Famous Last Words: Stephen Roche

The 1987 Tour de France winner is proud of his training camp business, 
of charity sportive Tour de Cure, but most of all, of his son Nicolas

In the early part of my career, people would say, “Roche is OK, but he can’t suffer.” The truth is, my pedalling style never really gave much away. It wasn’t intentional, I was just naturally very supple and didn’t throw shapes, even when I was digging really deep.

If I could relive any race it would be Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 1987. I had it won and I lost it in the last 100 yards. I should have trusted my instincts but because I’d been second in Paris-Nice, second in the Mediterranean from going too early, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. I was focused on [Claude] Criquielion, and then [Moreno] Argentin mugged us both.

I rode with some of cycling’s greats but I never had a fierce rivalry. Sean Kelly was often the man to beat, especially when he was grabbing all the time bonuses. But I’ve raced with Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond, Laurent Fignon and it didn’t matter who it was, I just wanted to beat the guy in front of me.

The Alpine Challenge is an event I ride in every year. The event itself is fantastic, but what I enjoy most is chatting with the real enthusiasts. People who only get the chance to train on weekends for these big challenges often have a great story to tell and the camaraderie is fantastic.

I’m more involved with my Majorcan training camps than ever. Sadly, my business partner of 18 years, Claude Escalon, passed away three years ago, so I’ve taken over much of the administrative side of the business. We’ve totally revamped the training camp and it’s now my biggest priority. 
I get to ride with 85 per cent of my clients; it’s not just about putting my name to a camp.

The Tour de Cure is an event we set up seven years ago. We run it every year and raise around 40-45,000 euros. We don’t donate cash to our chosen charities, we ask them what they’d like and then buy it for them. It’s nice to be able to see the difference we’ve made, and the event attracts riders from far and wide.

I think cycling’s growth in the UK is set to continue for a while. There’s been so much British success and you can see it on the streets: people are riding bikes. I can see it in my training camp bookings, too. It always used to be around 60 per cent French clientele; now it’s turned round to 60 per cent British in the space of two years. There are so many new riders each year. It’s great for the sport.

I’m a very proud father right now. In fact that’s an understatement. Nicolas has really benefited from going to Saxo Bank: they’ve shown confidence in him and it’s shown in his performance in the Vuelta. [Bjarne] Riis has taken him under his wing and helped with his TT performance, and riding with someone as hell-bent on winning as [Alberto] Contador can only be good for him. It’s 
a proper team.

I still sometimes offer advice or ask Nicolas what he was thinking with certain race moves and tactics. But I don’t force my opinion on him. If he wants to listen and take on board the things I say, that’s great; if he doesn’t, well, that’s also great! I’m just happy that with Saxo Bank he’s got the chance to show his potential.

This article was first published in the October 31 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!

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