The Secret Race
The Secret Race Inside the Hidden World of the Tour De France : Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs By Hamilton, Tyler, 1971- Book - 2012

Very revealing and informative. Hamilton’s pain tolerance level is insane. He often crashed in races (as pro bikers do). And, he broke his shoulder and at another time he broke his collar bone in two places. And, yet he continued racing for days and finishing the entire tour. Even his doctors did not understand how a human being could withstand such pain and still perform near top level.

Another theme is the disparity between the amount of energy pro bikers spend and how little they eat. They are truly like jockeys except it is not extra weight on their horse they are worried about it is on their bikes. And, it makes a huge difference. During training, Hamilton lost 5 pounds (from 139 down to 134) and his training time on a specific course improved from 36 minutes down to 32 minutes and a half. That is a 10% reduction/improvement in time. This is huge. Imagine a world class 100-meter sprinter being able to improve his time from a near world record of 10 seconds down to 9 seconds flat after losing 5 pounds!

Just as weight makes a difference, during the Lance Armstrong era, doping and blood transfusion made a huge difference. Lance’s winning time in a very hilly Tour de France stage was 38 minutes, a full 10 minutes faster than Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault did 15 years earlier. This is a 21% reduction in time. This is crazy. Imagine someone running a 100 meter in 7.9 seconds instead of the current world record around 10 seconds. Over the past 70 years the world record has only declined by 0.2 seconds (from 10.1 down to 9.9 seconds).

Apparently, the sport is getting cleaner now and times are slowing down. Now the winning times for this same rough stage of the Tour de France are back in the 40 minutes + range.

The nefarious doctors that orchestrated all the doping and blood transfusion made a ton of money. Over just a few years they collected millions of dollars in bonuses.

Obviously so did the riders. But Lance was in a planet of his own. With prize money, bonuses, sponsorships, etc. He seems to have made well over $100 million.

During the Lance era it was absolutely impossible for a “clean” rider to compete. It is all about the % of red blood cells in the blood that carry oxygen throughout the body. As you bike race, it is a war of attrition. And, day-by-day your blood (red blood cells) oxygen carrying capacity declines. A clean rider incurs a handicap of a 2% loss in power per week vs. one that is doped. Over the entire Tour de France, this probably translates into the difference between coming in 1st or dead last several hours behind the leader. In other words, during that era a pro biker had no choice, either he doped or he would not have the enduring power to even qualify for such races.

You can tell that for Hamilton this whole book has been a cathartic therapy. It took a huge amount of courage to write it. Within the book, Lance comes across as a genuine monster and bullying ring leader of this doping circuit. And, Hamilton did an amazing job to survive around such a character that pretty much did everything he could on and off-biking to annihilate him.

gaetanlion's rating:
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