Taking the triple

20 years ago Stephen Roche won the Tour de France.

20 years ago Stephen Roche won the Tour de France. (Image credit: Ken Farrar)

Twenty years ago Stephen Roche did what only one man had done before; he took the three biggest races in cycling over the period of a few months. His Tour victory was the cornerstone of this achievement and, like the edition just completed, was an open, unpredictable and ultimately very close race. The Irishman talked to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes about the season where everything went right.

There are many parallels between this year's Tour de France and the edition waged two decades ago. Both had an absence of a patron, both were very open events, both went down to the wire in the penultimate day's time trial and both ended up with extremely close outcomes. At the time Stephen Roche's 40 second victory over Pedro Delgado was the closest on record; two years later Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon's eight second difference set a new mark. While the 2007 Tour didn't quite equal that, the 31 seconds covering first to third makes it the closest ever as far as all the podium places are concerned.

Roche headed into the 1987 Tour with a strong chance of doing well. The previous year had been been one to forget, the rider being seriously hampered by a knee injury suffered in a crash on the Bercy track during the Paris six-day. That fall happened in November 1985 and it was not until a year later that he was able to get the problem fixed via an operation.

He'd undergone an operation to treat that dodgy knee in the autumn of 1986, recovered steadily and set about putting in a very solid base that winter. When he started racing he quickly found form, winning the Tour of Valencia, placing fourth in Paris-Nice (losing victory due to a puncture), netting second in the Critérium International and Liège-Bastogne-Liège plus fourth in Flèche Wallonne. Just before the Giro he rode the Tour of Romandie and won two stages plus the overall classification there, proving he was in scorching form before his first big objective. That was the 1987 Giro d'Italia.

To read the full feature on Stephen Roche, click here.

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