Monday, May 27, 2013

Rough Ride by Paul Kimmage

Great book!

What makes this book stand out for me from all the other behind-the-scenes books on life in the peloton is mostly Kimmage's account of own inner turmoil and the completely frank and honest way that he relates his story. Nowhere else in the latest crop of confessions did I get such a clear presentation of the real options facing a professional bike racer, and the stark reality of the pressure on riders to come up with results or lose their job.

He talks of his own tough choices in a completely open way, and of his disillusionment and a growing frustration with the sport and it's management. From starry-eyed newcomer to jaded, battle weary domestique, we are spared no detail in the downward spiral. But what comes out of the pages more than anything else is a deep love for the sport and a yearning for the values he first discovered through his father as a boy.

Kimmage talks of the victims with great compassion. He sees much of the self destructive behaviour as a result of the choices made and the gradual erosion of self-respect. His scathing dismissal of the villains in his story is matched by the obvious affection he holds for both those who stood fast and those who crumbled - they all became victims in the end - and his sense of loss for the friendships that were cut short by his choice to tell the whole story.

This is the book that upset the apple-cart when it was first published, because the openness with which he talked of the use of drugs in the sport was considered a breach of the code of silence. The book turned the whole cycling world, including many of his closest friends against him.

In the recent edition I have, the last chapters are written years after the book was first published and talk about the books effect on the cycling world, and how it turned first it's fury towards him, and then it's back on him. These last chapters are now an essential part of the story since they document his journey back to a fragile but tangible belief in the sport's potential salvation.

But the best recommendation, as with all good books, is that I didn't want it to end.

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