Stephen Roche’s 1987 Triple Crown

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, and because we’ve been feeling a throwback vibe lately, we’re going to dedicate this post to retired Irish pro cyclist Stephen Roche and his magnificent 1987 season.  In this magical year, Roche won the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and finally the World Championships to become only the second ever cyclist to complete this remarkable trifecta (sorry, no points for guessing that Eddy Merckx was the only other Triple Crown winner)!

Roche’s run started with the Giro d’Italia, where he won 3 stages but had to out ride his own teammate, Roberto Visentini, to win back the maglia rosa and take the title:

1987 Giro d'Italia champion Stephen Roche with the winner's trophy. (Sirotti)
1987 Giro d’Italia champion Stephen Roche with the winner’s trophy. (Sirotti)

Exhausted but elated to be the first Giro winner from outside mainland Europe, Roche was the narrow favorite to win the Tour de France.  Roche won the individual time trial (one of his specialties) on stage 10, but later in the race almost committed an epic blunder on a mountainous stage 20, which crossed the famous peaks of the Galibier and the Madeleine before finishing at La Plagne.  Roche attacked early and was in a breakaway for hours, but on the final climb he was caught and gapped by his biggest rival, Pedro Delgado.  At one point in the climb, Delgado established a 1 minute 30 second lead over Roche, but the tenacious Irishman clawed his way back to only lose 4 seconds on the day.  Roche then went on to win the final 35km time trial, making up a 30 second deficit to Delgado, to take the final maillot jaune by 40 seconds and become the first Irish Tour de France champion.

But why just read when YouTube can provide this video of the final week of the 1987 Tour (set to a rockin’ Top Gun soundtrack, no less!):

To cap off his memorable year, Roche won the World Road Race Championship in Austria, even though he was really only marking a breakaway for his countryman Sean Kelly.  But when no one was able to bring back the break, Roche was in the right place at the right time, and attacked with 500m to go to win the rainbow jersey:

Stephen Roche winning the 1987 World Championship road race
Stephen Roche winning the 1987 World Championship road race

So on this day of all things Irish, we tip our cap to Stephen Roche and his amazing 1987 Triple Crown.  These days Roche is still active in the cycling world as a commentator, charity fundraiser, cycling camp operator and proud father of current pro cyclist Nicholas Roche!  In fact, it was in the capacity of proud papa that the parents of this blog’s author bumped into Roche at the 2010 World Road Race Championship in Mendrisio, Switzerland, where he happily stopped to pose for a snapshot:

Roche 2010 Worlds
Stephen Roche at the 2010 World Championships

2 thoughts on “Stephen Roche’s 1987 Triple Crown

  1. I rode with him for a few miles on a charity ride and my wife spent a few minutes with him at a rest stop. What a charming, pleasant fellow!

  2. 1)If Phil Leggett isn’t in the Hall of Fame of sports commentators there’s something wrong. 2)Roche may be the last great Irishman to ever ride a bicycle. 3)I should have been a fighter pilot, no explanation neccessary

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