Paul Kimmage reflects on Stephen Roche's Tour de France win

It's the 30th anniversary of his triumph in cycling's biggest event

BY Simon Maguire 21:40 Thursday 29 June 2017, 21:40 29 Jun 2017

Picture by: PA/PA Archive/PA Images

30 years ago, Ireland's Stephen Roche won the most prestigious title in cycling when he claimed the 1987 Tour de France.

Paul Kimmage talked to Off the Ball's Joe Molloy about his relationship with Roche and what his memories are of the year in question in a wide-ranging interview.

Looking back on his earliest memories of cycling with Roche, Kimmage said: "It was a wonderful time, Joe - an innocent time. And in retrospect, a painful time.

"A painful time because, I don't think it's any secret that my relationship with Stephen is not what it was, and when I look back to how close we were then and what a great guy he was and is...he was a great guy."  

Kimmage maintains doping was rife at the time, after one night walking in on a former teammate who carried a briefcase around containing "a small pharmacy".

Looking back at Roche's achievement he said: "I don't know whether we have to celebrate it. I think it's worth talking about. I think it's a debate, a conversation that's worth having. When you think about what he did in that Tour in '87, to be the first Irishman to win the tour. It was a phenomenal thing.


Stephen Roche celebrates winning the tour. Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

"Now, you ask about the public consciousness toward doping, well, let's fix it then. So in the 1987 Tour de France, three riders tested positive in the race for testosterone -  one of the three riders was Guido Bontempi who was Roche's teammate.  

"The other is Silvano Contini, an Italian and Didi Tharau, the German. So they test positive in the '87 Tour and it's like a slap on the wrist basically. There's no question of throwing Bontempi out of the race - It's like 'oh, suspended for two weeks with a suspended sentence' - something ridiculous. This is the attitude to doping in cycling at the time.

"Kelly had already tested positive twice at that stage but again it was kind of like 'ah well, big deal - suspended sentence, blah, blah blah' so in the consciousness, there was no real awareness of doping. 

"Fast forward a year from '87 to '88 and Pedro Delgado, leading the Tour de France - goes positive for probenecid - a masking agent for steroids that was on the IOC (International Olympic Committee) list but not on the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), a massive scandal at the time but anyway, turns out because it's not on the (UCI) list, he's allowed hang on to the yellow jersey and wins the Tour de France." 

Kimmage goes on to discuss his thoughts on Roche's win and the full interview can be heard here:


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