In a new run of features, Cyclingnews sits down with some of the sport's well-known personalities as they pick their cycling dream teams. This week, 1987 Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and World Championship winner Stephen Roche selects his dream team of nine riders.
Leader: Stephen Roche
I think that one of the qualities that stood out in me was the way that I managed my team. I was very tactical, and I didn’t make the guys ride on the front just for the sake of it. When I made them ride on the front it was because something important was about to happen – it wasn’t just a defensive move. That way, when I put my hand up to get them to ride at the front, they would do it without asking any questions.
I was very good at being able to read a race, prepare for it from a tactical perspective, and then execute the plan. Although I didn’t win a lot, I was capable of winning most races – I was a good climber, a good time triallist, a good all-rounder, although I wasn’t a great sprinter, which made it difficult to win Classics. But when it came to stage races, and especially the Grand Tours, I had what it takes to win them. I recovered very quickly from one day to the next, which meant that the big tours were more generous to me in terms of victories.
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Sprinter: Sean Kelly
It’s not that I’m being patriotic, but I’d have to take Sean. He was capable of winning just about any race. He’d also be good for the team because you need guys who can win races early on in the season, which keeps the sponsors happy, and takes the pressure off the riders, and Sean could be guaranteed to do that. In addition to the speed he was blessed with, Sean was also fearless in bunch sprints, and very agile when it came to getting through gaps that didn’t seem to be there.
He always looked so easy when he was on the 12 or the 13 sprocket, so supple. He wasn’t at all like guys who look like they’re churning a big gear. I think having the two of us on the same team would have worked very well, as we would have complemented each other, his ability to win sprints, Classics and week-long stage races marrying well with my strength in the three-week tours. He’d have gone for the green jersey while I went for the yellow.
Climber: Robert Millar
Robert rode with a lot of intelligence on the climbs; he managed them really well, and I learned an awful lot just from watching him. His approach was that it didn’t matter if guys were going away from you because that didn’t mean that your race was over. He knew there was always a chance he could get back up to them. Looking at it in hindsight, it was almost as if Millar had a built-in powermeter. Rather than having it on his bars, his was in his head.
He knew what his limits were, that he could let go of other riders a little bit in the knowledge that he would come back. Seeing that helped me a lot because I used to push myself to stay on wheels on the climbs, which meant that I went into the red a lot. What I learned from Robert was that you don’t ride on the wheel, you ride off it. You pick your own line on the corners, lose a metre or two, then come back a metre or two. Robert never panicked, he just rode “Click, clack! Click, clack!” tapping his tempo out.
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Climber: Bernard Hinault
I know Hinault wouldn’t like being picked for this role. The good thing about having him on my team would be that he wouldn’t be riding against me. On his day, he was unbeatable on the climbs. He may not have been regarded as a specialist climber, but none of them could get the better of him when he was in his best form. We’d just have to come to an agreement about sharing out the tours between us, although he definitely wouldn’t have been happy with letting me win the Tour de France. That would certainly cause some internal conflict as I’m sure Greg LeMond would confirm.
He’d be the hardest personality on this team to deal with because he always wanted to win, and especially so at the Tour. I’d need to be particularly strong and clever to get the upper hand on Hinault there, but it would still be preferable to have him on your side than having him up against you. We nearly did end up on the same team a few times, notably when La Vie Claire boss Bernard Tapie tried to sign me after I won the stage on the Aubisque in the '85 Tour when I was fighting for the overall with Hinault.
Climber: Pedro Muñoz
You need some guys who are good team riders and not just winners, and Pedro would certainly fit the bill on the climbs. He was a pure climber who could ride on the front in the mountains. The key point about Pedro, from my point of view, was that he was a good steady climber, which suited me. He wasn’t a climber like Marco Pantani, for example, who went jump, jump, jump on the climbs, breaking everyone’s rhythm. I only got to know Pedro towards the end of his career when he was perhaps a little less ambitious than he had been in his early years, and I remember him as setting a really nice tempo.
Rouleur: Guido Bontempi
I guess people remember him mostly as a very fast sprinter, but he could do an awful lot more than that. He was very, very quick, but he was also capable of riding in the wind for you for a long time on a flat stage, and he could handle the smaller climbs as well, so I knew I could rely on his support for substantial parts of races. We used to call him “The Bear” because he was so big and strong. He was also a monument when it came to team time trials – there used to be a lot more of those in my day than there are now. Off the bike too, he was a good man to have around, an upbeat personality with really good spirit.
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Rouleur: Massimo Ghirotto
You need guys in these roles who are going to be totally devoted and are fully committed to doing their share of the work and then even more. Massimo was very much in this mould. He was always 100 per cent committed to the team’s cause and was well capable of getting over some pretty sizeable climbs, which made him invaluable.
Rouleur: Sean Yates
I’m torn between picking Sean or Allan Peiper for the final spot on the team. They were both superb domestiques. Both of them were capable of hanging in there on any day and riding in the wind for hours and hours. If pushed, I’d have to go for Sean over Peiper. Sean was probably more consistent, and Peiper was the kind of guy who wanted to win as well. Sean was totally unselfish and had a huge motor. Whether it was wet, dry, hot or cold, Yatesy would just roll his sleeves up and get on with it.
I’d put Sean, Hinault and myself as leaders, and we’d fight it out between ourselves to see who picked up the spoils. You’d need a hell of a good manager and psychologist to deal with all of those personalities. There’s a lot of testosterone in that line-up.
Road captain: Eddy Schepers
Team leaders always need a good lieutenant close by, and not only for tactical reasons. From a practical point of view, it’s handy to have someone near you who rides a similar sized bike so that they can give it to you if you have a mechanical at a crucial moment. I can’t think of anyone better than Eddy Schepers to fill this role because Eddy was very clever when it came to reading a race. If he got into a breakaway group, he’d manage it with his own team’s objectives in mind rather than having his own agenda. He’d analyse the riders around him and figure out the best way for his team to benefit.
I remember in the '87 Giro, he was out in front and could have won the stage, but instead, he said to the guy from the Fagor team who was with him, that he’d let him win the stage if Fagor would agree to give me a hand in the mountains if we needed them. He gave up his chance of that stage win for a favour, and there aren’t many riders around who would make a sacrifice like that.
He was like my shadow, making sure I was well supported, capable of seeing when we need to change things tactically or when I needed a bottle, and his bike also had a similar set-up as well in case there was some incident that waylaid me. Davide Cassani was also very good in this role, and his bike was identical to mine. But Eddy was more of an all-rounder than Cassani, so he’d be my pick if I could only take one of them.
Details of Stephen Roche’s cycling camps at: stephenrochecycling.com