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Skiing and Snowboarding : Biking

Daniel Coyle on 'The Secret Race,' Tyler Hamilton, and Lance Armstrong

978-0-345-53041-7[1]The Secret Race. Photo: Courtesy of Bantam Dell

During the two years Daniel Coyle spent reporting and writing The Secret Race, he interviewed Tyler Hamilton 60 times. That’s a remarkable number, but it doesn’t really give an accurate picture of the amount of work that went into the book. Some of those interviews lasted eight hours. Not included in those numbers were marathon Skype sessions in which the pair hashed out the manuscript. One of those sessions lasted 10 hours and 45 minutes.

Coyle also interviewed dozens of other racers and cycling experts, traveled to hotel rooms in Europe to double check the accuracy of Hamilton’s stories, and read lots of scientific studies and doping articles to make sure he had the science and history of drugs in cycling down. He added those details into the story as footnotes, which freed him to concentrate on Hamilton’s voice in the main text. “One of the comments I’ve appreciated the most is that people who know Tyler really well say that the book really captures his voice,” says Coyle. “I’m grateful for that. We really tried to make sure that we did.”

I called up Coyle to find out a bit more about the process, whether he and Hamilton ever clashed, and what he thinks the future holds for Lance Armstrong and cycling.

In the first chapter of the book you go into detail about how you first contacted Hamilton and then went back and forth with him. Was there one moment when you knew you had to write this book?
There were a bunch of moments. It’s such a cliché, but every book is a journey and this one had some big checkpoints early on. The first one was in our first conversation, which was on the phone, before we met in person. I was content with the projects I was working on and I wanted to challenge him. I did not want to hear, Yeah, I have an interesting story to tell. What I said was, I’m not interested in going 80 percent. I’m not interested in going 95 percent. I am only interested if you are going to go with 100 percent disclosure with no boundaries. When he responded and said he had an openness to that, it was a big moment. You realize, OK, this is a doorway to a place where I don’t know that any journalist, certainly not I as a journalist, had gone.

The next doorway was spending two days at a Marriott Residence Inn in Boulder where we just turned on the tape recorder and started going into it. Tyler talks about it as the Hoover Dam breaking. From the point of the view of the person standing at the base of the Hoover Dam, and watching the river kind of roll over, that’s a pretty good metaphor. Everything just came out, one thing after another, with a lot of emotion and a lot of detail. You know these experiences are so intense for these athletes, these memories they have. They’ve kept them a secret for such a long time. It comes out in Technicolor.

I came home from that trip, and my wife asks me, How’d it go? I tell her and I see her eyes getting bigger and bigger and I realize. I transcribe all the tapes, about 16 hours worth, and it ends up being about 40 pages of stuff, at 10-point font. Reading through that, I was just kind of like, Holy Mackerel. This isn’t just one story or two stories. This is a whole fabric of a landscape that nobody had ever explored.

I guess the next moment was when we went to Europe, to these places that evoked a whole other layer of memory and story and connection. I remember we were driving through Valencia and he made some comment, that was kind of a joke, but, it was, Hey, I think some of my blood bags are being kept in that clinic over there. It was sort of that idea, that, Oh my God, we’re driving past these things that are still around.

So it was sort of a series of a journey where you set foot in a landscape, and then you explore a little bit, and then you get into a city and you explore that, and then you get into a room and you explore that, and it just kept building and building until it was done.

There was a little sense of unfinished business after the other book too (Lance Armstrong's War). There were aspects of that world that were not explored more at that time. I was partly reluctant to go back in, but there was also a sense of, OK, this is an opportunity to complete that project.

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Is Kinn's Hybrid the Minivan of Bikes?

ErinBerzel_seat_gamesThe Cascade Flyer. Photo: Erin Berzel

My work commute consists of 10 steps through my house, to my home office. Plus, I do not have children. Still, I find myself jonesing for the Cascade Flyer, a bike that is a commuter-cargo-tandem-kid-carrying hybrid and the brainchild of Portland, Oregon-based bike builder Alistair Williamson.

There, I said it. If that makes me seem like a childless person inexplicably pining for a minivan, fine. If a minivan could fit on a bus bike rack, if it could easily be carried up the front stairs into my house, if it had a Brooks saddle and a highly functional rack, then I’d probably want a minivan.

For Williamson, who launched Kinn (a take on kin and kinetic) Bikes in 2012, the Cascade Flyer solves a perplexing problem. "I have grandkids and they’re only around a day or two a week," he says. "If someone called me at work and asked me to pick up Max at daycare, I would have had to ride home, get in my car, and then go get him. Now, I can go straight to him."

Purpose-built cargo or "longtail" bikes, such as those made by Xtracycle, are markedly longer than conventional bikes. This adds stability and strength and accommodates more cargo carrier options. The downside of a longtail is that it’s difficult to haul up stairs and impossible to stick in a conventional rack, such as those on city buses.

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Colorado Driver Honks at Cyclists in Attempt to Make Road Rage History

This might be the longest series of unnecessary honks in the history of driver-versus-cyclist confrontations. An older male driver in a Ford SUV, license plate Colorado 893 EKG, slowed behind two bikers out for a Sunday ride near Longmont, Colorado, and laid on his horn for an awfully long time. He ignored the fact that the cyclists rode single file on the edge of the road. He honked so incessantly that one of the two cyclists ran out of memory while recording a video of the incident on his phone. There's no video to show what happened before the truck pulled up behind the cyclists, but here's a quick summary of what happened from one of the riders:

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Josh Tostado, the Vapor Trail, and the Fall of 24-Hour Racing

Josh Tostado at the 2012 Vapor Trail 125Josh Tostado overtakes an unsuspecting rider in the early morning Vapor hours.

Last weekend, I rode the Vapor Trail 125, an unsanctioned bike ride out of Salida, Colorado. It was my third time at the event, and though I didn't have the smoothest ride ever, the experience reminded me of just how fun small-scale mountain bike races can be. Fifty-some people lined up at 10 p.m. to race 125 rugged miles of backcountry two-track and high-altitude singletrack. There's 17,000-some feet of climbing, including a two-mile hike-a-bike over 12,000 feet in the blackest hours of night. Finishers trickled in from mid-morning 'til late evening the next day, and the only fanfare was a low-key barbecue behind event sponsor and local shop Absolute Bikes. It was exactly what bike racing is supposed to be: laid back, complication free, challenging, and—most of all—fun.

Even as big races like the 24 Hours of Moab are having trouble generating interest, grassroots events like the Vapor Trail are popping up all over the country. In part, the attraction is the simplicity. Registration fees are low (often free at local events), there are no overwrought rules or lengthy pre-race meetings, and pressure is almost nonexistent. It's just a bunch of like-minded riders lining up for a shared experience and a good time.

This little event had a big-name entrant this year, three-time 24-hour national champion and 24 Hours of Moab course record holder Josh Tostado. The Alma, Colorado, native originally planned to race the 24 Hour World Championships in Alberta, Canada, but when they were canceled he shifted his plans to Salida. And good thing. Tostado blazed the trying course, beating his nearest competition by almost an hour and setting a new course record of 12 hours and 42 minutes. I caught up with the new VT champ after the ride.

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Crash Protection at Its Finest: POC's Spine VPD 2.0 Jacket


Downhill mountain bikers, moto riders, extreme skateboarders and anyone else who is likely to have a rib-crushing crash: take a look at this. POC’s new low-profile VPD 2.0 Jacket is a non-restrictive compression shirtthat will protect your back as well as your ribs, chest, shoulders and elbows if (read: when) you take a digger.

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