Video: Roche and Delgado share memories, 25 years after 1987 Tour
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Video: Roche and Delgado share memories, 25 years after 1987 Tour

by Shane Stokes at 7:45 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Video
Mutual respect and friendship shown between former rivals

Pedro Delgado Stephen RocheExactly 25 years ago today, Stephen Roche and Pedro Delgado had what is regarded as one of the most exciting stage battles in the history of the Tour de France. On the 185 kilometre mountain leg from Le Bourg d’Oisans to La Plagne, the decisive stage of the race played out with considerable drama; Roche, who had lost the yellow jersey one day earlier to his Spanish rival, went on the attack early on but was brought back before the final climb.

Delgado attacked almost immediately after the long ramp up to the finish began, seeking to put as much time as possible into Roche and to pad his advantage. He quickly drew clear and opened a gap of over one minute. Struggling, Roche decided to leave everything until the final five kilometres, reasoning that he could sustain a strong effort for that distance and try to get back as close as possible.

Even he didn’t realise how much the gap would fall, however. Putting his bike in the large chainring and attacking the final slopes, he rapidly closed in on a fading Delgado and finished just four seconds back at the line.

Although he didn’t retake the jersey until the penultimate day time trial in Dijon, the La Plagne stage was essentially the one where he got the edge, turned a corner and set up the biggest win of his career.

Given the ferocity of that battle and the disappointment of a near-miss for Delgado, you might expect things to have been strained between them. However, reminiscing about the race 25 years later, the Spaniard and the Irishman reveal that they had a lot of mutual respect, and were actually able to be friendly to each other away from their bikes.

Pedro Delgado Stephen Roche“It was an incredible battle. I always remember the time trial in Dijon," said Roche. "When we had finished the stage, I had the yellow jersey from Pedro. We go to a television show and Pedro is already there. I arrive in with his yellow jersey. He gets up [indicates a hug]. The journalist says, ‘hey, this guy has just taken your jersey!’ Pedro said, ‘well, we have 4200 kilometres in the race to get the jersey, it is finishing tomorrow in Paris, so Stephen is the strongest.’ We were fighting on the bike, but there always was respect.”

Delgado, who appeared recently with Roche at the launch of the Leinster Loop charity cycle to be held in Ireland on August 19th, said that the Tour had been a big ambition of his. “When I was in my first Tour de France, I think ‘ah, this race I can win, but I don’t know when.’ But after some years, I think…‘no, the Tour de France, I can’t win.’ But this year [1987], no, but in the end….”

Delgado went on to dominate the race in 1988, while Roche missed the Tour due to knee problems.

In the video below, Delgado explains a moment from the 1987 edition which shows the comradeship between them, but which also provoked near-outrage back home.


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