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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 14 October, 2019

17 things we learned from the Paul Kimmage 'Rough Rider' film

The documentary on the Irish journalist and whistleblower was screened on RTÉ One this evening.

1. Kimmage can’t be dispassionate when he writes about cycling


He suggests he can’t stop himself from feeling emotionally invested in the subject matter because of the way the doping culture affected him.

2. His Tour de France medal is his “most prized possession


“I dreamt of actually winning it… But it’s enough that I did get there and that I did do it… 132nd doesn’t actually register for the public. But to me, it’s everything.” He also describes it as “the greatest moment of my life”.

3. He thought he’d be largely praised when his controversial exposé on doping, Rough Ride, was published

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“I naively thought people would be saying ‘well done mate, you’ve done the sport a great service… But you’re [treated] like dog shite on someone’s shoes.”

4. Kimmage idolised his father, who was an amateur racer


“So much of my drive and my focus and my ambition to be a pro was wanting to please my father… Wanting to show Dad I can do this.”

5. He was very close with Stephen Roche


He grew up with Stephen Roche and was extremely grateful for the fact that Roche came to Kimmage’s wedding at the height of his fame.

6. Kimmage considers libels to be “the Oscars” of his trade

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“But when you get them it’s a pretty shocking and heart-stopping moment.”

7. “Hell will freeze over” before he apologises to Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen


He’s not sorry and he will not “kneel before them,” irrespective of the lawsuits that come his way. “I’d be betraying myself if I did that,” he adds.

8. His enjoyment of the Tour de France depends on the quality of his work


“If I don’t write something decent tonight, or next week, or the week after, then it will not be enjoyable for me at all.”

9. He regrets not finishing the 1989 Tour de France


Finishing in Paris and getting another Tour medal would have been “the fairytale ending” to his career, though he was already at that stage “more successful as a writer than a bike rider”.

10. He disapproves of certain sports journalists “running around in groups of four or five together” at sporting events


“They like to hunt in packs. I prefer to be my own man — to work on my own, to form my own opinions, and to stand or fall by those opinions. Whereas some of the guys here need reassurance. They need someone to hold their hand.”

11. He thinks David Millar’s love for cycling is “blind”


And he resents the fact that Millar was castigating journalists for persistently asking about doping during the 2013 Tour de France.

12. Chris Froome is “unlike any rider” Kimmage has ever seen


Kimmage explains that “he’s like one of those Stephen Lowry paintings — ‘matchstick men,’” before going on to suggest that he looks “unnaturally skinny”.

13. The glorification of Tom Simpson’s death during the 1967 Tour de France makes him angry

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“There have been plenty of young kids who have died as a result of that same doping culture and they don’t have monuments on the side of mountains. Nobody remembers them. And it’s wrong.”

14. He thought Stephen Roche’s questioning of the veracity of Rough Ride after its initial publication was an “insult to everybody’s intelligence”

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Roche had said in an interview at the time that he learned things he “never knew” from the book.

15. Roche feels “you believe what you want”

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He complains that “even if the Good Lord” was standing over him saying he’s telling the truth, “nobody” would believe him.

16. Kimmage thinks his relentless crusade against doping is “worth it” because of the number of cyclists that died due ostensibly to drugs, after Rough Ride was published


“You tell me if it’s worth it, if it could have prevented those deaths.”

17. He loves and hates cycling — “it’s a love affair that will always make me unhappy”

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People have “misunderstood” the stance he’s taken against doping and “misrepresented” it as a vendetta against cycling.

What did you make of tonight’s documentary?

Paul Kimmage: ‘The game is up for the kind of journalism that I practice’>

‘I was taken by the fact that he’s such an outsider’ – Adrian McCarthy on his upcoming Paul Kimmage film>

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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