My Road To Victory, Stephen Roche (1987)

A slight, but enjoyable celebration of a golden year

Stanley Paul and Co 0091737380 20 x 24.5cm 128pp £10.95

Few riders have had so golden a year as Roche did in 1987. Winning the Tour the Giro and the World Championship is a feat only equaled by Eddy Merckx. There was little remarkable about the Irishman’s career after he had pulled on the Rainbow jersey, but to have scaled such heights for even a few months is something few of us can even imagine.

This book was rushed out while his triumphs were still fresh. Each chapter starts with a page of narrative, with the story taken up in fat captions. It is a very partial story, starting at the beginning of the season and concluding with the world championship. There are a few interesting notes on Roche’s tactics – or lack of them in Liege-Bastogne-Liege when he cat-and-moused it down the finishing straight with Claude Criquielion, allowing Moreno Argentin to appear from nowhere and power past them for the win.

The book would have gone a bit more editing. And the airy tone with which Roche dismisses some of his opponents has more than a touch of hubris. Graham Watson’s pictures, however, are a treat to behold.

Laurent Fignon argues that the mid-1980s represent a turning point for the sport of cycling – an innocent, slightly amateurish era before, a more cynical, moneyed period thereafter. It is a tempting view for those of us who look wistfully at this period. I suspect that it is a turning point that could be detected at a great many junctures.

Turning point or no, there is much to enjoy in this book. Just one rider that I can see is using clipless pedals. Carrera, 7-Eleven and Gewiss strips’ are joy to behold. And there are some intriguing curios. Criquielion being injected at the roadside is a surprise. If such things do happen today they certainly don’t welcome photographers.

Roche was always among the most likeable professional cyclists and that has not changed. This book is by no means the final word on the 1987 season – but it is an enjoyable scrapbook nonetheless.

PS Oct 10

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