All I Know

Book Review: Rough Ride by Paul Kimmage

Book Review:

Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel With a Pro Cyclist

Paul Kimmage 

In about 1970, Jim Bouton did the unthinkable: he told the world what major league baseball was really like in his book Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball in the Big Leagues. It came as quite a shock to those ingesting the product dispensed by the journalism of the day. Twenty years later, Paul Kimmage did the very same thing. The sport was cycling instead of baseball, he talked not about the secrets of the locker room, but the secret that no one was talking about, especially the press: that to be competitive, cyclists were using performance-enhancing drugs.

I did not expect to like the book as much as I did (more on this later) – I considered entitling the review ‘Surprised by Joy’. Kimmage is a fine writer at this point in his life, so he plainly has a natural talent for expression. This account of a cyclist trying to make it as a pro is compelling and sympathetic. It is quite blunt about what a sorry existence a pro cyclist had (at the time– This was before the advent of big salaries), and what a sorry long-term proposition it was for most pros.

Like Ball Four, Rough Ride was amended with update appendices for every new edition. Like Ball Four, this was a bad idea. In my binding of Rough Ride, it was a little difficult to track when the narration was occurring in the various appendices. Moreover, most of the likability of Kimmage seems to have vanished, and his topic choices (the color of his urine, e.g.) were regrettable. This is the Kimmage that David Millar made disparaging remarks about in his book (that I read first, thus the low expectations mentioned above). As the keeper of a cause, Kimmage seems to have become a bit of a prig, even if his position is correct. I think he and Millar are in a turf battle. I bet it gets a lot more crowded in the reformed doper niche now…

Anyway, get the book and enjoy the original part of it; it is superb. I suggest you skip the rest.

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