Sunday, December 9, 2007
Luck of the Irish!
Before this year comes to a close, I want to mention the 20th anniversary of Stephen Roche's fantastic '1987 triple'. An elusive record consisting of: the Tour, the Giro, and the World Championships!
I know records are made to be broken, but, this one won't happen again! The Cannibal was the first to do it in 1974. Merckx's was in a league of himself, and of course, won everything. However, Roche was an unexpected champion...
Roche was plagued by injuries and bad luck throughout his career, but, managed to duplicate what Merckx naturally did. His Giro win wasn't without incident. The Italian Carrera jeans team was jointly led by the paranoid Roberto Visentini. He was a gracious champion when he won but a whiner when he didn't. "The race of knives under the table", as one Italian writer put it plainly. Roche proved the stronger of the two and had the chance to win, without team support. This was a battle in itself. Belgium teammate Schepers and lone Italian Ghirotto gave what assistance they could to Roche. Faithful French mechanic Valcke also offered his support. Even rivals, Robert Millar and Phil Anderson rode beside him for protection from the tifosi. (Tifosi are the fanatical, Italian fans!) The enraged fans spat on Roche and flashed pieces of raw meat to show what they would do to him. Because of his inability to win the race, Visentini's rants turned spiteful towards Roche and downright ridiculous. He accuse Johan van der Velde(Gis Jolly Team) of conspiring to help Roche win the Giro! In fact, he would blame anyone who did not side with him. Visentini would lose all credibility with the partisan Italian press and soon would abandon him. He would retire from the Giro, sadly embarrassed and defeated, a shadow of his former self.
As for Roche, he would go on to win the Giro, Tour de France and the world championship in 1987, thus equaling Merckx's triple. A rare treble!