Christian: This interview features Tyler Hamilton. I had to think about the introduction for a long time because Tyler’s story is quite special.
Tyler is a double Olympian, Tyler was Olympic Champion in 2004 and decided to return his Olympic gold medal. Tyler competed in eight Tour de France, won a stage at the Tour de France, and came fourth overall at the Tour de France in 2003.
Tyler: Thank you. Thanks for having me on your podcast, Christian. Nice to meet you.
How his dream of becoming an Olympic champion was sparked at the 1980 Winter Olympics
Christian: Tyler, I heard you mentioned your interest in sports, and becoming an Olympic Champion was sparked at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Tyler: Oh yes, the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. I was eight or nine years old. It was the first time I ever knew what the Olympics were or heard about the Olympics and I remember watching pretty much, two and a half or three weeks of amazing sports on television.
Really I was just in awe of all these different athletes, and especially the American hockey team. We had beaten the Soviets in the final [known as the ‘Miracle on Ice’, the greatest upset in Olympic history] to win Olympic gold.
I remember watching Eric Heiden, the speed skater, winning five Olympic gold medals. I just thought it was the neatest thing. The ultimate would be to stand on top of the Olympic podium and to hear your National Anthem.
The ultimate would be to stand on top of the Olympic podium and to hear your National Anthem. I loved sports growing up, but I just wanted to be an athlete growing up. I didn’t want to have to grow up and get a real job.
That was really neat for me and ever since that moment of watching the 1980 Olympics, I told myself the ultimate would be to win a gold medal for my country. That was always my dream. I loved sports growing up, but I just wanted to be an athlete growing up. I didn’t want to have to grow up and get a real job.
How he got into cycling
Christian: I heard you mentioned on the podcast that if you would not have studied in a particular city, you would not have become a cyclist. Is it because you had to cycle so much or something?
Tyler: I think it’s fair to say that. Originally, I was a downhill ski racer and that was my real passion up through college. I went into high school where I was boarding and where I could ski every day in the winter to train.
In college, I went to the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. After I injured my back training with the ski team, that’s what led me into my cycling career, and had I not been in Boulder, Colorado, I don’t know if I would have made it.
Boulder is such a huge cycling and endurance sports town. Right at my doorstep were all these amazing athletes and coaches to train with. It was fantastic. I felt very lucky. It takes a lot of luck and I was lucky to be in Boulder, for sure. I definitely think that was part of the reason why I excelled so quickly.
I was a downhill ski racer and that was my real passion. Had I not been in Boulder, Colorado, I don’t know if I would have made it in cycling.
Christian: The reason why I asked this question is that the story of Eric Heiden is very similar. I think he grew up in one of the two cities that had an ice rink. If he would not have grown up there, the world would have missed one of the greatest speed skaters.
Tyler: Right, absolutely. I believe he grew up somewhere in Wisconsin. There was a speed skating track there. Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of things that whether we have success or failure, a lot of it comes down to luck.
Whether we have success or failure, a lot of it comes down to luck.
Some are calculated beforehand and others not so much. But for me, going to school in Boulder, Colorado was not for a cycling career, for sure. But I was very fortunate to spend a lot of time there. You should go check it out sometimes.
Christian: Yes. I think also the Olympic training center is somewhere in Colorado?
Tyler: Yes, Colorado Springs, a couple of hours to the south of Boulder. But it’s high altitude. Boulder is 5,300 feet, close to a big airport, big mountains, right up the back door, so it’s a good spot if you’re a cyclist and a triathlete runner. There are a lot of runners who go there in the summertime.
His darkest moment
Christian: Tyler, some guests I am featuring, it’s difficult to find information about them. In your case, it’s different. There’s a lot of information about you out there. What’s your darkest moment?
Tyler: That is certainly having the positive doping test back in 2004. That was probably the darkest if I had to pick one. It’s hard to say exactly. That was one of the darkest moments. Another one would be fast forward, maybe six years, having to tell my parents the truth.
I guess that if I have to really break it down, that would be it. Having to tell my family that I’ve been lying to them for a long time and really lying to the whole world. That was pretty hard. I still feel emotional just talking about it now.
Having to tell my family that I’ve been lying to them for a long time and really lying to the whole world. That was pretty hard. I still feel emotional just talking about it now. I lied at the time for what I thought were the right reasons.
It was something that I never planned on doing. I never felt like I would have put myself in that position to have to tell such truth to such a big lie, but that’s what it came down to. There was a lot at stake and I lied at the time for what I thought were the right reasons.
They say hindsight is 2020, as you grow older, you can look back and things become so clear but back then, everything was not clear for sure. My head was spinning a bit. I feel lucky to have gone through that.
I learned some really massive lessons and that I share today because a lot of people have struggled through them. I struggle a lot myself, but there’s been a lot bigger struggle. So I feel fortunate.
In a way, it’s been a beautiful story, the rise the fall, and a climb back to normalcy really.
There’s been a lot of forgiveness, which I really appreciate and I didn’t expect. So in a way, it’s been a beautiful story, the rise the fall, and a climb back to normalcy really. But yes, I also feel lucky to have a lot of great friends, family, and friends that helped me through the hard times.
What is the Omerta, the code of silence
Christian: That’s one thing I listened to, you talked about the Omerta which is the code of silence. What is it and how did you get introduced to it?
Tyler: The Omerta is the code of silence. It was really at the deepest level, in the sport of professional cycling that I used to be in. We had a code of silence, the Omerta, and we were a bit like a fraternity or sorority.
It was if you got invited to the inside, you kept the secrets from the inside quiet and you don’t talk about them. You don’t rock the boat, so to speak. For many, many years I was in that inner circle.
After I had that positive doping test in September of 2004, I abided by the Omerta. I didn’t say a thing. I kept the truth quiet. I thought that was the right thing to do. I got caught, but I wasn’t going to let any of my brothers get caught. I wasn’t going to be the one telling the truth.
We had a code of silence, the Omerta, and we were a bit like a fraternity. If you got invited to the inside, you kept the secrets from the inside quiet and you don’t talk about them. After I had that positive doping test, I abided by the Omerta. I didn’t say a thing. I kept the truth quiet. I thought that was the right thing to do. I got caught, but I wasn’t going to let any of my brothers get caught. I wasn’t going to be the one telling the truth.
Eventually, it came to a point where I got subpoenaed to go testify in front of a Grand Jury and that was the moment I said that I have to step outside the Omerta and do the right thing. I upset a lot of people for sure and hurt some people too.
I feel bad for that, but it got to the point where it was time, to tell the truth, and step away from the Omerta and do what I know is right from the heart. I always knew the difference between right and wrong.
The doping went pretty deep within the Peloton. It still didn’t mean what I was doing was right. The Omerta still kind of exists today a little bit, but it’s nice to be, I guess, out of the Omerta and not feel like you have to.
How he got introduce to the Omerta
Christian: How did get introduced to it? Is it that someone pulls you aside and tells you that there’s something you need to talk about? Or is it something that’s just so embedded in the culture, you feel it?
Tyler: It’s something you feel. It’s not like they came and gave me a certificate to tell me that I’m invited into the Omerta. I guess the first time I really felt like I was being invited into the Omerta was when one of my team doctors came into my room and pulled me aside and told me that I basically needed to start doping a little bit.
He offered me a little red testosterone pill. That’s when I felt like I was getting invited into it because I knew most likely guys on my team were doing it. I wasn’t 100%, but I was 95% sure that riders on my team were doping.
The first time I really felt like I was being invited into the Omerta was when one of my team doctors came into my room and pulled me aside and told me that I basically needed to start doping and offered me a little red testosterone pill. From that moment, when I took that pill, I started living a double life, and then the deeper the doping got, and the more success I had, and the more of a double life you have to lead.
It was then that I got invited in. From that moment on, I went down that rabbit hole a little bit. Then you start living a double life because people might ask you about it and you got to lie to them straight to their face, whether it’s just somebody on the street or a family member, friend, mother or father.
That’s when from that first moment when I took the red testosterone pill. That was in the Spring of 1997. I started living a double life and then the deeper the doping got, and the more success I had, the more of a double life you have to lead.
His best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Tyler: It’s hard to say. Winning big races was nice and all that, but it had an asterisk behind it. Even standing on the top step of the podium there in the Athens Olympics in 2004, winning a gold medal, yes, sure it felt nice. It was exciting, but it didn’t feel exactly the way it was supposed to feel.
Standing on the top step of the podium at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and winning a gold medal didn’t feel exactly the way it was supposed to feel.
The way I imagined how it felt for Eric Haiden back in the 1980 Olympics or the US hockey team in the 1980 Olympics. I won some pretty cool races before doping started. I won a Collegiate National Championships back in college in 1993. That was super cool.
I was so green, like brand new to the sport. That was neat. Over there in Holland, I won a stage race in 1996 before doping. It was called the Teleflex Store. I think they renamed it. It’s a different name now, but it was like a five-day stage race.
Winning clean, that was pretty exciting but then once the doping started, I don’t look at those results the same. It was a climb up to that point, which for me, was probably the most fun.
His advice to a younger Tyler Hamilton
Christian: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give a younger Tyler?
Tyler: Listen to your heart. Be honest with yourself and don’t rush into any big decision. Take some time to think about it.
Listen to your heart, be honest, and don’t rush into any big decision.
Take a few steps back, look at the big picture, think about it. If you’re conflicted, certainly talk to friends or family members. I wish I had done that. So, listen to your heart.
His advice to young cyclists
Christian: I heard you talked on a podcast and you said you wished you had heard a story like yours when you got into cycling. What advice would you give any young cyclist or an athlete in any sport?
Tyler: Back to listen to your heart. Get good people around you; a good circle of teammates that you’re on the same sort of level with. Get people around you that you feel like you want to be associated with; that is going to make you a better person and better athlete, for sure.
Find a good coach that you like, that you trust; find the athletes that you like to train with that think a lot like you. Work hard, never give up and do it the right way. Listen to my story or listen to many other stories out there.
It’s not fun to go through something like this and you really pay a heavy price for it. It’s something I wish I’d taken two or maybe even three steps back and look at the big picture instead of rushing into that decision to fit in.
Work hard, never give up and do it the right way. Listen to my story, it’s not fun to go through something like this
I felt like when that doctor came into my room and offered me that little red testosterone pill, for me, there was one decision. It was I had to take it and it was deeper than just him offering me that pill. It was like me believing the system, me believing the whole team; me willing to sacrifice.
We were a couple of months away from our first Tour de France and I wanted to be there. Taking a few steps back, looking at the big picture, and making the decisions based on your heart and the way you feel.
The influence of peer pressure in a professional cycling team
Christian: And when you just mentioned that, how big is the influence of peer pressure in such a team? Is it just you or is it just like you’re a team, you’re supposed to support the champion in your case because of peer pressure?
Tyler: It’s pretty big. You didn’t want to let anybody down; the Directors, the Managers; your protected leader; you need to be there. Yes, there was pressure but I could have walked away.
His success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful athlete and person?
Tyler: Work your tail off work – work, work, work hard, but also be smart about it, like having a good coach or mentor or ideally both. Never giving up, for me, that was my biggest asset.
Never giving up, was my biggest asset.
I just had this never-give-up attitude and I felt like there were plenty of guys that were stronger than me, but a lot of them gave up before me.
Why pain is his superpower
Christian: You also mentioned pain is your superpower, so what is that about?
Tyler: I don’t know, I have a high pain tolerance. Cycling is all about suffering. It is about just being able to dig a little bit deeper than anybody else.
Cycling is all about suffering. It is about just being able to dig a little bit deeper than anybody else.
I felt like that was – the never-give-up attitude; having a high pain tolerance. Those were my big things in the sport of cycling. For sure, that was a big advantage.
How he won a stage at the Tour de France with a broken collarbone
Christian: You won a stage at the Tour de France with a broken collarbone. What hurts more, the legs or the collarbone at that moment?
Tyler: By that time at stage 16, probably the legs. But yes, I had been in a lot of pain really up to that point. At that point, I was sort of used to the pain in my collar bone which is a part of me. It happened on stage once, but the third week, there I was just pretty used to it.
What made Lance Armstrong special
Christian: You have rubbed shoulders with some famous and controversial people. In the last years, we’ve heard and read a lot about Lance Armstrong. Most of the stuff we’ve heard was negative. If we go a little bit away from the things we heard, what do you think made him special?
Tyler: He had a huge desire to win, a desire I’ve never seen before. I liked to win, but he needed to win. For me, second or third or fourth or fifth place was still really good but for him, he hated it. So he had that desire to succeed.
He had a huge desire to win, a desire I’ve never seen before.
He trained incredibly hard and he was incredibly focused. But it also had its downside obviously, but yes, super motivated to win, super motivated to win. During the good times, it really motivated the team.
For the most part, I’d say he was a good leader. It was tough when you’re on, if you didn’t achieve all your objectives, meaning if you didn’t help him to the best of your ability or something, you could get on his bad side and that wasn’t good. But for the most part, when you were doing your job right, he was a good leader. He was supportive of you.
Lance Armstrong’s transformation
Christian: He seemed to be somewhat humble in the beginning, but then towards the end, I remember he stood on that podium when he won his last tour and said that everyone who didn’t believe in dreams, he feels sorry for them. I’m butchering it a bit, but basically having all that knowledge, but coming out and saying these things. I’m just asking a very open question. How much do you think he has changed in these years and why?
Tyler: I don’t know exactly how much has changed really. We don’t spend much and we don’t spend any time together but I would assume he’s been humbled. His feet are closer to the ground than they were before.
He’s been brought down back to earth a little bit and he’s had to deal with some of the reality and the truth that not only himself, but a lot of us cheated during all those years. I feel like, he’s had to wake up a little bit and come back down to earth, really. Sounds like he’s a lot more empathetic of a person now, but I don’t know.
His feet are closer to the ground than they were before. He’s had to deal with the reality and the truth.
I’m happy that he’s doing some good things in his life and that’s nice to see. I’m rooting for everybody. It’s hard to retire and once you do, you have to reinvent yourself. I’m cheering everybody on and it’s good to see him finding some things that are adding a positive impact on the cycling world and in society.
Christian: Two more difficult questions and then we move on.
Tyler: Ask whatever you want.
Christian: I want to make most of the opportunity of having someone who was in the first row.
Tyler: Go for it.
Why people wanted to bring Lance Armstrong down
Christian: If we are talking about the whole Lance Armstrong story, there were a few people who were chasing him throughout his career and desperately wanted to bring him down. Do you think these people were mainly interested in the truth or was it also that there’s a little bit, they sense the moment for their glory?
Tyler: I think they were looking just for the truth. I think they knew the truth and I think we knew that they knew the truth. The harder they fought to find out the truth, the harder we all pushed back.
The harder they fought to find out the truth, the harder we all pushed back.
So, it was a battle and they didn’t back down and we didn’t back down, and it just got heightened. But yes, I think they knew the truth and they just wanted to hear it. And absolutely good for them. During my career, that was hard for me to deal with some of those journalists, the media, but hats off to them for not giving up
Christian: Last question. What about Johan Bruyneel? He was your manager for some time. Some people say he was an excellent tactician and understood the sport like no one else. Others say he was the most ruthless when it came down to all the allegations that have been made.
Tyler: He was my Director in 1998/1999. Yes, I can’t remember if he started in 1998 or 1999; maybe it was 1999 to 2001, for three years. He was a great tactician, he was very smart and he was a great pro himself.
He retired from the sport and a year or two later, he was a Director. He still knew a lot of the riders in the Peloton. He still was very fresh on tactics and all that. Sometimes you get really some older Directors that are a little bit off the bat, but he was great.
He was a good motivator. Obviously, our big star rider was Lance, and so he played some favoritism that way, I would say. But that’s what you have to expect. Has he paid a bigger price than a lot of other Directors? Absolutely. Obviously, the whole truth hasn’t come out.
You don’t want to pay the big, heavy price. Some can say he deserves it. We all get caught, but there’s a lot of the truth. It’s buried very deep underground. He’s paid a big price for it. I hope the best for him.
He’s paid a big price for it. I hope the best for him.
I know he’s moving on and if I can do some good things. He was a great Director. He for sure was probably one of the best ones out there.
He played the game as we all did. There was a big secret underneath and I assume he was a part of that as a rider. He was a part of that as a Director.
His morning routine
Christian: Do you have a morning routine?
Tyler: It’s eight o’clock in the morning here. I start with some coffee. I try to do a little bit of meditation, just some quiet time for maybe 10 minutes. I would like to do more, but the day is going too fast. It’s too busy.
I practice some gratitude work. I think of about three or four things that I really appreciate in my life. I think that’s important. Usually, I do some yoga, nothing too exciting really. I’m a pretty quiet guy in general.
I practice some gratitude work. I think of about three or four things that I really appreciate in my life.
I play with my dog out in the backyard and maybe take her for a walk. My girlfriend’s got two kids, so we have half the time. So a lot of times it’s getting them up, getting their clothes on, and getting them out the door to school.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare yourself for important moments?
Tyler: For important moments, I practice visualization kind of preparing in your mind what it’s going to look like. It is about how you’re going to, behave and whether you’re going to be confident or not try. So that’s important.
If it is an important meeting, I study and know what I have to know ahead of time. It is about being disciplined and working hard beforehand so that you can show up to that important moment as cool as a cucumber.
I think I was listening to podcasts at the end of the day. It’s like you see these sprinters at the end of the hundred-meter final in the Olympics. It’s typically the best ones who look as relaxed as anybody out there and it could be the most important 10 seconds of their life.
It is about being disciplined and working hard beforehand so that you can show up to that important moment as cool as a cucumber.
Christian: And it’s only 10 seconds.
Tyler: Exactly. You probably see it all the time. Some of the best athletes are just ready. They’ve been working super hard. It is like all the homework has been done now and it’s time to take the test. You’ve studied so hard and now you’re ready to ACE this test.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: How do you overcome setbacks?
Tyler: Pick yourself up and just one foot in front of the other. I feel like setbacks happen all the time. I feel like there are more setbacks in life than big huge celebrations.
There are more setbacks in life than big huge celebrations.
Also, take care of yourself emotionally and don’t beat yourself up over it. You’ve made a mess, maybe you’ve made a mistake, or fail but yes, you learn from it. Take a step back, realize what happened, what went wrong, and how you can do it better the next time.
That’s what’s so great about life and getting older. It’s just the wisdom you have. Everything you’ve learned and you can remind yourself that you have been in the situation before.
Most of the time, you may have gone right, but now you know to go left. Or maybe it’s avoiding certain people or gravitating towards certain people.
His role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Tyler: I’d say Jimmie Heuga. He passed away in 2010. Jimmie Heuga was a downhill ski racer. He was at the top of his game in the sixties. He and one other were the first Americans to win Alpine medals at the Olympics in 1964.
Jimmie was diagnosed six years later with multiple sclerosis. We got to be friends for the last six or seven years of his life. He was just an incredible person. By that point, MS – Multiple sclerosis – had really taken a toll on him and he was in a wheelchair and he was at a full care facility.
We became really close in the last years of his life and he just taught me to always have a positive outlook on life. I was going through hard times and I was looking at Jimmy and his outlook on life and I told myself that with just the right mindset, I could lead a much better life.
I pretty much think about him every day. He passed away in 2010 due to MS complications. He was a great role model for me. His motto was “Do what you can do.” He started losing function in his body, but it didn’t slow him down. He was water-skiing right up to the end, which was awesome. So, yes, Jimmie Heuga.
Jimmie Heuga, he was just an incredible person, he just taught me to always have a positive outlook on life. I pretty much think about him every day.
Christian: My grandmother, the mother of my mother, she also had MS and yes, it’s tough to see what it does to the body over the years. From where I got to know her, when I was young, to where she was in the end, it’s terrible to see.
Tyler: I do a lot of work with the fight against MS and it’s something that holds a special place in my heart and I hope during my lifetime we’ll see a cure.
The best advice he has received
Christian: What is the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Tyler: It would probably be a high school coach. His name is Phil Peck and he told me just to listen to my body. He kept telling me to listen to my body. This is back in the late eighties when the heart rate monitor came out and a lot of people would ask how you are doing.
The athletes would look at their watch and see their heart rate and say that they are doing well. But this guy, Phil Peck taught us that we were to step away from all that and learn to listen to our bodies by seeing how it’s doing. He said that we did not need all these gadgets to decide how we’re doing.
He encouraged us to know our body and know it well. He said that we did not have to look at some number to decide how we were doing. So yes, I’d say that was the best advice and I go back to that a lot.
The importance of financial management for athletes
Christian: I heard you said, you made a lot of financial mistakes. My question, what were these mistakes? That’s number one and then the second one is what advice in terms of financial management would you give to athletes?
Tyler: That’s a great question. I work for a financial advisor now, The Black Swift Group, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been working for them for just over a year and I’ve learned a lot. Yes, I made a ton of mistakes during my professional career, mainly listening to the wrong people.
I made a ton of mistakes during my professional career, mainly listening to the wrong people.
When you make money, you tend to think that you can afford a bigger mortgage. You might say that you can buy a bigger house now because you can afford a bigger mortgage. You don’t know how long your career’s going to last.
You think it’s going to be all just golden and that things are going to go great, but you don’t know what’s around the corner. You could get injured. I had a positive doping test and life came crashing down.
Anything can happen. It may just be bad luck rushing into maybe a relationship sometimes. I’d say that didn’t help. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made some mistakes and started over financially a few years ago.
In a way, it was kind of nice. My feet were on the ground, very humbled and just working hard and climbing back up the ladder. But you don’t need so much in your life. Just because you’re making a lot of money, doesn’t mean you need to spend that money.
Just because you’re making a lot of money, doesn’t mean you need to spend that money.
Start saving when you’re young and start investing it in the right people. Just every month, if you can be adding to that and putting it away because you don’t know what’s right around the corner. A lot of athletes make that mistake. I’m certainly one of them.
But you hear a lot about athletes here in the States, for example, in the National Football League, the typical careers, something like two or two and a half years. So some of these athletes come right out of college, they’re making huge money and then a knee injury takes them out and they’re gone.
They’re out of the sport and they’ve been spending money pretty recklessly and not saving. I wish I had done maybe a better job at saving and listening to the right people, but you live and learn. So I try to tell all the young kids, especially the young athletes, to save your money.
Asset classes to invest in
Christian: A lot of the athletes I work with, they’re in Olympic sports. They have a salary, that doesn’t leave very much at the end of the month. What would you advise that they should invest in? If you say saving is one thing, but then if you talk about management, what asset classes would you look at for athletes?
Tyler: I would say getting the right manager to manage your money. This is somebody that you trust. Like recently, gold and silver have been really good investments. The biggest thing is finding somebody you trust, like a coach, but this is like a coach for your money.
The biggest thing is finding somebody you trust, like a coach, but this is like a coach for your money.
The group I work with are real specialists. If you’re going to go get heart surgery, you wouldn’t just go ask some random doctor down the street to do it for you, right? You’d find a real specialist.
So, find the right specialist for you and start investing your money smartly. A lot of people that try to do it themselves, struggle a bit and can lose money. I’ve done that too.
A typical training day in the life of a professional cyclist
Christian: Back in the days, how did a typical training day look like?
Tyler: My training changed over the years. In the early years, it was just going out and doing big, huge miles. We just really did hours on the bike. Then as my career developed and I became more of a team leader, I started doing a lot more interval work. It was very hard, intense work followed by rest.
A typical day was a 4 to 6 hour ride with a laundry list of intervals that I had to do. There might’ve been some motor pacing at the end of that four to six-hour ride. Motor pacing was done to keep your leg speed.
A typical day was a 4 to 6 hour ride with a laundry list of intervals that I had to do.
But yes, it was a lot of hard work. I’m now coaching, and we have our athletes do a lot of 40/twenties. This is a 10-minute set. In one set you’re 40 seconds going really hard at 98/99%, 20 seconds really easy, 40 seconds hard, and 20 seconds easy for 10 minutes.
So you might do three or four sets. Those are really hard. You usually do those going uphill staying seated in top race-like situations. Towards the end or during the peak of my career, I show up at the races sometimes and it would almost feel like some of it was easier than the training if that makes sense.
I’m trying really hard, but also really smart and really arrested really hard too. When you’re at your best, it was just all about the bike. It’s not a very balanced life but cycling is so hard. You had to focus 110% on it and just dedicate yourself. Once they chose not to or chose to have a little bit more balance, typically you pay the price, which is unfortunate.
How many hours he spent on the bike in a training week
Christian: In the hardest training weeks, how many hours do you spend on the bike?
Tyler: I remember doing 40 hour weeks. They train a lot less now. That was not very smart, but yes, it was like 30 to 40 hour weeks. Now they’ve streamlined maybe fewer hours on the bike, but maybe more intensity and structure.
I remember doing 42 to 44 hour weeks which would happen sometimes, which is a lot. That’s like a normal workweek for a person.
Road cycling and strength training
Christian: Something that interests me because there are a lot of mixed messages when it comes to road cycling and the view of strength training. What’s your view on strength training, and endurance performance?
Tyler: There’s a couple of different ways we have our athletes do strength training. Some is off the bike in the weight room. We typically have our clients do that kind of more in the off-season.
Some will kind of continue that during the season a little bit if they’re really thin and they have a hard time keeping on muscle. But most of our athletes during the season, we have them do a lot of big gear work.
We’re pushing a really low gear, like an upper climb of maybe 50 to 60 RPMs. I find that that’s really effective. I did that during my career and continue to tell people to do that. You do big gear work 50/60 RPM, small by like little gear works.
This builds strength and efficiency and they say strength plus efficiency equals power. That’s kind of what we preach. Overdoing it in a big gear, then overdoing it in a little gear.
Strength plus efficiency equals power. That’s kind of what we preach.
You’re really getting stronger and then learning how to pedal a fluid circle. A lot of people, if they’re just pushing down and pulling up, they’re wasting a lot of that 360-degree pedal stroke. Ideally, you’re pushing the pedals equally in all 360 degrees. It’s almost impossible, but you want to be as perfect as possible.
Is the fear of building muscle mass as road cyclists realistic
Christian: And if you listen to people, especially road cyclists, and their need for bodyweight control to be successful in their sport. They are often scared of doing a-specific strength training in the gym that might build muscle mass. My question is if you spent multiple thousand calories a day due to your cycling, have you ever seen someone who built muscle mass and doing these volumes on the bike?
Tyler: If somebody’s super muscular, maybe they need to spend a little less time in the weight room or maybe they need to do a little less of the big gear work. But now typically, they’re out there burning a lot of calories. Most people aren’t getting bigger thighs because of it. How about you? Do you have people who do that?
Most people aren’t getting bigger thighs because they’re out there burning a lot of calories.
Christian: My athletes are sprinters, so the strength and conditioning is a big part of our sports. I’m happy with what you said before because there are so many different forms and methods of strength training with different adaptations to it.
Every time we talk about strength training, we need to be a bit more precise and nuanced in our discussion. And for us, the hypertrophy type of strength training, where you’re building muscle mass, doesn’t play a very big role. We are more focused on strength and power development.
What you said about efficiency, that’s our goal.
Tyler Hamilton’s coaching services
Christian: Talking about training, you are giving back what you learned and experienced through your coaching business. Who is the Tyler Hamilton Training for and what do people get from it?
Tyler: It’s for anybody who wants some coaching. We do customized training programs for all different cyclists, all different ages and abilities. This afternoon, I’m going to ride a mountain bike ride with a 10-year-old kid, who’s a huge talent he’s a lot of fun. It’s lots of fun working with kids.
We do customized training programs for all different cyclists, all different ages and abilities.
We work with anyone. Probably our youngest client is 10 years old and our oldest client is probably 75 years old. Most have normal lives and families and busy day jobs, but they love cycling and they have a limited amount of time to cycle every week.
We try to optimize their training. Some riders might race a little bit and some race a lot. Other riders just want to beat up on their buddies on their Sunday morning group ride. Other people just want to get a little bit better and a little bit more and be more efficient.
It’s fun helping people and it’s not about winning races or anything. It’s just about making them happy and improving their time on the bike and improving their quality of life.
Some of the best feedback I get is from our client’s spouse who tells us how happy they are now. They tell us that when their spouses spend X amount of time on their bikes, they’re coming back with a plan. That’s music to my ears.
It is just people getting more out of themselves and then feeling more confident in themselves. That’s huge. If that can play a greater role in their life and have a positive impact on their whole family, that’s awesome.
Then sometimes their family members weren’t cyclists and they get into cycling and the more people on bikes the better. It’s such a beautiful sport just to be able to commute on your bike around town and that is fantastic.
Christian: And the support is online and offline?
Tyler: It’s online based so a lot of our clients would’ve never met before. Most of our clients are North American based, but we have a few over in Europe, as well as a couple down in South Africa. It’s pretty fun.
We do some Zoom time, Face time, and on the telephone. Once in a while, we get to meet in person and we do a training camp to build that athlete-coach relationship, so you get to know each other really well. That’s a big part of it.
If you have to develop some sort of relationship where they can trust you and you can trust them, they have to know that you have their best intentions with their training board. Sometimes you got to force them to rest. Sometimes you got to force them, and other times, you’ve got to give them a little bump to make them push hard and work hard.
Christian: The relationships are absolutely essential.
Tyler: It’s crucial. You can be the best coach in the world, but if you can’t communicate with your athlete, then it’s worthless.
You can be the best coach in the world, but if you can’t communicate with your athlete, then it’s worthless.
Christian: What’s the URL that your coaching business can be found?
Tyler: It’s called Tyler Hamilton Training.
His book “The Secret Race”
Christian: Tyler, you have written a book with Daniel Coyle, “The Secret Race”. What does the reader get from the book?
Tyler: Oh man. What does the reader get from the book? It’s a snapshot of what the underworld of professional cycling at that time was like at the elite level for some. It reveals some of the dark secrets. I’m proud of writing the book but I’m not proud of what’s in the book.
I’m proud of writing the book but I’m not proud of what’s in the book.
That was one of the hardest things I ever did, was to write that book, for sure. But in a way, it was like two and a half years of therapy. But again, proud of writing and it was a truth that I feel like it just needed to be told.
A lot of people weren’t that happy about it, obviously, but that truth needed to be told. It was a dark underworld that I guess, needed to be exposed.
Christian: And you mentioned also that Daniel Coyle, he did something like 60 plus interviews with you in order to extract all the stories.
Tyler: Yes, we spent a lot of time together in person or over the telephone. It was 60 to 65 interviews. We went to Europe together to find some of the places where some of the mayhem went down, so to speak.
We spent a lot of time together. He was a great guy. I feel very fortunate that I had a co-author like Dan Coyle.
His interview nomination
Christian: Talking about Dan Coyle, do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Tyler: You should interview Dan. It’d be great. He’s super smart. I’ll pass along his info if you want.
Christian: That would be great. That would definitely be great.
Tyler: Nice guy.
What’s going on in the life of Tyler Hamilton at the moment
Christian: What else is going on in the life of Tyler Hamilton at this moment?
Tyler: Here in Missoula, Montana, right now I traveled down to Denver, Colorado for a workweek, I’ve been working for a financial advisory group down there, kind of like a real job.
That’s been a lot of fun learning a lot about the industry and helping people to do smart things with their money. That’s been a lot of fun and I like it because it’s been something completely different than what I’ve done in the past.
I did study Economics back in college. It’s been fun to try something totally new and it’s a great team. Every day, my number one focus is that.
I also have a coaching business. I have one head coach who helps me along the way. His name’s Jim Capra. We’re in daily contact. I spend a bunch of time working with a nonprofit that helps people with MS and their support partners and support families live better lives.
I’m a part-time dad with a couple of kids. My girlfriend’s got two young kids, six and eight. They’re great. I have a one-year-old golden retriever named Sailor. I stay busy. Usually, I ride my mountain bike, maybe a couple of times a week.
I’d say life’s a lot more simple now than it used to be. I’ve enjoyed living here in Montana. It’s like the fourth-biggest state out of the 50 states and there are only a million people here, so there’s a lot of big space and outdoors and I love getting out in nature. I love animals.
Where can you find Tyler Hamilton
Christian: Where can people find you?
Tyler: What do you mean? Oh yes, God, I don’t even know myself. I haven’t done Instagram forever, but I have an Instagram account somewhere out there.
Christian: I’ll figure it out.
Tyler: Yes. We’ll figure it out. I have Twitter and Instagram, but I’m not on it so often. I should probably get back on it. Social media is a weird thing. It kind of ebbs and flows with me. Maybe I’ll find it and send it to you.
Tyler Hamilton’s social profiles
Tyler Hamilton Training website
Tyler Hamilton Training on Facebook
Tyler Hamilton Training on Twitter
Tyler Hamilton Training on Instagram
Christian: Thanks a lot for your time. Thanks for the open words.
Tyler: Hey, nice talking to you, Christian. You watching the Tour de France right now?
Tyler: Good luck with your coaching. Good luck to your athletes next summer in the Olympics. Hopefully, we’ll talk to you again soon.
Christian: Absolutely. Thanks a lot.