From the Library: Rough Ride...


Earley, Kelly, Roche. Round out that list with Paul Kimmage and you have the four most recognizable Irish names in world cycling during the era of the 1980s to mid-1990s. The first three everyone knows for their accomplishments in the saddle. Kimmage, though Irish National Road Race Champion in 1981, and a valued domestique during his years in the pro peloton, is perhaps best known for his cycling activities which came after his retirement from the professional peloton in 1989, specifically his writings on the use and abuse of performance enhancing drugs in the sport.


By examining the use of drugs by his peers, Kimmage as they say, "spat in the soup" and was widely greeted with the ire and enmity of many he had once called friends. If that controversy, or the expose on drug use amongst cyclists is what you are looking for when you pick up this book, you will find it and won't be disappointed. As for me, I was looking for more, and found more. There is plenty on Kimmage, biographically speaking, including daily journals from his three Tours de France and one Giro d'Italia. The relationships between riders, between riders and management/staff, the first-hand glimpse of the Irish racing scene during the 1970s and 1980s, and the experiences of a neo-pro are all fascinating to me.


For the 1998 edition of the book, Kimmage wrote a chapter in which he discusses the suicide of former teammate Thierry Claverolet. For me, it is the most poignant testimony of the book's 312 pages; "last summer I returned to Vizille for the second time since he died... his trophies and jerseys were gone from the walls. The paint with his name had finally faded on the Laffrey. Regrets? I had a few." The 2007 edition of the book brings the story up to Floyd Landis' now disgraced Tour de France ride of 2006, but falls short of the now infamous encounter with Lance Armstrong preceding the 2009 Tour of California.


All told, the book provides an interesting and informative glimpse into a period of great turmoil in the sport of cycling, a period from which shock waves are still being felt. Rather than becoming dated by the passage of time, the book is as relevant today as it ever was. A worthy read.


Kimmage, Paul   Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel of a Pro Cyclist   London: Yellow Jersey Press, 2007

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