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The Racer | A story of Drugs, 'Domestiques' & the '98 TDF | Director Kieron J. Walsh

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The Racer | A story of Drugs, 'Domestiques' & the '98 TDF | Director Kieron J. Walsh

Set during the Irish stages of the 1998 Tour de France, The Racer follows leading ‘domestique’, or support rider, Dom Chabol. Winning is not on the cards for a domestique, but that doesn’t mean it never crosses his mind. With the end of a tough and thankless career looming, his own personal desires are growing.

Director Kieron J. Walsh joined OTB AM on Tuesday to chat about the inspiration behind his latest film.

“It certainly does come from a nostalgia from that time,” he said of the 1998 Tour de France.

“Actually, what fascinated me more than anything was trying to tell the story of these domestiques, of these support riders. The guys who sacrifice their entire lives for somebody else. It takes a particular kind of person to decide that they are satisfied with that kind of role in their lives. I found that aspect of the sport fascinating.

“I remember everybody in Ireland at the time pretty much thinking that it was just everybody gets on a bike and it was whoever’s the fastest. But I found out that obviously, cycling is a team sport for individuals and the idea of these domestiques working around sprinters and working around guys who are going to win the jerseys. I just thought it was amazing.”

Central to the film’s storyline is the role played by drugs within this infamous tour. “It was endemic at the time” explained Walsh.

“The people who organised and owned the Tour de France thought that this was to be potentially the last tour ever. It was so rife with drugs; the riders were going on strike and it was just a terrible situation.”

Nicknamed the ‘Tour du Dopage’ or the ‘Tour of Shame’, it’s safe to say it didn’t leave the best impression of professional cycling. However, Walsh doesn’t think it’s harmed the country’s development in the sport too much. “Ireland is still kind of punching above its weight in cycling with people like Sam Bennett, so it obviously didn’t deter the youngsters.”

Irish director Kieron J. Walsh joined OTB AM on Tuesday morning to discuss his latest film The Racer.

Ultimately though, Kieron J. Walsh is unsure of where the misdeeds of 1998 have left cycling within the minds of the Irish psyche.

“You’d really have to speak to cyclists about that. I know that it's like a blot on the landscape, you can’t say the words Tour de France in Ireland without the whole thing about drugs coming up in conversation.”

The Racer directed by Kieron J. Walsh is now showing in Irish cinemas.

Written by Catherine Murphy

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1998 Tour De France Cycling Domestique Film Kieron J. Walsh The Racer