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Exclusive: Q&A with ‘The Secret Race’ authors

For years, there had been whispers within the bike racing community that Tyler Hamilton, a former U.S. Postal Service rider-turned-Olympic gold medalist-turned-suspended drug cheat, would write a tell-all book detailing what went on inside both the USPS team of Lance Armstrong, and more generally, inside the sport of pro cycling.

That day arrived on Wednesday with the publication of “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs,” written by Hamilton and co-author Daniel Coyle, who in 2004 wrote “Lance Armstrong’s War,” a book widely viewed as perhaps the most complete, objective portrait of Armstrong’s universe at the height of his Tour de France domination.

The 290-page book is is loaded with bombshells and revelations — that Armstrong and Postal team manager Johan Bruyneel oversaw and encouraged extensive systematic doping with the USPS team; that Armstrong failed a 2001 doping test, which was covered up by the UCI; that Armstrong reported Hamilton’s doping to the UCI in 2004.

“The Secret Race” is a story full of sordid details of gruesome blood transfusions, clandestine drug networks, advanced measures taken to evade anti-doping testers and a pharmaceutical arms race that spiraled out of control, so graphically detailed and carefully explained — and verified by 10 former Armstrong teammates — that it is difficult to dismiss as fiction. It’s also a story of decisions made, and the consequences one pays for their actions, whether external or internal.

More than anything, however, “The Secret Race” is Hamilton’s overdue admission of nearly 15 years of lies.

On Wednesday morning, following an appearance on NBC’s “The Today Show,” Hamilton and Coyle spoke for 30 minutes with VeloNews editor-in-chief Neal Rogers. That conversation is presented below, in its entirety.

VeloNews: The book was just released today, but there has already been a week’s worth of excerpts published via advance copies. How would you characterize the reception of the book thus far?

Tyler Hamilton: I didn’t know what to expect. It’s been a really pleasant surprise. It seems like people like it. It’s a tragic story, but people seem to have liked the way we covered our bases, we made sure we had every piece of evidence backed up. Dan and I spent over two years working on this, and it’s nice to have a good reaction. I think in the coming days we’ll have a lot better feel for how it is received.

Daniel Coyle: I think people were ready to hear the truth. There have been so many questions, there have been so many people wondering, and I think, as Chris Keyes wrote in Outside, this is the holy grail for people who want to know more about what happened in those years, and what is the truth about those years. I think validating is the word to use. But I think it has less to do with us, and more about the world, and the natural questions people have. This is now an opportunity for people to look at the facts and make up their own mind. That’s a good moment, because it’s a healthy moment.

VN: Dan, you walked a delicate line in “Lance Armstrong’s War,” playing it right down the middle in terms of whether Armstrong was doping at the time, based on the information you had in front of you. Did working on this book validate any suspicions from back in 2004?

DC: These books are sort of a pair. One was written from outside the inner circle, and one was written very much from the inside. At the time I did my level best to show people both sides of the story, and I’m just continuing to do that. As a journalist I can’t operate on hunches, I can’t operate on what I guess. When I wrote “Lance Armstrong’s War,” I did the best with the material I had in front of me, and laid it out there for people to make their own decisions. And now that I’m inside omerta, and Tyler has given us sort of an all-access, backstage pass to the life of a pro racer, I’m doing the exact same thing, which is laying all the facts out there, and letting people make up their own minds. In this case the material is obviously a lot more explosive, but the process never changes.

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