1980sCyclingTour de France

Cycling – 1987 Tour De France – Ireland Steven Roche Winner


The 1987 Tour de France was the 74th edition of the Tour de France….taking place from July 1sr thru 26th…. and consisting of 25 stages over 4,231 km (2,629 mi). It was the closest three-way finish in the Tour until the 2007 Tour de France….and was won by Stephen Roche, the first and so far only Irishman to do so….as the winner of the 1986 Tour de France….USA Greg LeMond was unable to defend his title following a shooting accident in April.

Following Stage 1, Poland’s Lech Piasecki became the first rider from the Eastern Bloc to lead the Tour de France….as he was one of eight different men to wear yellow as the Tour leader….which was a new record for the Tour. The prologue was won by specialist Jelle Nijdam….as none of the favourites lost much time. The second place in the prologue was for Polish cyclist Lech Piasecki….when he was part of a break-away in the first stage that won a few seconds….as he became the new leader in the general classification…as Piasecki kept his lead in the team time trial of stage 2….but lost it in the third stage when a break-away gained several minutes….as Erich Maechler became the new leader. Maechler kept the lead for several stages…..and was still leading after stage nine.  The mass-start stages were dominated by break-aways of cyclists who were not considered relevant for the final victory….as sixth-placed Charly Mottet was the only cyclist in the top 15 who had real chances of finishing high.  The tenth stage was an individual time trial….which was the first real test for the race favorites….which was won by Stephen Roche….with Mottet in second place….who became the new leader of the general classification.  After a successful escape in the eleventh stage….Martial Gayant became the new leader. The twelfth stage ended in a bunch sprint that did not change the general classification. The Tour arrived in the Pyrenees in the thirteenth stage….where non-climbers like Gayant lost more than fifteen minutes….which resulted in the non-climbers being removed from the top positions of the general classification….thus leaving the new top three Mottet, Benard and Roche….as the only remaining serious contenders for the final victory.

The eighteenth stage was an individual time trial….with a finish on the Mont Ventoux….which was won with a great margin by Jean-François Bernard….who became the new leader of the general classification….and the new hope of the French cycling fans. Bernard was a good climber and a good time-trialist….who had the support of a good team….so he could be able to stay the leader until the end of the race….but Bernard lost considerable time in the next stage….when he had a flat tire just before the top of a climb….thus losing contact with the other riders while he had to wait for repairs….and therefore had to spend energy to get back. His rivals Mottet and Roche had made a plan to attack in the feed zone….where cyclists could get their lunch….where both riders packed extra food at the start of the stage….allowing them to attack while Bernard was at the back of the peloton. Bernard chased them, but was not able to get back to them….thus losing four minutes in that stage….which made Roche the new leader….who closely followed by Mottet and Delgado.

The riders went through the Alps in the 12th stage to finish on the Alpe d’Huez….where Roche finished in fifteenth place….losing the lead to Delgado.  The pivotal stage was stage 21….when in the first part of this stage the Colombian cyclists of the “Cafe de Colombia” team….including Luis Herrera and Fabio Enrique Parra…who were fifth and sixth in the general classification….kept a high pace which cause many cyclists to be dropped. Roche, Delgado and Mottet decided to work together to get rid of the Colombian cyclists on the descent of the Galibier….mainly due to fear that Herrera and Parra would leave them behind in the next climbs. Their plan worked….as Delgado’s team mates were also dropped….and that is when Roche saw his opportunity to escape…. by deciding to climb the Madeleine alone. Somewhat later, Delgado’s team mates got back to Delgado…who together chased and caught Roche just before the climb of La Plagne. Roche then anticipated that Delgado would keep attacking on the climb….and knowing Delgado was the better climber….decided he would not follow Delgado’s attack. Instead, he let Delgado get away until the margin was one minute….thus giving Delgado the impression that he could safely save energy for the next stages….and at the last part of the stage gave it everything he had to reduce the margin. Roche followed that tactic by not only confusing Delgado….but he also television commentators and the Tour organisation….as Roche finished a few seconds behind Delgado…who after finishing collapsed and was given an oxygen mask in an ambulance.

Roche was only 39 seconds behind Delgado in the general classification….as he could still win the Tour….but it depended on if he could recover in time for the 22nd stage…..which included the last serious climb of the Tour, so Delgado had his final opportunity to gain time on Roche, and he attacked. However, Roche was able to come back to Delgado twice. Then, Roche attacked, and Delgado could not keep up. Roche won back 18 seconds on Delgado, so he had reduced his margin to 21 seconds. Being a talented time-trialist, Roche knew that he could easily make up for it on the penultimate stage….an individual time trial at Dijon….which he indeed won almost a minute ahead of Delgado….which was enough to secure the overall win. This time trial was won by Jean-François Bernard….who finished the Tour in third place….meaning that if Bernard had not lost four minutes after the flat tire in the nineteenth stage….he would have won the Tour.

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