Just after his dramatic win at the U.S. professional road championships, Tyler Hamilton sat down with VeloNews managing editor Neal Rogers to talk about the win, his return from a two-year doping suspension and his personal life, including his pending divorce and his realization of the difference between acquaintances and real friends.
The complete interview is in the latest issue of VeloNews, but here are a few highlights:
Hamilton on his big win in Greenville:
… after the last time up the climb, it regrouped to about 25 guys. And unfortunately Freddie had a wheel problem, so he wasn’t there, and I was just one out of 25. Garmin had six or seven guys in that group and they were the team to beat. I didn’t have a whole lot to lose. To be on the podium would have been great, but it worked out. It came down to the last lap, and Garmin had the numbers. They had two guys behind and Blake sitting on. There was a lot to lose, but worst case I was going to be second. I rode hard to the finish, but towards the end, we had enough of a gap that I could kind of — in the last 2km I wasn’t killing myself, let’s put it that way. I was able to kind of rest a little bit. I swung out wide before the last corner, and had him go first.
On his acceptance in the racing community:
I think I’ve been accepted pretty well … Your friends are your friends, and your acquaintances are your acquaintances … A lot of acquaintances are there in the good times, and not there in the bad times, but you know, that’s normal, that’s life. I’m not bitter about it, and I’m not bitter towards anyone, but tomorrow I’m probably not going to be going to dinner with them, either.
On the effects of his suspension:
I’m still scarred. I’m not the same person I was before, that’s for sure. It’s kind of sad to say it, but after everything I’ve been through, I don’t think I can be the same person. A lot of things happened to me that people don’t know about, and until I write a book someday, won’t know about. There are a lot of bad people out there who have done some bad things to me. Cycling … I think it’s everywhere, but there is a mafia in cycling. That’s pretty much all I’ll say about it, I’ll probably get banned from a race if I say any more, but there is a mafia out there.
On life on the Rock Racing team:
I think I’ve just relaxed a bit, in general. I’m not trying to be a rebel or anything. I’ve always enjoyed having a bit longer hair, not so high and tight. And Michael Ball has allowed me to feel that way, to relax a bit, grow some shag, wear some glasses you want to wear. That’s what it’s been like — fun. Yeah, this is a business, and we have to also be serious, but you can do both. I love my teammates, it’s been awesome. They’ve been like a second family to me.
On his separation from wife Haven
My wife and I, last year we spent most of the year apart. I was racing and living in Italy, and she stayed here and was working in real estate. We struggled a lot, last year was the fourth year (since the positive doping test), and it’s almost like we made it through this dark cloud, but it almost took so much away from us … it almost drained us. By the time we got through it, we had no energy left towards our marriage. But we’re still great friends. She’s my best friend, and hopefully she’ll be my best friend forever. … She’s a great gal, and without her I don’t know where I’d be today. I leaned on her a lot over the last three years. She really deserves a lot of credit.
On why he still races
I love the sport. I love the sport. I was basically retired last year, and I spent the whole fall just sort of relaxing and trying to figure out what my next step was going to be. But I was so sad, just really sad. I remember getting the phone call form Michael, and it was like someone had put a battery into me, and given me new energy … I went out and did 4 1/2 hours, more or less cold turkey, just because I was excited. That sort of opened my eyes that I wasn’t done yet. I still had a huge passion for it. I love the sport. I love everything about it — mostly everything about it.