In 1981 Kimmage made the step up to senior class and that summer competed in the Irish championships in Waterford – and won. At 19 he was the youngest man to take the national title.
Roche, who was having a sensational debut season as a pro in France, winning the Tour of Corsica and Paris-Nice to become an instant star, made the trip over, turning up on Suirside in a shiny white Peugeot (from his team sponsors) with his name on both doors.
If that wasn’t enviable enough, the Dubliner had a girl in tow. “She was French, blonde and wore an outrageous mini-skirt. Her name was Lydia, and seeing her with Stephen that day made professional cycling seem very enticing.”
He witnessed Roche’s crowning glories in 1987 up close and personal, and was struck by the humility with which he reflected on his hat-trick of Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and World Championship triumphs that year. “It is to his eternal credit that he was at his nicest in his finest hour”.
Kimmage’s affection for Kelly was made clear in the book, ever before ‘Rough Ride’ ruined his relationship with Roche. “I liked him and admired him more than any other rider in the peloton. It hadn’t always been this way. Before I turned professional I never understood him: I’m still not quite sure that I do, but as go as far as saying in those early days I actually disliked him. I found him solemn, a machine with no heart and no personality. He was the world’s number one who could have helped me when I was struggling for my contract, but didn’t. Ireland was split between the ‘Kelly’ men and the ‘Roche’ men. I was definitely a Roche man. It has taken me four years of professional cycling to break down the complex layers of Kelly. Talking to him was never easy. It still isn’t. You have to make an effort to reach him, but once you do then the effort is worth it. He is colourful; he has a caring heart and a great personality.”