Stephen Roche, in London this week to promote his autobiography Born to Ride, believes that there are riders in the modern peloton capable of accomplishing his magical triple from 25 years ago. In 1987, Roche became just the second man in cycling to win the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Worlds in a single season. Eddy Merckx had set the precedent 13 years beforehand.
“Definitely it will happen again but it’s not just about the strongest rider, you’ve got to have the circumstances to do it,” Roche told Cyclingnews.
“There are riders capable of doing it. Bradley Wiggins could win a Giro, a Tour and a Worlds. This is one year he could win the Tour but he’s not ridden the Giro, and the Worlds isn’t a bad circuit. Next year if Contador is back it might suit him if there’s more climbing. Wiggins is getting on a bit and same with Cadel Evans. There aren’t very many riders capable at the moment.”
“It’s nice to be only the second person to do the triple,” he added. "It’s not something that happens every day of the week and it gives me a great sense of achievement. I think it was a great year as well because the competition then was very tough with Kelly, Delgado, LeMond and Fignon and it made a great spectacle for the fans as well because there was always something happening.”
After Roche’s stellar 1987 season the Irishman struggled with injures and fitness, never reaching quite the same level again. The 1988 season was personal nadir, with Roche unable to, as he claims ‘honour the rainbow jersey.”
“There were never bad memories and they were all part of a journey and you never look back and things happened for a reason, whether they were good or bad. If I put it all into one big pot and churned it all up it would still all come out positive,” he said.
“Being the world champion and then not being able to ride the next day because of a recurring injury was tough. There I was, having won the Worlds, completing the triple and then having an event the next day and having to abandon after three laps. I then had three years when I was in and out of hospital with knee injuries and surgery before getting it back together in 1989. It made me a harder person though.”
“I look at photos of myself in the rainbow jersey and the definition isn’t good enough. There are very few photos of me in the rainbow jersey going around and in them I’m overweight. I look like a tourist being photographed in the rainbow jersey. I didn’t feel I honoured that jersey like it should have been honoured.”
This year’s Tour de France begins in less than four weeks, with Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans, set among the top favourites. Roche believes that both men will be at the top of their game but gives a slight edge to the Sky rider, who crashed out of last year’s race with a broken collar bone.
“Evans will have a good run but Wiggins will give him a run for his money. In the mountains I think Evans will have difficulty dropping Wiggins and in the time trials it depends on who is the fresher on the day. Probably Wiggins on paper has the upper hand but it's still the Tour and it's still three weeks of racing. It’s going to be a difficult Tour because there are probably other riders knocking on the door but are waiting for the top guys to make a mistake. There’s also the opportunists too, like a Voeckler, who could get in a break and it could be a tricky Tour to manage.”
Born to Ride is available to buy on amazon.