Kelly, Roche and the 1985 Tour de France: If this Dublin guy can do it, then so can I

(Image credit: Gill Books)

Two Irish riders stood on the podium of the Tour de France at Mont Aigoual on Thursday, as Sam Bennett held the green jersey of points leader and Nicolas Roche was feted as the day’s most combative rider, and the moment bore echoes of the country’s golden age at La Grande Boucle in the 1980s. Bennett is the first Irishman to wear a leader’s jersey at the Tour since his fellow Carrick-on-Suir man Sean Kelly won the points classification for the fourth time in 1989, while Stephen Roche – father of Nicolas – won the race in 1987.

Two years before that highwater mark, Kelly and Roche vied with one another for the third step of the podium on the 1985 Tour. After placing fifth a year previously, Kelly had begun the Tour with vague general classification ambitions, but his focus was jolted towards the green jersey after a series of running battles with his fierce rival Eric Vanderaerden in the opening week. When Roche began to rise up the overall rankings in the second week, however, Kelly was encouraged to explore his own limits in the high mountains.

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.