle was permitted to ask whether Armstrong & Co doped, but when they said ‘no’, that was the end of it.
With hindsight, although Coyle’s subsequent book, Lance Armstrong’s War was very well written, it actually served, unwittingly, to perpetuate the non-doping myth, much to the chagrin of clean riders.
It was while with US Postal that Coyle got to know Tyler Hamilton well. Hamilton continued to lie about his doping regime, but when he finally confessed what had really been happening to Coyle in 2009, the writer promised to help him tell his story.
The result is a book of searing honesty, the clearest possible description of what had been going on behind the scenes at many pro cycling teams for decades. Hamilton reveals where the drugs came from, how they injected them, how they disposed of used syringes and the discomfort they felt when the sun tanned their arms and exposed their needle scars.
The Secret Race draws the curtain back on cycling’s cheating and corruption with admirable ferocity which makes it a contender for sports book of the year.
We’ve teamed up with Sports Book of the Month & have a copy of The Secret Race to give away.
To win this week’s sports book, go to their website (www.sportsbookofthemonth.com) and answer the following question:
Who came second in this year’s Tour de France?