Kimmage is the man who wrote ‘Rough Ride’ an expose of his experiences as a young ‘green as grass’ young pro and his flirtations with ‘the needle.’
In light of the Festina, Telekom, Landis and Hamilton scandals it’s a little tame – but when it was published it caused a real stir.
In the last few years Kimmage’s name has been writ large in Lance’s ‘black book’ as his least favourite journo – and that’s saying something.
The Irishman gave Alberto Contador a bit of a rough ride at one of the early Tour press conferences, this year – asking the Spaniard why every team he’s ever ridden for has been involved in a drug scandal.
We caught up with the man who shoots from the hip on the day of the Galibier stage.
PEZ: What do you think of the Tour this year, Paul?
Paul Kimmage: Absolutely fabulous, the best I’ve seen and I’ve been watching since I was 10-years-old.
Maybe ’89 was the best ever but this one has been great, very credible.
PEZ: And clean?
PK: You’re never 100% sure but the performances of Voeckler, Rolland, the other French riders and Garmin all send out good signals.
Seeing the favourites in a state of exhaustion drives home the fact that we were watching an absolute circus through the 90’s – something I’ve been saying for a long time.
The hero of this year’s Tour – a sign of a clean July?
PEZ: What’s your view on the Italian Federation excluding riders from the national champs and Worlds team if they have ‘previous?’
PK: There should be a price you pay for doping, just now the price is too light; some of them are serving their two year ban and come swanning back again to earn good money.
That’s one of the sanctions which could encourage other riders not to slip.
Alessandro Petacchi won’t be contesting any more World Championships for Italy as a result of previous doping sanctions.
PEZ: What’s your view on the biological passport and whereabouts systems?
PK: The passport is a step in the right direction, but it’s too subjective, you can’t trust the UCI – it’s very clear that there was one rule for Lance and one for all the other riders.
The whereabouts is good, but it has to be the same for all riders.
The ‘no needles’ policy is a good one, but all of these measures have to be kept on top of – they can’t be allowed to regress.
PEZ: Does this Tour vindicate the tight controls the French apply to their riders?
PK: The French had their noses rubbed in it for ten years after Festina – but now their riders are getting a shot at it.
Remember when it all began?
PEZ: You’re not happy that Contador is riding?
PK: No, the Spanish Federation should not make the decision – do you think that if Sean Kelly had failed a test, back in his hey day, the Irish Federation would have banned him?
He wouldn’t have served a single day!
It’s too parochial, it’s shouldn’t be down to the UCI – McQuaid and Verbruggen should resign, there’s currently no accountability.
The decisions should be with WADA, not the UCi.
Alberto Contador…where to begin?
PEZ: You’ve interviewed Floyd Landis and say you’re convinced by him – it would be difficult to accept him as a reliable witness.
PK: I could lie about something for ten years and then finally tell the truth – it doesn’t mean it’s not the truth.
He confirmed a lot of the information that we’d heard already from others; but he gave us the detail, explained why it was done – dates, times, places.
Kimmage’s interview with Floyd Landis was one of the more riveting cycling-related pieces we’ve read in recent times.
PEZ: Have you spoken to Tyler Hamilton?
PK: No, but nothing he said surprised me.
PEZ: Lance; isn’t he too much of a symbol of the USA ever to be allowed to fall?
PK: He’s too damaged, when David Walsh wrote from ‘Lance to Landis’ it wasn’t a problem; and all the rest was over here in Europe.
But Hamilton’s appearance on ’60 Minutes’ brought it into his own front room – that show has a lot of credibility in the USA.
PEZ: Doesn’t cycling make it too hard for itself compared to other sports, with all this control?
PK: You tell me another sport which has seen 20 to 25 young men die in recent years, and then I’ll accept that it needs less control.
You don’t die from other sports; if my son goes into cycling I want to know that it’s safe and clean.
PEZ: And doesn’t the cycling media make too much of a meal of every ‘drugs scandal?’
PK: Either something is wrong or it isn’t – I think in cycling we have better journos than in track and field when you look at what goes on there.
The success of the Garmin-Cervelo team at the Tour de France this year is a sign of the cleaning up of cycling according to Kimmage.
PEZ: We really only see you at the Tour.
PK: I work for the Sunday Times, they decide where I go and who I interview – after the Tour, I interview Lewis Hamilton’s father.
And as far as my newspaper goes the Tour de France is the only bike race that exists.
But cycling is my passion, my area of expertise.
PEZ: What would you change in cycling?
PK: I’d get a big broom and I’d sweep out Riis, Bruyneel, Kim Andersen . . .
. . . then I’d sit down with all the other DS’s and go for a root and branch change in mindset.
Get McQuaid and Verbruggen out, get the policies like ‘no needles’ in place.
It wouldn’t take much – just a bit of honesty.