Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Biting back: Kimmage's cycling film is worth a look

Journalist Paul Kimmage
Journalist Paul Kimmage

Next Monday night, make a date with 'Rough Rider' (RTE), the upcoming film on journalist Paul Kimmage as he retraces the Tour de France he cycled as a professional.

As we know, he soon sussed that doping was the only way to survive in that brutal sport. He dabbled a little, as disclosed in his brilliant self-penned autobiography 'Rough Ride', and decided that it wasn't for him. So he said so publically.

And the cycling world turned its back on him. He 'spat in the soup.'

Incredibly, Kimmage is seen as a controversial figure within the world of cycling and journalism. I have a huge problem with anyone who feels that a journalist is controversial by virtue of telling the truth. Proper journalism offers a counterpoint to the concept of journalism as a PR exercise.

There is a poignant scene in the film when Kimmage happens upon the statue of Tom Simpson.

One of the most successful British professional cyclists, he died during the 13th stage of the 1967 Tour de France while ascending Mount Ventoux. The toxicology report showed that he had amphetamines and alcohol (riders used to suck huge amounts of booze down during the rides as a painkiller) in his system.

But Kimmage flew into a rage when he saw the reverence with which the statue of Simpson was treated, immediately thinking of Johannes Draaijer, who is pictured on the front cover of Rough Ride. Immeasurably less successful than Simpson, but dead as a young man all the same through doping, to survive in their sport.

It's well worth a look.

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