Roche and Kimmage fell out in the wake of the publication but the man who won the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and World Championship in 1987 says he has apologised for not believing his former friend.
The Dublin native surprised many by contributing to the recent documentary on Kimmage, Rough Rider but insists he had no problems doing so once he wasn’t portrayed to be sticking the knife into the cyclist-turned-journalist.
“For me I have my own opinion and I think if you have an opinion and you can’t voice it, well then you haven’t got an opinion” says Roche “I have my own feelings about Paul Kimmage and I have voiced them. I apologised personally and publicly to Paul Kimmage at different occasions and he refused to accept my apology, so what can you do?
“You feel that to keep going on about things… if he was to accept my apology he couldn’t talk badly about me anymore.”
A judicial report has stated that Roche took EPO in his final year as a professional in 1993. He has always protested his innocence but knows that the claim places some question mark on his achievements in cycling.
“People keep talking about it. And it puts my Tour de France into the basket. And the stories afterwards, they shouldn’t even exist because there’s nothing there other than suspicions.
“But I was never, ever… for something as important as the case itself, I was never interviewed, never questioned, never telephoned. Nothing.”
He regrets his reaction to Kimmage’s autobiography, which was actually glowing about him, and regrets that the UCI didn’t react promptly to it.
“That’s why I apologised to Paul. I said it to himself and publicly. I regret that I did hold that against him.
“If only we had taken what Paul said seriously maybe we’d have gained ourselves 10 years on the doping side of things. Maybe not 10 years, but a lot of time.
“We basically decided to ignore it, to say ‘he’s generalising’.
“That’s the reason I apologised later on. I said ‘Paul, I didn’t know it was going on. You can say what you want. I criticised you and I’m sorry. If only we’d listened to you, there’d have been a short cut (to addressing doping).’” Meanwhile, Roche says there is a lot of demand for the services of his son Nicolas, whose contract with Tinkoff Saxo has expired. There is an option to renew but Sky are said to be leading the chase for the 30-year-old Vuelta stage winner, while IAM and Trek Factor are also understood to be involved in negotiations.
“Nicolas knows that going with (the likes of Sky, Garmin or Quick-Step) he may have to end up riding for someone on certain days but he will have a certain amount of time to chase a place himself.
“It’s important to be in a team that when you have the form, you have a team around you as well. That’s going to be an important criteria for Nicolas, wherever he goes.”
“Nicolas is not a Tour de France winner. He’s more a top five contender. He’s probably a podium contender in the Vuelta and he’s a Classic contender as well but at the same time, no matter what team he goes to, he can’t support all the weight himself. No matter what team he goes to, there will always be other leaders there. It’s important that whatever team he goes to, it’s a team that wins and team that rides together.”
Roche was speaking while publicising the Leinster Loop, a cycling sportive now in its fifth year. Proceeds from the event go to the National Breast Cancer Research Institute and St Laurence’s Community Complex.
Roche’s son, Florian has had leukaemia so the cancer research is a cause close to his heart. It’s why he has been involved from the start, as has former Kildare football star, Johnny Doyle. Sunday’s Leinster Loop will cross Kildare, Laois, Carlow and Kilkenny with three different routes ranging from 50km to 130km to accommodate riders of all abilities.
nFor more information and to register, visit www.leinsterloop.com.