Stephen Roche will be inducted into the Giro d’Italia hall of fame later this month. The ceremony will be held near at Causeway Hotel in Northern Ireland.
Roche was the winner of the 1987 Giro d’Italia, a year that saw him take victory at the Tour de France and the World Championships. His win, however, was a controversial one.
The build-up to the race had touted the 1987 edition as a face-off between defending champion Roberto Visentini and Giambattista Baronchelli. The Irishman was at the race as a dual leader, but, ultimately, to support his teammate Visentini.
Visentini told Roche that if he supported him at his home race, then he would be happy to return the favour at the Tour de France. However Roche heard that the Italian had booked a holiday in July and had no intention of living up to his promise. That was the end of discussions for Roche, who decided to go it alone. Thus ensued an inter-team battle.
The tifosi’s reaction to Roche’s decision wasn’t muted and the Irishman nearly left the race for fear of being attacked. Roche crowned the three weeks off with victory in the final time trial and won the general classification by 3’40” over Robert Millar. Visentini failed to finish after breaking his collarbone on the penultimate day.
Roche is only the third rider to be inducted into the race’s Hall of Fame, which was introduced in 2012. Eddy Merckx - the only other rider to win the Giro, Tour and Worlds in the same year - was the first member, with three-time winner Felice Gimondi being awarded the honour last year.
It is a big year for Irish cycling, with Belfast hosting the Giro’s grande partenza. The race will open with a 21.7km team time trial through the streets of Belfast and an out and back road stage beginning in the capital. The final day in Ireland will consist of a 187km flat stage from Armagh to Dublin.
Roche’s son Nicolas and nephew Dan Martin are expected to be headline riders when the race starts in May. Philip Deignan may also take the start, after signing for team Sky over the winter.
This year’s Giro d’Italia marks first time that a grand tour has visited Ireland since the Tour de France started in Dublin in 1998. It begins on May 9.
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