Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: The Secret Race

I like biking.  To me there is a sense of freedom in hopping on a set of wheels and going someplace.  Anyplace.  I also like human performance.  How much excellence can you squeeze out of your muscles and frame.  How much can grit and will power take you.  How far can you go on hard work.  I also have always liked learning the ins and outs of a subculture.  There is the unique vocabulary, language and customs of certain sports.   I'm also a big time sucker for conspiracy theories.  So the last book I read wove all these together.  I've enjoyed Daniel Coyles writing in the past.  In fact my last book review was of his "The Little Book of Talent."

"The Secret Race," is about the world of cycling.  Told from Tyler Hamiliton's experiences, it gives you a big window into one persons experience in cycling in the biggest bike race in the world, The Tour de France.  Where I found the most interest was the actual physiological markers that many of the doctors are using for the race.  When you're told that you cannot win the Tour without your hematocrit level being as close to the number 50 as possible, you start to understand why the doping with EPO occurs.

Hematocrit is the ratio of red blood cells to total volume of blood.  You are allowed to have up to the number 50.  To be with the elite, one must be close to that number.  An interesting fact is that EPO doesn't always help the same.  If my natural hematocrit is 46 and yours is a 43, you would have a larger advantage when it comes to doping.

  Another physician/coach stated that you can not compete to win the tour with out a kg/watt ratio of at least 6.7kg/watt.  This is a measurement of power to your bodyweight. So the book lists how closely the bodyweight affect performance.

Where the book is less then stellar is the sometime whiny tone it takes when dealing with the human element.  I realize this is the opinion of one man as he relates to all the different riders he comes in close contact with such as Lance, Floyd and others of the Postal team.

I found this book to be an easy read.  Definitely a look behind the curtain into EPO, testosterone, blood transfusions and the beauty, cruelty that is professional cycling.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

you have the numerator and denominator inverted.