Stephen Roche - 1987 postcard

Stephen Roche - postcard 2002 scan 1 main image

Stephen Roche, Irish, 1959 -

Stephen Roche won the Tour de France in 1987, a year in which he also won the Giro and the World Road Race Championship - cycling’s Triple Crown - a feat only ever equalled once, by Eddy Merckx in 1974.

The abiding image of the 1987 Tour, and one of the most striking of all Tour images, is that of Roche emerging out of the mist at the end of stage 21, which included the Galibier, the Madeleine and a final climb to La Plagne. Half way up this final climb a struggling Roche had already conceded 1 minute and 25 seconds to Pedro Delgado and, as the mist came down, it looked as though Roche’s GC challenge was finished. But, at the finishing line, when a ghostly Roche finally emerged from that mist, he had clawed back all but 4 seconds. On crossing the line, the drama continued, as Roche passed out and required oxygen before he regained consciousness. But he quickly recovered enough to respond to an enquiry as to whether he was OK with the now famous line "Oui, mais pas de femme toute de suite" ("yes, but I am not ready for a woman straight away"). Very 1980s.

Stephen Roche seemingly had everything required to appeal to the British fan - heroic performances, the status of being an English speaking Tour winner, a likable, friendly, character etc. etc., but for some reason I always found Sean Kelly more fascinating - with his brutal, incomprehensible, hardman decision to ride in apartheid South Africa, his brutal, incomprehensible, hardman one word interview answers and his brutal, incomprehensible, hardman riding style.

Hardman Sean Kelly brutally, and incomprehensibly, refused to adopt the, then new, clipless pedals - sticking to his tried and trusted toeclips and straps. It’s hard to see the suave, affable, Stephen Roche doing anything as interestingly opinionated as that. Needless to say, I personally use toeclips and straps to this day - but, unfortunately, it’s utterly comprehensible that this is as near to a brutal hardman as I can ever hope to get.

In terms of derailleurs, Roche’s Italian Carrera team were righteous followers of the one-true-religion of Campagnolo.

I believe this, appropriately cheesy, postcard, produced by the Cœur de Lion fromagerie in Normandy, shows Stephen Roche at the last stage of the 1987 Tour.