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Review: Rough Rider on RTÉ One tonight

1 of 3 Rough Rider - RTÉ One, Monday, 9:35pm
Rough Rider - RTÉ One, Monday, 9:35pm
2 of 3 The message
The message
3 of 3 Reflection along the way
Reflection along the way

Monday night's feature-length documentary on RTÉ One makes Harry Guerin want to buy a bike.

Originally scheduled to premiere in cinemas, Rough Rider will now debut on RTÉ One on Monday night (July 28) at 9:35pm. Lucky you. There is no doubt it will command a far bigger audience on the small screen, and it deserves one, because this Paul Kimmage-starring film about professional cycling's through-the-mud image, romance, realism and the personal toll of Kimmage's anti-doping crusade has as much for the couch-bound as the bike-nut. The former could well be tempted to get in the saddle; the latter will want to don the hi-vis gear right after it's finished. Now, that's sport at its purest and most joyous.

Describing his relationship with cycling as "a love affair that will always make me unhappy", Kimmage is joined by wife Ann, director Adrian McCarthy and crew as he makes the ferry crossing to cover the 2013 Tour de France - billed as the 'What's Next? Tour' following Lance Armstrong's confession. Kimmage himself took part in three tours in his years as a professional, so there is gold, ghosts and demons for him on this 3,400-kilometre [2013] route.

The gift of McCarthy's film is that, for all Kimmage's intensity and sheer bloody-mindedness, Rough Rider is no downer. It works just as well as a travelogue as soul-search - beautiful scenery and fans having fun share screentime with Kimmage's reflections and those he won and lost to his cause following his Omertà-shattering book, Rough Ride. And yes, Armstrong is in there too in some unforgettable TV as the two men face each other at a press conference. Goosebumps guaranteed.

By the time the Tour and film reach Paris, it's a wrench to say goodbye to either. The emotional terrain has proven to be as varied as the landscape, and the reminder that taking part at whatever level in this life is the real triumph has been conveyed with a mixture of steel and tenderness. Kimmage, as he would readily agree, would not be the best person to share a desert island with, but for back-and-forth banter on two wheels somewhere in Ireland he would make for great company. Maybe you will meet him further down the road.

4/5 

Rough Rider Clip 1 from Wildfire Films on Vimeo.

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