In 1987, Stephen Roche had a tremendous season….whereby, in the spring, he won the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana….while taking a third victory in the Tour de Romandie….and fourth place plus a stage win in Paris–Nice…..when he also finished second in Liège–Bastogne–Liège….which was the closest he got to winning a professional ‘Monument’ Classic….as he blamed it on tactical naiveté and “riding like an amateur”…..when in the Giro d’Italia, Roche took three stage wins en route to overall victory and became the first Giro victor from outside mainland Europe.
Roche finished the Giro exhausted but favorite for the Tour de France…..which followed Bernard Hinault’s retirement….along with Laurent Fignon’s choppy form…..and with Greg LeMond injury following an accidental shooting while hunting…..as the 1987 Tour was open…..plus, it was one of the most mountainous Tour since the war….with 25 stages…..when Roche won the 87.5 km (54.4 mi) individual time trial stage 10 to Futuroscope….and came in second on stage 19….when on the next stage….while crossing the Galibier and Madeleine and finishing at La Plagne….Roche attacked early and was away for several hours….but was caught on the last climb…..when his nearest rival Pedro Delgado attacked…..when despite being almost one-and-a-half minutes in arrears midway up the last climb…..Roche pulled the deficit back to 4 seconds….after which Roche collapsed and lost consciousness and was given oxygen…. and when asked after being revived if he was okay…..he replied “Oui, mais pas de femme toute de suite” (“yes, but I am not ready for a woman straight away”).
The yellow jersey worn by the leader of the general classification, changed hands several times with Charly Mottet, Jean François Bernard, Pedro Delgado all wearing it before Roche used the final 35 km (22 mi) time trial to overturn a half-minute gap and win the Tour by 40 seconds….which was at the time the second-narrowest margin (in 1968 Jan Janssen had beaten Herman Van Springel by 38 seconds….and two years after Roche’s victory….Greg LeMond beat Laurent Fignon by 8 seconds).
Stephen Roche became only the fifth cyclist in history to win the Tour and the Giro in the same year. He was also the only Irishman to win the Tour de France. Irish Taoiseach Charles Haughey joined Roche on the podium on the Champs-Élysées.